In recent weeks, the right-wing media have embarked on a witch hunt against Department of Education official Kevin Jennings, often advancing the repeatedly debunked falsehood that Jennings failed to report or even encouraged a 15-year-old student's relationship with an adult or the baseless smear that Jennings has "advocate[d]" for the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). Media Matters for America has compiled some of the most egregious attacks on Jennings that conservative media figures have made based on these smears, including calling Jennings "sick and immoral," a "pervert," someone who "facilitated" statutory rape, and "a zealous advocate of NAMBLA."
After falsely accusing Department of Education official Kevin Jennings of violating the law for failing to report the "statutory rape" or "child molestation" of a "15-year-old boy" in 1988, several conservative media figures have backtracked from that thoroughly debunked allegation, acknowledging that the student was, in fact, 16 years old and of legal age at the time. These media figures have since altered their attacks on Jennings to argue that the student's actual age is irrelevant, asserting instead -- in the words of The Washington Times -- that a 16-year-old student's involvement with an older man still should have "raised alarm," and advancing the baseless claim that -- as The American Spectator's Jeffrey Lord stated -- Jennings "thought" the student was 15 at the time of their conversation.
As part of their smear campaign against Obama Education Department official Kevin Jennings, conservative media figures including Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Ann Coulter have compared Jennings to film director Roman Polanski, stating -- in the words of Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers -- that "there needs to be zero tolerance for this kind of stuff," specifically citing Jennings and "the Roman Polanski stuff." Thus, media conservatives are smearing Jennings -- who counseled someone who was of age at the time and who has said he did not have a sexual relationship -- with the outrageous suggestion that he is comparable to Polanski, who was charged with rape and pleaded guilty to having sex with a girl who was 13 at the time after allegedly plying her with drugs and alcohol.
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Several media figures are promoting the notion of division among Obama supporters, asserting that "the left" is or should be disappointed with the president-elect's Cabinet selections. But the idea of significant disappointment with Obama runs counter to a USA Today/Gallup poll finding that 94 percent of Democrats "approve of the way Obama is handling his presidential transition."
While discussing Sen. Barack Obama's answers to Tim Russert's questions about Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan at the February 26 Democratic presidential debate, Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers said: "If I was him, I would have just immediately denounced him." In fact, Obama did denounce Farrakhan's comments during the debate.
On The O'Reilly Factor, Kirsten Powers called Chris Matthews' comment that "the reason [Hillary Clinton is] a U.S. senator ... is her husband messed around" was "totally inappropriate," adding that she has "been appalled at the way [Matthews] treats Hillary Clinton." Responding to O'Reilly's claim that he was "shocked and appalled" that the "big propaganda machine" Media Matters is "ripping up the far-left people at MSNBC," Powers also said that "what [Media Matters is] doing is going after Chris Matthews for attacking Hillary, and I think it's a very fair criticism."
Democratic strategist and Fox News political analyst Kirsten Powers wrote: "In a low point in Democratic Party history, Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey was banned from speaking at the 1992 Democratic Convention for being opposed to abortion rights." However, as Media Matters has noted, several opponents of abortion rights were given speaking slots at that Democratic convention.