NY Times article ignores anti-gay bigotry and smears at heart of attacks on Jennings


An October 15 New York Times article by David Kirkpatrick about "Fifty-three House Republicans [who] have signed a letter to the Obama administration asking for the ouster of Kevin Jennings, an official charged with promoting school safety" ignored that a key claim in the letter -- that Jennings has a "history of ignoring the sexual abuse of a child" -- is false. Moreover, the article included no mention that the conservative attacks on Jennings are largely based on anti-gay smears and falsehoods.

From the New York Times article:

Fifty-three House Republicans have signed a letter to the Obama administration asking for the ouster of Kevin Jennings, an official charged with promoting school safety, because of his career as an advocate of teaching tolerance of homosexuality.

"As the founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, Mr. Jennings has played an integral role in promoting homosexuality and pushing a pro-homosexual agenda in America's schools -- an agenda that runs counter to the values that many parents desire to instill in their children," the lawmakers write.

They cite as evidence the foreword Mr. Jennings wrote for a book titled "Queering Elementary Education: Advancing the Dialogue About Sexualities and Schooling" (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1999). [The New York Times, 10/15/09]

GOP letter falsely charges that Jennings ignored "the sexual abuse of a child"

From the October 15 letter:

Equally troubling is Mr. Jennings' self-described history of ignoring the sexual abuse of a child. In his book, One Teacher in Ten, Mr. Jennings recounts a 15-year old student confiding in him that he had a sexual relationship with a much older man. Mr. Jennings' only response was to ask if the underage boy used a condom. As a mandatory reporter, Mr. Jennings was required by law to report child abuse, including sex crimes. Mr. Jennings cannot serve as the "safe schools" czar when his record demonstrates a willingness to overlook the sexual abuse of a child.

Claim that Jennings failed to report "sexual abuse of a child" because student he counseled was 15 has been conclusively debunked. Media Matters for America exclusively obtained the Massachusetts driver's license of the student confirming that he was 16 years of age -- the legal age of consent in Massachusetts -- at the time Jennings counseled him in 1988. The student also provided Media Matters with a statement in which he said, "I was a sixteen-year-old" and "was of legal consent at the time."

Conservative media have repeatedly falsely accused Jennings of covering up sexual assault. On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh falsely asserted that Jennings "is the guy that, the 15-year-old kid approached him, said, 'I'm having a -- an older man is forcing his way on me, sex and so forth.' " Limbaugh added, "And Jennings says, 'That's fine, are you using a condom?' and urged the 15-year-old to further the relationship." Sean Hannity repeatedly ignored evidence to falsely claim that Jennings ignored the statutory rape of a 15-year-old student, even advancing the falsehood after the claim had been widely debunked. Additionally, Media Matters has documented several conservative media figures comparing Jennings to film director Roman Polanski, who was charged with rape and pleaded guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl after allegedly plying her with drugs and alcohol.

Evidence in no way supports Limbaugh's claims that Jennings "urged" the student "to further the relationship," or that student was sexually assaulted. Neither Jennings' 2000 speech for the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), nor his 1994 book, nor the student's own statement in any way suggests that the student told Jennings that someone was "forcing his way on" him or that Jennings "urged" the student to "further the relationship."

Times ignored that other conservative smears of Jennings are also based on falsehoods

Erickson, Rove falsely claimed Jennings is a NAMBLA advocate. In an anti-gay rant posted on his blog, Erick Erickson wrote: "Kevin Jennings is a profoundly sick and immoral human being -- a proponent of statutory rape, an opponent of the Boy Scouts of America, and a zealous advocate of NAMBLA." Appearing on Fox News on October 7, Karl Rove accused Jennings of engaging in "high-profile, in-your-face advocacy of things like NAMBLA." There is no evidence that Jennings has been supportive of NAMBLA.

Hannity and Rios claim Jennings favors indoctrinating schoolchildren about homosexuality. Citing Queering Elementary Education, a book Jennings wrote the foreword to, Hannity asked on his October 8 Fox News show, "What about Christian parents that send their kids to school that don't want their kids to be indoctrinated into your belief system?" On the same program, his guest, radio talk show host Sandy Rios, distorted a passage from Queering Elementary Education to claim that "it's all about having sex with adults -- children and adults." But the passage about sexual education that Rios cited has nothing to do with children and adults having sex. [Media Matters, 10/9/09]

Washington Times, Breitbart distort Jennings comments to claim he "criticize[d] schools for promoting heterosexuality." Andrew Breitbart and The Washington Times grossly distorted comments Jennings made to a GLSEN audience in 2000 to claim he "spoke about the promotion of homosexuality in the public school curriculum" and "criticize[d] schools for promoting heterosexuality," advancing the conservative Family Research Council's attack that Jennings was "promoting a pro-homosexual agenda in America's schools." In fact, in the audio files posted by the Times and Breitbart, Jennings promoted a curriculum that demands "respect [for] every human being regardless of sexual orientation, regardless of gender identity, regardless of race or religion or any of the arbitrary distinctions we make among people," and said that efforts to promote a specific sexual orientation through schools were ineffective.

Washington Times doctored transcript to claim Jennings called for mandatory "LGBT course" for teachers. On October 7, The Washington Times' Kerry Picket reprinted a doctored transcript of 2008 comments by Jennings to falsely claim Jennings had said he wanted teachers to be required to "take an LGBT course" -- a claim also echoed by the Fox Nation. In fact, responding to an audience member who asked about how to combat stereotypes held by teachers based on race, gender, and ethnicity as well as sexual orientation, Jennings did not call for a mandatory "LGBT course," but rather called for a mandatory course on "issues of bias in the classroom" for aspiring teachers in order for them to be aware of "how biases can influence how you interact with your students."

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.