The anti-gay bigots at WorldNetDaily are back with yet another recycled attack on Department of Education official Kevin Jennings. This time, WND "news editor" Bob Unruh is trumpeting a seven-year-old Concerned Women of America "report" that, in the words of WND's banner headline, "Jennings called Falwell 'terrorist.' " But like every other attack the right has leveled at Jennings, this one falls flat.
In the first sentence of his WND story, Unruh breathlessly writes: "Reports have been uncovered revealing President Obama's Safe Schools Czar Kevin Jennings once called renowned evangelist Jerry Falwell a 'terrorist' ..."
Not until the 12th paragraph of the story (the 13th, if you count the paragraph hocking The Marketing of Evil audio book, on sale in the WND superstore) does Unruh get around to providing the context of what Jennings is actually alleged to have said -- context that makes Jennings' quote (assuming he actually said it) a lot less inflammatory:
The documentation on Jennings' opinion of Falwell comes from a report posted on the CWFA website about a 2002 conference.
Report author Allyson Smith noted going undercover to the GLSEN "Teaching Respect for All" conference in Los Angeles that year.
The subject of Falwell, who founded the Thomas Road Baptist Church, Liberty Christian Academy, Liberty University and the Moral Majority, and died in 2007, came up.
Jennings said: "I have to stop and give my little homage to the Southern Baptist Church because one of its leaders, Jerry Falwell, two days ago just announced that the founder of one of the world's greatest religions, Mohammed, was a terrorist. Usually the religious right tapes everything I say, so let me make sure they get this [quote] down: Jerry Falwell, if you need to know what a terrorist looks like, go look in the mirror," according to the CWFA report.
Falwell had told CBS News earlier that the founder of Islam was "a violent man, a man of war."
For the record, here's the relevant portion of the 2002 60 Minutes report by Bob Simon that Jennings was allegedly referencing:
SIMON: (Voiceover) Falwell believes most Muslims want to live in peace but, he says, the lines have been drawn: Christians and Jews on one side, Muslims on the other. And, he says, those lines were drawn more than 1,000 years ago.
SIMON: So the same way that Moses provided the ultimate example for the Jews and the same way that Jesus provided the ultimate example for Christians, Mohammed provided the ultimate example for Muslims, and he was a terrorist?
Of course, this wasn't the first outrageous comment Falwell had made about terrorism. A year earlier, in the aftermath of 9-11, Falwell suggested that the United States deserved the terrorist attacks, famously telling Pat Robertson that "what we saw on [9-11], as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact--if, in fact--God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve."
Falwell went on to "point the finger in" the "face" of several groups he claimed "helped this happen," including "the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle":
FALWELL: The ACLU's got to take a lot of blame for this.
ROBERTSON: Well, yes.
FALWELL: And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way--all of them who have tried to secularize America--I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."
Three months ago, Fox News was forced to issue a humiliating retraction of the false allegations it had leveled against Department of Education official Kevin Jennings. Now, Maxim Lott, the FoxNews.com reporter at the center of those falsehoods, has re-emerged with more smears of Jennings.
This time, in an article headlined "Obama's Safe Schools Czar Tied to Lewd Readings for 7th Graders," Lott reported that Jennings "is under fresh attack after it was revealed that the pro-gay group he formerly headed recommends books his critics say are pornographic." In the article, Lott grossly distorts the contents of books recommended by GLSEN for grades 7-12 and waits until the 13th paragraph to disclose that the list of books included the disclaimer that they "contain mature themes" and the recommendation that "adults selecting books for youth review content for suitability."
And just who are the "critics" who apparently inspired Lott's article? In short: anti-gay bigots.
There's Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, who last year announced his desire "to export homosexuals from the United States" -- a comment for which he later apologized (sort of). FRC's website states: "Family Research Council believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed. It is by definition unnatural, and as such is associated with negative physical and psychological health effects."
Lott also quoted Peter LaBarbera of American for Truth about Homosexuality. LaBarbera has explained that his attacks on Jennings are "all about homosexuality and the 'gay' activist agenda whose singular goal is to normalize homosexuality as a 'civil right.' "
The fact that Fox continues to allow Lott to report on Jennings is some of the strongest evidence yet that the network isn't a news outlet at all but is actually a right-wing political organization whose mission is to concoct dishonest, bigoted attacks with which to damage progressives and the Obama administration.
Let's revisit some of Lott's past work on the Jennings beat.
On September 30, Lott reported as fact that more 21 years ago, as a young teacher in Massachusetts, Jennings "didn't report that a 15-year-old boy told him that he was having sex with an older man."
At the time, there was substantial evidence available that Lott's claim was false. As Media Matters pointed out, a publicly available 2004 letter from Jennings' lawyer stated that the student was actually 16 years old when the conversation took place. The Massachusetts age of consent is -- and was at the time -- 16; Jennings was under no obligation to report anything. (The student later said that he "had no sexual contact with anybody at the time.")
On October 1, after reporting as fact that the student was "15," Lott apparently decided to check whether this claim was true. As Media Matters exclusively revealed, Lott sent a Facebook message to the student, asking if the "rumor" that he was 15 at the time was "accurate."
Normally, this is the sort of thing journalists ask before leveling allegations at public servants. But Lott and Fox News are apparently so obsessed with gay-baiting that accuracy has become a secondary matter that can wait until after they've run with their charges.
On October 2, two days after Lott's story ran, Media Matters published a statement from the student and a copy of his driver's license, definitively proving that he was 16 at the time of his conversation with Jennings. That same day, the student wrote to Lott and demanded a correction. Eventually, Fox added the following editor's note to the top of Lott's article: "Since this story was originally published, the former student referred to as 'Brewster' has stepped forward to reveal that he was 16 years old, not 15, at the time of the incident described in this report."
Three months later, Lott's back. And he's got a new smear.
A December 10 New York Post editorial falsely claimed that the "Climategate e-mails strongly suggest that the science underlying" the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) December 7 greenhouse gas endangerment finding "has been cooked" and that the EPA finding constitutes an "egregious theft of power" undermining "the separation of powers." In fact, climate experts have stated that the emails stolen from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia do not change the current scientific understanding of climate change; moreover, the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the EPA is required under the Clean Air Act to examine the science on the effects of greenhouse gases and to issue appropriate regulations based on that assessment.
From the December 9 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:
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The Gateway Pundit blog falsely suggested that the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, a group founded and formerly headed by Department of Education official Kevin Jennings, had distributed to children an explicit safe-sex booklet. In fact, a community health group -- not GLSEN itself -- reportedly said that it had mistakenly "left about 10 copies" of the booklet on an informational table it rented at a 2005 GLSEN conference at Brookline High School in Massachusetts; the group reportedly apologized for doing so; GLSEN stated that if it had known the booklets had been at the conference, it would have demanded they be removed; and the Brookline school superintendent reportedly said he believed no students had actually taken the book.
The Washington Times continued its anti-gay war on Department of Education official Kevin Jennings in a December 8 editorial entitled "Obama's buggery czar," the paper's ninth editorial smearing Jennings since late September. The Times editorial advanced several false and misleading claims in order to paint Jennings as a "moral malefactor" who supported and promoted "kids having sex with adults" as well as "homosexuality and promiscuity."
From the December 4 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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During the December 2 edition of Hannity, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich claimed that the stimulus has "failed" and cited "a study at the American Enterprise Institute" indicating that "only 8 percent of the senior appointees have a private sector background." In fact, there is a broad consensus among economic experts that the stimulus has boosted the economy, and after analyzing the "study" Gingrich cited, PolitiFact.com concluded that the claim that less than 10 percent of Obama's Cabinet appointees have private sector experience is "False."
In a November 29 article on Hannah Rosenthal, President Obama's special envoy to combat and monitor anti-Semitism, WorldNetDaily asserted that J Street, an organization for which Rosenthal serves on an "advisory council," is "pro-Hamas." In fact, J Street "support[s] Israel and its desire for security as the Jewish homeland" and has been praised by Israel's president and opposition leader.
In the latest smear in the right-wing media's witch hunt against Obama administration "czars," WorldNetDaily falsely claimed that State Department anti-Semitism envoy Hannah Rosenthal -- who has a long history of pro-Israel advocacy -- is an "anti-Israel lobbyist," apparently because of her affiliation with J Street. WorldNetDaily also falsely claimed that in a statement she reportedly made more than seven years ago, Rosenthal "seemed to imply Israeli policies were to blame for anti-Semitism."
Sean Hannity falsely claimed that Obama has "got" a "guy" in his administration "that supports forced sterilizations." Hannity did not specify which "guy" he was referring to, but has previously leveled this charge at director of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Cass Sunstein and White House science and technology adviser John Holdren.
From the November 24 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Citing no evidence whatsoever, Fox News host Sean Hannity baselessly claimed that Cass Sunstein, director of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, "wants to... force sterilizations." Hannity has previously echoed other right-wing commentators in offering similar, false attacks on White House science and technology adviser John Holdren.
From the November 23 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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From the November 12 edition of ABC Radio Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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