Media Matters for America examines and debunks the wide array of falsehoods and distortions the right-wing media have used in their attempts to smear and discredit Department of Education official Kevin Jennings and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which Jennings founded and previously served as executive director.
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.
In an article headlined "Obama's Safe Schools Czar Tied to Lewd Readings for 7th Graders," FoxNews.com's Maxim Lott reported that Department of Education official Kevin Jennings "is under fresh attack after it was revealed that the pro-gay group he formerly headed recommends books his critics say are pornographic." But Lott did not note until the 13th paragraph of his article that the list of books recommended by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) for grades 7-12 included the disclaimer that they "contain mature themes" and the recommendation that "adults selecting books for youth review content for suitability"; moreover, at least two of the "critics" cited by Lott have a history of anti-gay bigotry.
From the December 14 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From Andrew Marcus' December 11 post on BigGovernment.com:
From columnist Burt Prelutsky's December 11 column posted on WorldNetDaily:
Back in 1990, the police raided Barney Frank's home because his gay lover, Steve Gobie, was running a male prostitution ring out of his condo. In 2007, the police raided the home of James Ready and arrested him for possession of marijuana. Ready, who is Barney's main squeeze these days, didn't just smoke the weed; Farmer Ready was growing the stuff. The congressman was there at the time of the raid, but denied he had any idea that those plants in the backyard weren't rhododendrons. I believe he told the police that he was perfectly clueless when it came to plant life. I guess, like Clinton, he never inhaled, either.
Because I am always prepared to grant a liberal politician the benefit of the doubt, I'm sure it's only a coincidence that Barney has long led the fight to decriminalize the use and sale of the narcotic.
On the other hand, considering his sorry track record when it comes to romance, don't you think it's high time Rep. Frank, who'll be 70 years old in a few months, should start using a reputable dating service and stop phoning every number he finds scrawled on bathroom walls?
Apparently, the anti-gay natives are restless over at Hot Air - Ed Morrissey today claims that he has gotten "a lot of email asking why I haven't written about" the right-wing's trumped-up witch hunt against Department of Education official Kevin Jennings, and explains: "To be honest, the story is so shocking that I haven't quite grasped how to approach it." Rather than leave it at that, Morrissey goes on to demonstrate that he lacks even the shakiest grasp of the claims that the right has been making about Jennings.
Morrissey claims that throughout Jennings' 13-year tenure as head of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the organization "offered sex education seminars to young teenagers within the framework of public education" that included explicit sexual discussion. What the rest of Morrissey's ilk have been alleging is that at one GLSEN conference in 2000, such a discussion happened during a workshop.
Morrissey claims that "Margot Abels, who got fired by GLSEN after the content of the seminars became known, says Jennings and others at GLSEN knew the content of their curriculum and approved it." A couple of problems:
1) Even Jennings' most fervent opponents have acknowledged that Abels worked for the Massachusetts Department of Education, not GLSEN. Jennings didn't fire her, though he did criticize the content of her seminar when he became aware of it.
2) While the right has claimed that Abels said that Jennings "knew" in advance about the content of her seminar, the statements they have pointed to only show that she said her immediate superiors at the Department of Education were aware, not that Jennings or GLSEN were.
Morrissey then purports to provide the explicit "handout material GLSEN provided for these classes." But the image that he shows is from the booklet conservative activists have claimed was passed out to students at a separate GLSEN conference - in 2005.
Oh, and in reality, 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 the conference; 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 local school superintendent reportedly said he believed no students had actually taken the book.
But other than that, Morrissey's "approach" to Jennings is worth the wait.
UPDATE: Newsbusters' John Stephenson is offering up Morrissey's post to those "unfamiliar" with Jennings "outrageous background." Boy, will they be surprised when they find that even the rest of the right-wing nuthouse isn't on board with Morrissey's take.
Better conservative media critics, please.
Accuracy in Media regrets the publication of a blog entry accusing Department of Education official Kevin Jennings, a homosexual activist, of being a pedophile and personally teaching perverted sexual practices to young people. We have no evidence to support those specific charges. The blog entry was posted by an intern without permission, and has been taken down.
But AIM seems to have learned nothing from getting caught spreading outrageous lies about Jennings, for it continues by hurling more smears:
We continue to urge the media to vigorously investigate Jennings' background, which includes praise for homosexual activist and communist Harry Hay, a supporter of the North American Man-Boy Love Association. Jennings' role in promoting the homosexual agenda and exposing children to discussions of dangerous sexual practices through his organization, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), should also continue to be investigated. For the facts on Jennings, we suggest three important websites: www.missionamerica.com, where Linda Harvey has broken many stories about Jennings and GLSEN; www.AmericansforTruth.com, where Peter LaBarbera writes regularly about the controversy; and www.massresistance.com, where Brian Camenker has covered the scandal of Obama's appointment of Jennings in much detail.
Linking Jennings to Hays is nothing more than a guilt-by-association smear -- Jennings has never praised NAMBLA. If that's a game AIM wants to play, then it's fair to note AIM's appreciation for convicted felon and unrepentant domestic terrorist G. Gordon Liddy.
As we've detailed, MassResistance is an anti-gay organization declared a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center that has been the springboard for numerous instances of right-wing falsehoods and misinformation about Jennings, and Camenker has not only likened the gay-rights movement to Nazis, he has denied that gays and lesbians were a target of the Holocaust.
The other two organizations AIM cites are no better.
How anti-gay is Mission America's Linda Harvey? She has advocated (in her column located, naturally, at WorldNetDaily) that parents remove Harry Potter books from their children's collections because author J.K. Rowling revealed that Dumbledore is gay, asserted that "Open or suspected homosexuals should never be elected" because they are involved in "[w]eird sex, public displays of "affection" and nudity, and sex with youth," and complained that activists who opposed a bill to allow same-sex marriage in Maine weren't anti-gay enough. Mission America's attacks on Jennings and GLSEN are little more than warmed-over smears from other right-wing groups -- i.e., repeating claims about the explicitness of GLSEN's list of recommended books without noting that GLSEN also recommends that "adults selecting books for youth review content for suitability."
Peter LaBarbera, head of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, has been unambiguous in declaring that his attacks on Jennings (also based on recycled smears) are rooted in hatred of homosexuality:
One more point: it is now common for conservatives - especially non-religiously-affiliated media leaders like Sean Hannity (who should be applauded for his yeoman's work exposing Jennings) -- to make the odd disclaimer that the GLSEN/Jennings controversy (or whatever "gay"-related culture-war story they are discussing) "is not about homosexuality." Baloney. This is all about homosexuality and the "gay" activist agenda whose singular goal is to normalize homosexuality as a "civil right."
The politically correct "not-about-gays" caveat is about as illogical as claiming that the effort to expose systematic human rights abuses in China and North Korea "has nothing to with Communism." Anyone who calls himself "conservative" should know better. Besides, true conservatives should not be ashamed of enthusiastically conserving the age-old Judeo-Christian sexual/marriage ethic -- which has served mankind well and which rejects all efforts to approve of unnatural and destructive sexual behaviors condemned by God.
These are the people from whom AIM believes you can get "the facts on Jennings." Is it any wonder that an AIM intern felt comfortable enough with spreading falsehoods and smears about him to post them on the AIM website?
In his latest smear of Department of Education official Kevin Jennings, Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft wrote that Jennings' "Teen Conference Literature Pushed Anal S*x in Parks With Strangers," citing a booklet that he claims "children who attended Kevin Jennnings' GLSEN 2005 Conference also left with."
From the December 10 edition of WOR's The Steve Malzberg Show:
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From the December 10 edition of WOR's The Steve Malzberg Show:
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In a December 11 editorial, The Washington Times continued its relentless anti-gay campaign against Department of Education official Kevin Jennings by advancing several previously debunked claims, including the false claim -- which was pushed by the hate group MassResistance -- that the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a group founded and formerly headed by Jennings, "allowed" an explicit safe-sex brochure that included a bar guide "to be handed out to high school students." 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 and GLSEN stated that if it had known the booklets had been at the conference, it would have demanded they be removed.
Right-wing media outlets have relied on false or misleading claims by MassResistance, a Massachusetts-based anti-gay group, in advancing several recent attacks on Department of Education official Kevin Jennings. The founder of MassResistance -- a group the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled a "hate group" -- reportedly denied that gays and lesbians were a target of the Holocaust and has compared the gay rights movement to the Nazis. The organization has also called on parents to keep their children home from school during an event promoting awareness of, and opposition to, anti-gay bullying and has stated that suicide prevention programs for gay and lesbian youth have no "legitimate medical or psychological basis."
In attacking the media for allegedly insufficient coverage of Obama administration official Kevin Jennings, a blogger for Accuracy in Media, which purports to "set the record straight on important issues that have received slanted coverage" -- and which has a record of antagonism toward gays -- smeared Jennings as a "pedophile" and falsely claimed that "[v]ideos have surfaced of Jennings teaching 14-year-old boys the dangerous sexual practice of 'fisting,' and discussing with them the particulars of oral sex." In fact, Jennings did not conduct that seminar and, in fact, reportedly criticized it when he became aware of its content.