Hannity continued to push "statutory rape" smear even after Fox reporter questioned story's accuracy
Research ››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN
On October 1, Fox News writer Maxim Lott acknowledged that he did not know whether the former student at the center of Fox's smear campaign against Kevin Jennings was in fact only 15 years old when -- 21 years ago -- that student told Jennings of his involvement with an "older man." But despite Fox's own reporter's questions about the accuracy of the story, Fox host Sean Hannity subsequently repeated the false allegation that Jennings failed to report to authorities the "statutory rape" of a 15-year-old.
Former student was 16 years old -- the MA age of consent -- at time of conservation with Jennings
Driver's license confirms former student was 16 at the time. Media Matters for America exclusively obtained the Massachusetts driver's license of "Brewster," the former student of Jennings, confirming that at the time of the conversation, he was 16 years old -- the legal age of consent in Massachusetts.
Former student says he was "a sixteen year-old" and was the age "of legal consent at the time." In an October 2 statement obtained by Media Matters, Brewster said:
Since I was of legal consent at the time, the fifteen-minute conversation I had with Mr. Jennings twenty-one years ago is of nobody's concern but his and mine. However, since the Republican noise machine is so concerned about my "well-being" and that of America's students, they'll be relieved to know that I was not "inducted" into homosexuality, assaulted, raped, or sold into sexual slavery.
In 1988, I had taken a bus home for the weekend, and on the return trip met someone who was also gay. The next day, I had a conversation with Mr. Jennings about it. I had no sexual contact with anybody at the time, though I was entirely legally free to do so. I was a sixteen year-old going through something most of us have experienced: adolescence. I find it regrettable that the people who have the compassion and integrity to protect our nation's students are themselves in need of protection from homophobic smear attacks. Were it not for Mr. Jennings' courage and concern for my well-being at that time in my life, I doubt I'd be the proud gay man that I am today.
October 1, 5:03 p.m.: Fox's Lott questions accuracy of "rumors" that student was 15
Lott asks former student whether "rumor" that he was 15 is "accurate." As Media Matters for America exclusively reported, Lott sent a Facebook message to Brewster with a timestamp reading, "October 1 at 5:03pm." Lott wrote: "Please give me a call or e-mail me if you'd like to clear up any of the rumors out there. In particular, in one speech Jennings said that you were 15 when he gave you advice. Is that accurate?" Lott had written two prior stories for FoxNews.com discussing Jennings' 1988 conversation with Brewster and has claimed as fact that Brewster was 15 at the time -- despite that fact that significant publicly available evidence suggested that Brewster was actually 16. (Lott's stories now contain an editor's note stating, "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.")
Later on October 1: Hannity continued to push "statutory rape" of 15-year-old smear
October 1, 9:04 p.m.: Hannity repeats "statutory rape" smear. Following Lott's message questioning the accuracy of "rumors" that Brewster was 15 at the time of his conversation with Jennings, Hannity said on his Fox News show:
HANNITY: So will Kevin Jennings follow in the footsteps of Van Jones and all of the others that have been forced out of the Obama administration?
I'm joined now by the author of the New York Times bestseller, Guilty, Ann Coulter, and Fox News contributor, Kirsten Powers.
Guys, welcome aboard. Here's where this gets to be a big problem, Ann, because he even admitted in 2000 himself that this sophomore, who he said -- he said -- is 15 years old, came to him and said that he was having a relationship with an adult male.
His advice was -- not to tell the authorities, because by definition that would be, as The Washington Times said, statutory rape. His advice was to ask if he was wearing a condom. [Fox News' Hannity, 10/1/09]
October 1, 9:32 p.m.: Hannity alleges "statutory rape" of "15-year-old kid." Later on his Fox News show, Hannity said:
HANNITY: All right, so we have, you know, another czar in trouble. And many of them. All right, the latest one, this guy Kevin Jennings. You know, here's a guy. You're a pastor. And a 15-year-old kid goes into his office, seeks advice. He's having a relationship with an older -- with an adult, which, by the way, he said he was 15. That would be statutory rape. [Fox News' Hannity, 10/1/09]