Wash. Times continues its relentless campaign against Jennings

››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER

In the latest of an obsessive series of editorials vilifying Department of Education official Kevin Jennings, The Washington Times again advanced discredited attacks to assert that Jennings is "unfit to serve as a senior presidential appointee". The editorial falsely claimed that Jennings encouraged a sexual relationship between a student and adult, attempted to tie Jennings to the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), and falsely suggested that Jennings supported a controversial workshop at a 2000 event sponsored by the group he founded, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

Wash. Times ignored Jennings' own criticism of 2000 conference session

Wash. Times: "shocking new revelations" that GLSEN conference sessions taught "children how to engage in sex." In a December 9 editorial, The Washington Times stated that there were "shocking new revelations" about Jennings, repeating claims made by Gateway Pundit, Fox Nation, and Big Government that a 2000 GLSEN conference session discussed graphic sexual acts with students and that the conference itself "appear[ed] to have had less to do with promoting tolerance and more to do with teaching children how to engage in sex."

Controversial session reportedly led by Massachusetts Education officials, who were fired or resigned. The Times editorial stated that the conference "was sponsored by Mr. Jennings' organization," but ignored that the controversial session itself -- one of "over 50 sessions" at the conference, according to Jennings -- was run "by two [Massachusetts] Department of Education AIDS-HIV education specialists and a consultant to the department," as reported in a May 18, 2000, Boston Herald article retrieved from the Nexis database. According to a May 20, 2000, Boston Herald article, of the three state Department of Education employees or contractors who led the seminar, one was fired, one resigned, and one had his contract canceled as a result of the discussion.

Jennings "surprised and troubled" by accounts of the session. The May 18 Herald article reported that GLSEN "agreed yesterday that three workshop leaders crossed a line with raunchy content directed at students as young as 14 years old." In the article, Jennings, who was the executive director of GLSEN at the time, was quoted saying, "We need to make our expectations and guidelines to outside facilitators much more clear because we are surprised and troubled by some of the accounts we've heard." From the Herald:

"Like the Parents Rights Coalition and the Department of Education, GLSEN is also troubled by some of the content that came up during this workshop," said Kevin Jennings, national executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

He said people who run workshops in the future will get clearer guidelines, though Jennings said the network's annual conference at Tufts University should not be judged on the 30-student seminar "What They Didn't Tell You About Queer Sex and Sexuality in Health Class."

"We need to make our expectations and guidelines to outside facilitators much more clear," said Jennings. "Because we are surprised and troubled by some of the accounts we've heard." [Boston Herald, 5/18/2000]

Jennings expressed "concerns" about workshop discussion. In a May 18, 2000, Boston Globe article (from Nexis), Jennings criticized the contents of the tape, saying that "from what I've heard, I have concerns as well" and that sex-education programs "need to be delivered in an age appropriate and sensitive manner." He also said that his organization was being unfairly criticized by the Parents Rights Coalition, which had attended the workshop and taped it. According to Jennings: "[T]he people who have the tape know what our mission is, they know that our work is about preventing harassment and they know that session was not the totality of what was offered at a conference with over 50 sessions. Our mission is being misrepresented."

Wash. Times again falsely suggested Jennings "encourage[d]" student's relationship with an older man

Wash. Times: Jennings "encourag[ed]" his student to have sex with older man." The Times editorial stated that "[t]his scandal ... is about promoting sex between children and adults" and again criticized Jennings' "seeming encouragement of sex between one of his high school students and a much older man." The Times previously claimed that "Mr. Jennings is the moral malefactor who gave a speech about how he merely advised a 15-year-old high-school sophomore who was having sex with an older man that, 'I hope you knew to use a condom' " and that Jennings had "encouraged" the "statutory rape" of the student.

Jennings: "I listened, sympathized, and offered advice." In his 1994 book, Jennings described the student, named "Brewster," as "a charming but troubled kid" who "was not very happy with himself." Jennings wrote that he "didn't have a clue as to why -- at least not at first," and went on to describe an incident in which "Brewster" was brought into his office and discussed his homosexuality by telling "a story about his involvement with an older man he had met in Boston." Jennings wrote that he "listened, sympathized, and offered advice," and "Brewster" left his "office with a smile on his face" that Jennings "would see every time" he "saw him on the campus for the next two years, until he graduated." In a 2000 speech to GLSEN, Jennings said after "Brewster" told him of the incident involving an older man, "I didn't know what to say, knew I should say something quickly. So I finally -- my best friend had just died of AIDS the week before -- I looked at Brewster and said, 'You know, I hope you knew to use a condom.' He said to me something I will never forget, He said 'Why should I, my life isn't worth saving anyway.' "

Counseled student was 16, the age of legal consent. As Media Matters for America has previously reported, the student has confirmed that he was 16 at the time of the incident, which is and was the age of consent in Massachusetts. Indeed, the Times itself has already acknowledged the evidence that the student in question was 16 at the time.

Wash. Times again distorts Harry Hay comment to link Jennings to NAMBLA

Wash. Times: Jennings "praise[d] Harry Hay," a NAMBLA supporter. The December 9 Times editorial also referred to Jennings' "praise for Harry Hay, a notorious supporter of the North American Man Boy Love Association." The Times had previously charged that Jennings "expressed admiration for Harry Hay, a notorious and extremely prominent supporter of the North American Man Boy Love Association," and on October 4 claimed, "The late Hay was a 'gay-rights' activist most notorious for supporting the North American Man Boy Love Association."

In fact, Jennings' praise of Hay had nothing to do with NAMBLA. Jennings mentioned Harry Hay in a 1997 speech to GLSEN, and the transcript was published by anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera. However, Jennings' praise was of Hay's work as an early gay rights activist and had nothing to do with NAMBLA, as the Times suggested. Jennings reportedly stated: "One of the people that's always inspired me is Harry Hay, who started the first ongoing gay rights groups in America. In 1948, he tried to get people to join the Mattachine Society. It took him two years to find one other person who would join. Well, [in] 1993, Harry Hay marched with a million people in Washington, who thought he had a good idea 40 years before."

Times relentlessly pursuing anti-gay war on Jennings

Wash. Times penned nine other editorials smearing Jennings. According to a Nexis search, the Times' editorial board has written at least nine other editorials specifically targeting Jennings since September 28. At least two additional editorials published during that period portrayed him in a negative light.

Editorials advanced falsehoods and distortions to discredit Jennings. As Media Matters has extensively documented, a number of the Times' editorials targeting Jennings advanced false claims or distortions and are riddled with anti-gay rhetoric.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, LGBTQ
Network/Outlet
The Washington Times
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