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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Facebook poll asks should Obama be killed, Judy Shepard called a liar, and other Monday midday news briefs

Gay Good Samaritan Acquitted of Kidnapping - I'm putting this post from Box Turtle Bulletin on my page because it tees me off. A case where heterosexual parents don't do their job and a gay man who stepped in gets attacked physically and also by the police.

Facebook poll up now - Should Obama be killed? - TELL me again how this isn't about race. I dare you!

Exodus’ Hired Researcher Counters Own Study’s Claim of Ex-Gay ‘Change’ - Just another day in the bizarro world of "ex-gay" thought.

Salt Lake City Man Calls Judy Shepard a Liar to her Face - This is why we must make a point to beat down religious right lies at every turn. There is actually a school of thought out there which claims that Matthew Shepard's murder had nothing to do with his sexual orientation. Despite the fact that it has been proven continuously, as long as the headless monster of that "20/20" special is out there (and as long as religious right groups pump it up), this nasty school of thought will continue.

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Black gay gospel singer gives exclusive interview, dispels myths

We are now seeing that the idea of a black president seems to drive some white folks crazy.

In comparison, the quickest way to drive the black community nuts is to mention the subject of the lgbt community.

African-American gospel singer Tonex recently became the first black gospel singer to come out publicly.

Granted, he is not the first African-American gay gospel singer (i.e. James Cleveland and others), but he is the first to have the guts to be honest about his sexual orientation.

These are his words in an exclusive interview with Black Voices:

I'm studying daily on the subject of same-sex matters. I'm tired of echoing what I've been told. I want to know for myself the true interpretation of scriptures in Biblical text and well as scientific documentation.

You know, it's not easy growing up in a Pentecostal/Evangelical church, where everyone is pretty much anti-gay, although it's common knowledge that some of the most anointed musicians and singer-songwriters have, or have dealt with, same-sex attraction at some point. For me, it was particularly taboo because of my upbringing and the ministerial call on my life. I then had to think about the repercussions of this revelation. But I knew I had to get free.

. . . There was so much more in that interview that I thought was, unfortunately, overlooked. So much more to my story then the sexuality part, but most church folks are sexually repressed anyway, so they naturally gravitate right toward that type of subject matter. I noticed parts one and three weren't juicy enough for the church or the public, yet they were the key to the whole puzzle. I talked about my same-sex attraction. I don't think that there was any new information here. I've addressed this issue in my music for years. But for many, I guess, it was a shock of sorts. But believe me, it wasn't for shock value. The real story is not cute, ladies and gentlemen. Freedom, my friends, is not for cowards.

There is a sad part to this entire situation as far as I am concerned. Tonex says that 96 percent of the responses he received have been positive. That enough confirms a belief I've had about the black community.

Approval or disapproval of gays and lesbians in the black community is far more complex than folks realize.

The simplistic belief that the black community automatically does not approve of homosexuality is driven by three factors:

- The religious right's eagerness to exploit the ignorance of the African-American community regarding its lgbt members.

- The cowardice of influential black leaders who tackle the issue with the force of a baby licking the tip of icing off of a cake.

- And the self absorption of the lgbt community at large which refuses to acknowledge that the lgbt struggle for self-determination is present in some form or another in every ethnic group, every culture, and every country.

It's a question that deserves far more attention than it is getting (hello Advocate magazine!).

However, I know that waiting for a major lgbt magazine to do a serious story on gay issues in the black community is like waiting for BET or Ebony or Jet to do a serious story on the issue.

I'll probably be waiting so long for this to happen that my credit will become good.

Still, Tonex should be commended for his pioneering step. It's not his fault that both of his communities are way behind on the issue.

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