Fox News' Hemmer latest to advance made-up charge that Jennings knew of "statutory rape" case and "never reported it"

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Fox News' Bill Hemmer continued his network's attacks on Department of Education official Kevin Jennings by claiming that Jennings knew of a "statutory rape" case involving a student but "never reported it." However, Hemmer ignored that Jennings' attorney wrote in a 2004 letter that the student was 16 years old, which Jennings' book appears to support, and that 16 is -- and was at the time -- the legal age of consent in Massachusetts.

Hemmer claims as fact that Jennings knew of "statutory rape" case and "never reported it"

From the October 1 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

HEMMER: I'm Bill Hemmer, top of the hour now, we are talking about a case that involves statutory rape, and Jennings never reported it. According to a book he wrote, had no regrets about how he handled it then.

MARTHA MacCALLUM (co-host): And now he has changed his story a bit. And Mike Emanuel joins us live at the White House with that. How do we know so much detail about this controversy?

EMANUEL: Well, Martha, Jennings has included this story in two books. He's also spoken about it at public events at an education summit involving a gay, lesbian education group that he founded. He told the story that a 15-year-old came to him, said that he was meeting older men in a bus station restroom, and getting involved with them. And Jennings' advice to the young man, the 15-year-old student, was, "Well, I hope you knew to use a condom." The child said to him, "Well, why should I? My life is not worth living anyway." And so a lot of people suggesting that should have thrown up all sorts of red flags for this teacher.

Jennings' attorney stated in letter that student was 16, which is -- and was -- MA age of consent

Jennings' attorney: Conversation was "with a sixteen-year-old student"; "no factual basis" that Jennings was "aware of any sexual victimization of any student." In an August 3, 2004, letter, Constance M. Boland of the law firm Nixon Peabody -- which represented the organization that Jennings ran -- wrote that the "conversation" Jennings had was with "a sixteen-year-old student" and that there "is no factual basis whatsoever for" the "claim that Mr. Jennings engaged in unethical practices, or that he was aware of any sexual victimization of any student, or that he declined to report any sexual victimization at any time." [Boland letter, 8/3/04]

Massachusetts age of consent is -- and was at the time -- 16. According to a footnote in the 1982 Massachusetts case Commonwealth v. Calvin D. Miller, chapter 265, section 23, of the General Laws of Massachusetts, as amended in 1974, at the time provided:

Whoever unlawfully has sexual intercourse or unnatural sexual intercourse, and abuses a child under sixteen years of age shall, for the first offense, be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life or for any term of years, or, except as otherwise provided, for any term in a jail or house of correction, and for the second or subsequent offense by imprisonment in the state prison for life or for any term of years, but not less than five years. [emphasis added]

According to the legislative history available in the Lexis database, the provision was not amended after 1982 until 1998. It was amended again in 2008 and now provides:

Whoever unlawfully has sexual intercourse or unnatural sexual intercourse, and abuses a child under 16 years of age, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life or for any term of years or, except as otherwise provided, for any term in a jail or house of correction. A prosecution commenced under this section shall neither be continued without a finding nor placed on file. [emphasis added]

Jennings' 1994 book: Student at least 16 years old

In his 1994 book, One Teacher in Ten: Gay and Lesbian Educators Tell Their Stories, Jennings writes of "Brewster, a sophomore boy who I came to know in 1987, my first year of teaching at Concord Academy, in Concord, Massachusetts." Jennings writes that "during the spring of 1988," Brewster told Jennings "a story about his involvement with an older man he had met in Boston." Jennings writes that he "listened, sympathized, and offered advice." Later in the book, Jennings writes that on April 3, 1993, he "caught up" with Brewster at "the annual awards dinner of the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights." Jennings writes that Brewster was then "twenty-two, taking time off from college, and living with his boyfriend." If Brewster was 22 in April of 1993, then Brewster would have been either 16 or 17 in the "spring of 1988," when, according to Jennings' book, Brewster told Jennings of the "older man." From his book:

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Transcript

From the October 1 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

MacCALLUM: And there are some new questions now surrounding one of the president's top advisers on education. White House safe schools czar Kevin Jennings taking some heat for an incident that happened about 20 years ago. He was a high school teacher counseling a gay student. The boy confided in him, told him he was having an affair with an older man. And wait till you hear what Jennings' advice to him was. That's what's got him in some hot water.

Brand new hour now right now of America's Newsroom. Welcome, everybody, I'm Martha MacCallum, in for Megyn Kelly.

HEMMER: Morning again, Martha.

MacCALLUM: Good morning, Bill.

HEMMER: I'm Bill Hemmer, top of the hour now, we are talking about a case that involves statutory rape, and Jennings never reported it. According to a book he wrote, had no regrets about how he handled it then.

MacCALLUM: And now he has changed his story a bit. And Mike Emanuel joins us live at the White House with that. How do we know so much detail about this controversy?

EMANUEL: Well, Martha, Jennings has included this story in two books. He's also spoken about it at public events at an education summit involving a gay, lesbian education group that he founded. He told the story that a 15-year-old came to him, said that he was meeting older men in a bus station restroom, and getting involved with them. And Jennings' advice to the young man, the 15-year-old student, was, "Well, I hope you knew to use a condom." The child said to him, "Well, why should I? My life is not worth living anyway." And so a lot of people suggesting that should have thrown up all sorts of red flags for this teacher.

MacCALLUM: Yeah, on so many levels. What is he saying now about this matter, Mike?

EMANUEL: Well, Jennings has expressed some regret, issuing a statement saying, quote, "Twenty-one years later, I can see how I should have handled the situation differently. I should have asked for more information and consulted legal or medical authorities. Teachers back then had little training and guidance about this kind of thing" -- Martha.

MacCALLUM: So, what, you know, the White House has had a lot of heat about a number of these people in these positions. What is their response to this controversy about this new czar?

EMANUEL: Well, the Department of Education is pointing out that he was a 24-year-old teacher at the time; that since then he has been highly regarded and awarded for his work as an educator over the years. Education Secretary Arne Duncan putting out a statement saying, quote, "Kevin Jennings has dedicated his professional career to promoting school safety. He is uniquely qualified for his job, and I am honored to have him on our team."

But some of the critics are saying at this point that it is not the fact that this was a man-on-man situation, a gay situation, it was the fact that any 15-year-old who says that he is or she is sexually active with an older man --

MacCALLUM: Right.

EMANUEL: -- should have set off all sorts of warning flares, and he should have contacted parents, or law enforcement, or somebody else about this. And so that's where a lot of people are faulting Jennings right now.

MacCALLUM: I mean, you try to imagine a 15-year old girl going to their teacher and saying, "Well, I just keep picking people up at a bus station."

EMANUEL: Right.

MacCALLUM: And that the parents wouldn't be alerted, and that, you know, something wouldn't be sort of taken in -- and taken to a higher level, and brought in some more experts on it. Thank you very much, Mike. We'll see where this goes.

EMANUEL: Sure.

MacCALLUM: Mike Emanuel at the White House.

Posted In
Government, Nominations & Appointments
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Bill Hemmer
Show/Publication
America's Newsroom
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