Fox Nation and Big Government are trumpeting the latest smear on Department of Education official Kevin Jennings: that Jennings is, in the words of Fox Nation, "linked to shocking teen sex talk," referring to a recorded exchange that occurred during a "Queer Sex and Sexuality" workshop during a 2000 conference sponsored by Jennings' organization, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). In fact, Jennings reportedly criticized "some of the" workshop's "content" when the recordings were first released in 2000, and the people involved in conducting the controversial discussion -- none of whom were GLSEN employees -- were either terminated or resigned.
Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft has published blog posts this weekend targeting Department of Education official Kevin Jennings under the hair-on-fire headlines, "Breaking: Obama's Safe Schools Czar's Question to 14 Year Olds: 'Spit vs. Swallow?... Is it Rude?' (audio-video)" and "Fistgate: Barack Obama's Safe Schools Czar Promoted "Fisting" to 14 Year-Olds (audio-video)." Two problems: The audio isn't of Jennings, and these stories aren't even remotely new.
Back in 2000, Jennings' organization, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), held a conference at Tufts University. The conference featured numerous workshops for students and educators, including "How to decide whether to come out at work," and "Strategies and curriculum ideas for addressing gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gender issues in a high school English curriculum." One of the workshops, titled "What They Didn't Tell You About Queer Sex and Sexuality in Health Class: Workshop for Youth Only, Ages 14-21," was run by two Massachusetts state Department of Education staffers and a state DoE consultant.
Basically, during the workshop, students asked a lot of very explicit questions about sex, and received explicit answers. As Hoft himself acknowledges in the body of his posts, it is the Department of Education staffers - not Jennings himself - who appear in the audio giving those answers. An activist for the anti-gay group Parents Rights Coalition (now MassResistance) snuck into the workshop and taped it, in a possible violation of state laws banning the taping of people without their permission (stop me if you've heard this one before).
Jennings subsequently criticized the workshop to the Boston 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]
And to the Boston Globe:
Meanwhile, officials at the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, said they would also be looking further into the March workshops, because they would also be opposed to graphic sex talk that would be inappropriate for young adults.
"From what I've heard, I have concerns as well," said executive director Kevin Jennings. "GLSEN believes that children do have a right to accurate, safer sex education, but this needs to be delivered in an age appropriate and sensitive manner."
But, he was also critical of the coalition's agenda.
"What troubles me is the 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," he said. "Our mission is being misrepresented." [Boston Globe, 5/18/2000]
You'll notice that that's two separate articles quoting Jennings responding to the workshop. That's because contrary to Hoft's claim that this story is "Breaking," it was a big deal when it happened more than nine years ago. In addition to the local Boston papers, which each devoted several articles to it, the story received coverage in the AP, National Review, The Washington Times, The Weekly Standard, The New York Post, UPI, and on Fox News.
The workshop's organizers (i.e., the people in the tape) were fired or resigned, though one later got her job back. Nice people that they are, the Parents Rights Coalition went on to use the incident to call for the elimination of state funding for Gay-Straight Alliance groups and the disbanding of the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth. [Boston Globe, 5/18/2000] Oh, and they tried to sell copies of the tape of the workshop for $5 a pop.
Back in June, MassResistance posted the audio of the workshop online, as part of their ongoing effort to get Jennings fired. I assume Hoft has broken it out now because it goes well with his smear that Jennings promoted "Child Porn in the Classroom." Unfortunately, as with that smear, the facts just don't match Hoft's rhetoric.
Conservative blogs have claimed that Department of Education official Kevin Jennings is unfit as "Safe Schools Czar" because he supposedly promoted "child porn" by allowing an education organization he founded to recommend for students in grades 7-12 books that included sexually explicit content. The organization, however, specifically stated on its book list website that "some titles for adolescent readers contain mature themes" and recommended that "adults selecting books for youth review content for suitability"; further, schools regularly teach books that contain sexually explicit material.
Given the right-wing freak-out over the existence of sexually explicit passages in several books that Kevin Jennings' former organization has recommended for adolescents, we look forward to the I'm-sure-forthcoming denunciations of the Ayn Rand Institute. It'll be hard for them, of course, since The Right loves Rand's books and considers her one of the founders of modern conservative philosophy, but in order to avoid being hypocrites, they will have to do so.
The Ayn Rand Institute, according to its website, "works to introduce young people to Ayn Rand's novels, to support scholarship and research based on her ideas, and to promote the principles of reason, rational self-interest, individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism to the widest possible audience."
And boy, do they promote! Here's their website for high school students. Here's the description of the contests they hold for high students competing to see who can write the best essays on Rand's works: 8th, 9th, and 10th graders compete for the best essay on Anthem and 11th and 12th graders compete for the best essay on The Fountainhead. Here are the Institute's lesson plans for high school teachers who want to assign Anthem or The Fountainhead. And here's the Institute's notice to high school teachers that they can get free copies of Rand's novels to teach in their schools from the Institute.
Oh, and here's the Scribd.com version of The Fountainhead. If you scroll down to page 186, you'll find an extremely explicit rape scene, which the Institute apparently finds appropriate for 11th and 12th graders.
I'm sure those denunciations will be coming any time now.
The Right-wing has rushed to attack Kevin Jennings because the organization he used to run lists several books with sexually explicit passages among those they recommended for adolescents. Aside from the fact that GLSEN's list specifically recommends that adults review the books themselves before selecting them for youths, the conservative media's argument is undermined by the fact that numerous books that are often assigned to high school students and are considered classics contain similar material.
For example, during my tenure at a public high school, I read the following books from an American Library Association list of "Banned and/or Challenged Books" that have been cited for sexual content:
- The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Challenged at the Baptist College in Charleston, SC (1987) because of 'language and sexual references in the book.'"
- The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger, challenged or removed from several schools due to "sexual scenes," "sexual references," "depict[ion of] premarital sex," "lurid passages about sex," and "sexual exploits experienced in the book"
- The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, "Challenged in the Greenville, S.C. schools (1991) because the book uses the name of God and Jesus in a 'vain and profane manner along with inappropriate sexual references.'"
- Beloved, Toni Morrison, "Challenged in the Sarasota County, Fla. schools (1998) because of sexual material."
- The Lord of the Flies, William Golding, "Challenged in the Waterloo, Iowa schools (1992) because of ... lurid passages about sex."
- 1984, George Orwell, "Challenged in the Jackson County, FL (1981) because Orwell's novel is 'pro-communist and contained explicit sexual matter.'"
- Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck, "Challenged at the Jacksboro, Tenn. High School (1991) because the novel contains 'blasphemous' language, excessive cursing, and sexual overtones."
- Native Son, Richard Wright, Challenged or banned in various districts because it was considered "sexually explicit," "sexually graphic," and for "sexual content."
We also read Gunter Grass' Cat and Mouse, which is not on the ALA's list, but contains an extremely vivid scene of group masturbation.
On the other hand, most of the sexual content in the above books is of the heterosexual variety. Perhaps that is why the conservative media isn't as worked up over them.
In the latest in a long line of smears conservative media figures have hurled at Department on Education staffer Kevin Jennings, Scott Baker of Breitbart-tv.com takes to the blog Gateway Pundit today to claim that Jennings' organization, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), recommended books to students which include explicit sexual passages. Baker states that the information comes from "team of independent researchers that I have known for some time and have come to trust." Baker goes on to falsely claim that "these are the books that GLSEN's directors think all kids should be reading."
Somehow, Baker missed the following note at the bottom of the GLSEN BookLink website, in bold red type, recommending that adults review the books before adolescents read them:
All BookLink items are reviewed by GLSEN staff for quality and appropriateness of content. However, some titles for adolescent readers contain mature themes. We recommend that adults selecting books for youth review content for suitability. The editorial and customer reviews listed at Amazon.com often provide information on mature content.
CORRECTION: Buried in the 13th paragraph of his post, Baker does acknowledge that "GLSEN does advise adults to 'review content for suitability.'" He does not acknowledge that this undermines his entire point.
WorldNetDaily video-maker Molotov Mitchell -- best known for smearing Sonia Sotomayor as an "anti-American racist" and the National Council of La Raza as "the tan Klan" -- peddles revisionist history on the Matthew Shepard case in his latest video.
First of all, like Harvey Milk, Matthew Shepard was not killed for being gay. After being robbed and beaten to death, his killer went on to try the exact same thing only on a straight guy 20 minutes later. The only reason he survived was because he had a bat and a friend with him. The liberals aren't interested in those facts. They didn't even care when Shepard's killers told ABC News that his murder had nothing to do with his lifestyle. And why would the killers lie? They had nothing to gain.
In fact, as blogger David Neiwert detailed at the time of the 2004 ABC interview, one of the killers, Aaron McKinney, mounted a "gay panic" defense at his trial -- which would seem to contradict the story Mitchell wants to hear -- and has changed his story multiple times. As the Matthew Shepard Foundation has stated, the ABC report omitted the contents of McKinney's in-custody interview a few days after Shepard's death. That transcript shows "an un-rehearsed and unemotional anti-gay account of the events before, during, and after leaving Matt tied to the fence," according to the foundation.
Further, as retired Laramie Police Chief Dave O'Malley told a Laramie newspaper: "Only three people know what really happened that night ... One of them is dead and the other two are known liars and convicted felons -- murderers."
Why would the killers lie, Mitchell asks? Because they're convicted murderers and known liars. And what do they have to gain? Sympathy from anti-gay activists like Mitchell.
Mitchell then goes into full anti-gay freak-out mode that the name of lynching victim James Byrd joined Shepard's in the name of the bill that added federal hate-crime protection to gays. The crimes that resulted in Byrd's death was "for real," Mitchell insists, "not some made-up Laramie Project stunt for political gain." Crank up that faux outrage, Molotov:
To exploit a modern-day lynching to score points with the gay lobby, to equate the true horror of Byrd's murder to their phony gay passion play, is unforgivable. Gay activists, how dare you cheapen his sacrifice? For that alone, you are unnatural. For that alone, you are deviant. For James Byrd alone, you are an abomination.
Oh, and he also sneeringly refers to President Obama as a "weak-kneed metrosexual."
Molotov has some issues. And this is merely the first of a two-part video.
Someone get the smelling salts. WorldNetDaily is gonna need them:
Now, I won't pretend to be surprised that WND is outraged at a "'gay musical,'" when they presumably wouldn't think twice about a "'straight' musical."
But I am curious about one thing: why does WND repeatedly put the word gay in quotes? Do they think the musical isn't really gay?
Anyway, WND uses the musical as an excuse to hawk this charming little book:
Why have Americans come to tolerate, embrace and even champion many things that would have horrified their parents' generation? Get David Kupelian's "The Marketing of Evil" at the WND Superstore.
John Solomon has only been gone for a couple of weeks, and already The Washington Times has reverted to its old ways -- the scare quotes are back.
A Times editorial today states: "It's a dark scandal in American politics that so many Catholic politicians promote abortion and same-sex 'marriage.' " And in an op-ed in yesterday's Times, Binyamin L. Jolkovsky wrote that Carrie Prejean's "fame, or infamy, skyrocketed after she honestly answered a question about gay 'marriage' during an internationally televised beauty pageant."
The Times reportedly banned the practice of using "scare quotes" around "gay marriage" shortly after Solomon's hiring as executive editor. In a February 25, 2008, memo, copy desk chief Patrick Tuohy reportedly stated that "[t]he quotation marks will come off gay marriage (preferred over homosexual marriage)." TPM's Ben Frumin reported this month that Solomon left the paper on November 6. It didn't take long for this modest improvement during his tenure to fall by the wayside after his departure.
One wonders what other back-sliding we'll see at the Times. Will it return to warning its readers about the "gay agenda" and its "assault upon traditional norms and values"? Will the Times once again treat its readers to laughable references to "gay caballeros" and the "lavender lobby" that presumably represents them?
That, of course, would depend in part on whether the Times stays in operation at all, a prospect that remains in question.
Leave it to Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter to equate the denial of civil rights to the civil rights movement. There they were on The O'Reilly Factor last night, discussing the "call of Christian conscience" known as the Manhattan Declaration, which O'Reilly described as "a document that encourages religious Americans to fight back, and in some cases even break the law." Coulter explained:
COULTER: The civil disobedience parts of it are pretty narrow. It's for saying that we won't participate as doctors, nurses, hospitals, in euthanasia, in abortion. Churches won't participate in same-sex marriage or -- or in denouncing, condemning homosexuality in the practice of their faith.
And just like that, Coulter put organized efforts to deny civil rights to gays and lesbians on par with black civil rights pioneers who used civil disobedience to expand their rights. The "civil disobedience" of churches that "won't participate in same-sex marriage" becomes elevated to a perch next to activists who refused to adhere to Jim Crow's separate-but-equal charade. Of course the distinction here is that Jim Crow laws were very real, and very brutally enforced. Coulter offers no evidence of a single church that would be required to bless or in any way recognize a single gay marriage.
Think about it for a moment. Coulter and her enabler O'Reilly would have you believe that in a nation where 78 percent of the citizens are Christians, it is Christians who need to engage in acts of civil disobedience for protection from laws passed by overwhelmingly Christian lawmakers. At what point does the notion of civil disobedience get turned on its head?
But the discussion masks a more sinister element of the manifesto: its effort to smear gay couples, since "the assumption that the legal status of one set of marriage relationships affects no other would not only argue for same-sex partnerships; it could be asserted with equal validity for polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even adult brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships."
At that point, can state-sanctioned marriage to goats and dolphins be far behind?
From WND founder and CEO Joseph Farah's November 23 WND.com column headlined, "Why sin cannot be condoned by state":
On Friday, more than 150 Christian leaders, most of them conservative evangelicals and traditionalist Roman Catholics, issued a joint declaration reaffirming their opposition to homosexual marriage on the basis of protecting religious freedom.
While I agree that government's granting of special "rights" based on aberrant sexual behavior is a religious freedom issue, it's not the main reason for concern by Christians and Jews.
The Bible clearly identifies homosexual behavior, as opposed to homosexual thoughts or predilections, as sin.
The issue Christians and Jews should be focused upon is whether it can ever be acceptable for the government to condone sin - or, worse yet, encourage it by making it a "right."
I don't believe government can do that without dire consequences.
America is being judged by God.
The biblical proof text is Romans 1.
I am not stating the obvious here - that individuals will be judged for their behavior in the afterlife. What I am saying is we are already being judged in the here and now for rejecting God and one of those judgments is the explosion of homosexuality in our culture and the absolute explosion in the number of people accepting it, condoning it and even rejoicing in it.
Whether you are a believer or not, this affects you. It shapes the world in which you and your children live. If you think your society is depraved now, you have seen nothing yet.
Farah's column is promoted on WND's frontpage next to an unscientific online poll asking readers, "LET'S NOT MINCE WORDS; What do you think of homosexuality?" From the WND.com poll, accessed on November 24:
From the November 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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In late August, the Washington Post's Style section featured a friendly profile of National Organization for Marriage executive director Brian Brown. The profile, by Post writer Monica Hesse, portrayed Brown and NOM as a "rational" "sane" "mainstream" organization, and their critics as shrill and vitriolic. In order to portray Brown in such a friendly light, Hesse omitted evidence of their history of gay-bashing, and excluded any criticism of the organization.
Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander agreed with complaints that the piece was one-sided, as did Style editor Lynn Medford:
[I]t deprived readers of hearing from others who have battled Brown and find him uncivil and bigoted. To them, he represents injustice. They should have been heard, at length.
In retrospect, Style editor Lynn Medford agrees. "The lesson is to always, in some way, represent the other side," she said.
Compounding the story's problems were passages like: "He takes nothing personally. He means nothing personal. He is never accusatory or belittling."
These types of unattributed characterizations are not uncommon in feature writing. But many readers thought Hesse was offering her opinion of who Brown is, as opposed to portraying how he comes across.
Finally, the headline: "Opposing Gay Unions With Sanity & a Smile." To many readers, The Post was saying Brown's views are sane. The headline, written by editors, not Hesse, should have been neutral.
Apparently that lesson didn't take.
Today's Washington Post Style section features a profile of another anti-gay activist, Bishop Harry Jackson.
For 2,200 words, Post writer Wil Haygood tells readers about Jackson's faith, and about his childhood. Haygood tells us Jackson "found himself" in the Bible after his "Daddy died." We learn that during his working-class childhood, his parents scraped together money for tuition for private-school, where Jackson was, as he puts it, "the black kid at Country Day who stayed in the houses of wealthy white people." We learn that he got into Harvard Business school, and was "smitten" when he ran into a childhood acquaintance, who he later married.
And we learn that Jackson's critics are dangerous, angry people:
His admirers have multiplied, and so have his critics. More than once, police have stopped by his Southeast Washington apartment to check on his safety.
"I was in line someplace recently," Jackson says, "and a woman who obviously opposes what I'm doing looked at me and said, 'You better go back to Maryland.'"
His wife says: "We have been verbally abused by the best."
Some of his appearances unleashed vitriol, even threats.
But we never really hear from Jackson's critics. Not in any meaningful way. One is quoted saying Jackson is on TV a lot and is "fighting for political ideas in the religious arena." Another is quoted saying "It's an unfortunate reality ... that one can't preach discrimination without inciting homophobia."
And that's it.
Haygood reports that Jackson has won favorable reception for his writing about black families, but makes no mention of Jackson's claims that black people are more prone to "physical intimacy with a nonspouse or enjoyment of pornographic materials" than white people.
Haygood doesn't mention Jackson's claim that God told him to work for George W. Bush's re-election. Or that Jackson has been, as People for The American Way put it, "somewhat of an all-purpose activist and pundit for right-wing causes - everything from judicial nominations to immigration and oil drilling."
And the Post mentions nothing of Jackson's association with far-right gay-bashers:
While Jackson personally avoids venomous language, he has allied himself with some of the hardest line anti-gay activists on the white Christian Right. One of them is Ohio-based Rod Parsley, the evangelical mega-church preacher whose book, Silent No More, sells three for $10 in the front lobby of Hope Christian's 3,000-member church. A chapter entitled "The Unhappy Gay Agenda" argues that gay people are much given to depression and deviance, including their "substantially higher participation in sadomasochism, fisting, bestiality, ingestion of feces, orgies ... obscene phone calls ... shoplifting, and tax cheating."
"Homosexuality is not just sick," writes Parsley, "it is sin."
Jackson works with Parsley and a number of other Christian fundamentalists through his High Impact Leadership Coalition (HILC), a collection of black and white evangelical mega-church leaders who've banded together to fight same-sex union rights and campaign for conservative candidates. Standing next to Jackson at the HILC's coming-out press conference in February 2005 was the Rev. Lou Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition, an anti-gay organization so hard-line that it is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.
And the Post couldn't find space among those 2,200 words to mention Jackson's opposition to the Matthew Shepard hate crimes legislation -- or the disturbing language Jackson used in opposing the bill:
"God's getting ready to shake us up," roared the Harvard MBA-turned preacher, rousing the audience to divinely ordained political action. With the crowd cheering, applauding, and speaking in tongues, Jackson shouted, "God's looking for a SWAT team ... he's looking for a team of Holy Ghost terrorists!"
Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander may as well just take the rest of the week off, and re-run his September 6 column about Monica Hesse's profile of Brian Brown. Apparently there are some people at the paper's Style section who missed it the first time.
UPDATE: Just to bring things full-circle: Guess who Hesse quoted saying Brown and NOM are "not gay bashers"? Yep: Harry Jackson.
On May 21, HarperCollins announced that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin had chosen World magazine features editor Lynn Vincent to co-author Palin's memoir, Going Rogue: An American Life. Palin's choice of Vincent, however, is not without controversy, as Vincent -- both in her writing for World and her other books -- has a record of false and inflammatory attacks on Democrats and liberals and has stridently attacked the gay community, likening gay people to communists and suggesting that homosexuality is a mental disorder.
The Washington Times' anti-gay onslaught against Department of Education official Kevin Jennings -- which has featured anti-gay rhetoric, falsehoods, and distortions -- is only the most recent offense in the newspaper's long history of publishing anti-gay rhetoric and smears. Media Matters for America has compiled an extensive -- though by no means all-inclusive -- list of such rhetoric since the late 1980s, including the paper's warnings against the "gay agenda," attacks on the possibility of gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, minimizing of the AIDS epidemic, and attacks on gay relationships and gay rights.