Monday, September 28, 2009

Washington Times publishes ugly hit piece on Kevin Jennings

I had a bad feeling about this last weekend and now it is coming to fruition.

For months, the right have been lobbing bombs at Kevin Jennings, President Obama's Deputy Secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.

They have levied ridiculous charges against him - he wants children to be "taught" gay sex, he uses profanity, he hates Christians, he has said nasty things about God.

The charges are easily kicked aside. But then comes the most serious one - Jennings allegedly approves of pedophilia because he supposedly didn't report an relationship between a 15-year-old and a older man.

Based upon what I have seen and read over the past few days, it is this charge which the right will try to make stick.

And today came a huge hit piece via the Washington Times by way of Fox

A teacher was told by a 15-year-old high school sophomore that he was having homosexual sex with an "older man." At the very least, statutory rape occurred. Fox News reported that the teacher violated a state law requiring that he report the abuse. That former teacher, Kevin Jennings, is President Obama's "safe school czar."

. . . According to Mr. Jennings' own description in a new audiotape discovered by Fox News, the 15-year-old boy met the "older man" in a "bus station bathroom" and was taken to the older man's home that night. When some details about the case became public, Mr. Jennings threatened to sue another teacher who called his failure to report the statutory rape "unethical." Mr. Jennings' defenders asserted that there was no evidence that he was aware the student had sex with the older man.

Knowing Fox News' "track record" when it comes to the Obama Administration, I would like to hear this tape.

As luck would have it, Media Matters heard the tape. And there are a lot of distortions with what is being claimed.

In addition, there are a more few things that I find disturbing about this Fox News/Washington Times gang-up on Jennings.

Let me break down the distortions as I and Media Matters sees it.

In the first place, Jennings is not a "czar." He was appointed to his position by Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

In using the term "czar," the Washington Times is using the Glenn Beckish code word for supposed "corruption" in the Obama Administration as a way to weave a narrative of "Jennings is indicative of Obama appointees."

Then there is the claim that Jennings encouraged the young man to "use a condom" in the relationship:

In 2000, Mr. Jennings gave a talk to the Iowa chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, an advocacy group that promotes homosexuality in schools. On the tape, Mr. Jennings recollected that he told the student to make sure "to use a condom" when he was with the older man.

According to Media Matters, the Washington Times distorted the condom quote:

JENNINGS: And I said, "Brewster, what are you doing in there asleep?" And he said, "Well, I'm tired." And I said, "Well, we all are tired and we all got to school today." And he said, "Well, I was out late last night." And I said, "What were you doing out late on a school night?" And he said, "Well, I was in Boston." Boston was about 45 minutes from Concord. So I said, "What were you doing in Boston on a school night, Brewster?" He got very quiet, and he finally looked at me and said, "Well, I met somebody in the bus station bathroom and I went home with him." High school sophomore, 15 years old. That was the only way he knew how to meet gay people. I was a closeted gay teacher, 24 years old, 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."

And then comes the huge misrepresentation - that Jennings encouraged the relationship. From the Washington Times piece:

That he actively encouraged the relationship is reinforced by Mr. Jennings' own description in his 1994 book, "One Teacher in 10." In that account, the teacher boasts how he allayed the student's concerns about the relationship to such a degree that the 15-year-old "left my office with a smile on his face that I would see every time I saw him on the campus for the next two years, until he graduated."

But nowhere in the book does it say that Jennings actually encouraged the relationship. Here is the portion in question mentioned by the Washington Times in its exact context:

On a hunch, I suddenly asked "What's his name?" Brewster's eyes widened briefly, and then out spilled a story about his involvement with an older man he had met in Boston. I listened, sympathized, and offered advice. He left my office with a smile on his face that I would see every time I saw him on the campus for the next two years,until he graduated.

Now while there no longer seems to be a question of whether or not "Brewster" was of age, the situation is still not as clear cut as the right is trying to make it.

Jennings never saw any relationship and it was a judgment call whether or not he should have told anyone what Brewster told him. What if he had? I tend to think that the story would have had a very negative denouement- Brewster's suicide.

And I think that Jennings had the same feeling, which was why he kept silent about what Brewster told him.

Instead of attacking Jennings, we need to ask ourselves what would possess a young man like Brewster to put himself in a situation like that. Why would a young man feel so depressed about his God-given sexual orientation that he doesn't care about putting himself in danger?

How often does this continue to happen and what can we do to stop it?

Attacking Jennings for dealing with the situation the way he did is a classic case of ignoring the forest for the sake of the trees.

Because he had to deal with a situation like this one, Jennings is exactly the right person to deal with issues of school safety. He knows the reasons why youngsters, particularly lgbt youngsters, exposes themselves to danger and based on his track record with GLSEN, he can work to stop this behavior

But neither Fox News, the Washington Times, nor any other party on the right seems to care about because they are determined to put Jennings' head in their trophy case.

They don't care about the safety of lgbt children because they have a more practical purpose for zeroing in on Jennings.

If their charges can get him dismissed, it would look bad for the Obama Administration. In addition, the religious right can refer to this situation for a long time when they want to push the lie that "gays recruit children."

Lastly, it would also be another thing to get the lgbt community mad at the President.

So attacking Jennings may turn out to be a win-win situation for the right.

But it may also be death for America's children.

You can go here to give some support to Jennings.

Related posts:

The new attack on Kevin Jennings - he said something ugly about God

The continuing attacks on Kevin Jennings - now Fox News gets involved

The possible attack on the President's lgbt appointees

The tea party idiots - will they go after the lgbt community next?

Traditional Values Coalition attacks Kevin Jennings and . . . Tom Cruise?

Support Sean's Last Wish and Kevin Jennings

The religious right thinks that character assasination is a Christian virtue

The war against Kevin Jennings - now it's getting pathetic

Attacks on Kevin Jennings sleazy, un-Christian

More right wing lunacy on Kevin Jennings courtesy of Kevin McCullough

More attacks on GLSEN'S Kevin Jennings - Now the Family Research Council gets in the act'''

'Fistgate' and President Obama - religious right pushes a pitiful attempt of guilt by association

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The Rev. Mr. David Gillespie said...

Alvin, if indeed Jennings knew that the 15-year old was having sex with an older person, he was obligated to report it, pure and simple, no getting around it. Regardless of his intent, standards of ethics, and in many states, the law itself, requires such reporting. Teachers do not have the flexibility to make judgement calls on such matters.

Now, whether these safeguards were in place when Jennings was teaching is another matter and probably the heart of the issue.

And do please remember, jJust because an "attack" comes from the right doesn't necessarily mean it's not true.

BlackTsunami said...

Sorry David,

but I totally disagree. Jennings didn't know anything but what the young man told him. He didn't see anything. And clearly his mind was on the young man's mindset regarding what would lead him to think that his life was not worth living.

And about where the attack comes from, my concern is a lot of times folks, for the sake of being "objective," do not take into account the credibility of said attack. That is how we lose sometimes. We automatically give some on the right more credibility than they deserve. By all means investigate but don't get caught up in the seriousness of the charge that you totally ignore the fact that those bringing the charge have misreprented other cases of this nature in the past. Let's not delude ourselves in self-righteousness.