In latest anti-gay attack on Jennings, Wash. Times and Breitbart distort his comments

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

In their latest efforts to smear Department of Education official Kevin Jennings, Andrew Breitbart and The Washington Times have grossly distorted comments Jennings made to a GLSEN audience in 2000 to claim he "spoke about the promotion of homosexuality in the public school curriculum" and "criticize[d] schools for promoting heterosexuality," advancing the conservative Family Research Council's attack that Jennings was "promoting a pro-homosexual agenda in America's schools." In fact, in the audio files posted by the Times and Breitbart, Jennings promoted a curriculum that demands "respect [for] every human being regardless of sexual orientation, regardless of gender identity, regardless of race or religion or any of the arbitrary distinctions we make among people," and said that efforts to promote a specific sexual orientation through schools were ineffective.

Wash. Times, Breitbart distort Jennings comments

Wash. Times: Jennings "spoke about the promotion of homosexuality in the public school curriculum" and "why he thinks it is important to have a pro-homosexual curriculum in the public schools starting in kindergarten." In an October 6 "Water Cooler" blog post, Washington Times editorial pages online producer Kerry Picket wrote, "President Obama's 'safe schools' czar Kevin Jennings addressed his former organization the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in Iowa in 2000. Mr. Jennings spoke about the promotion of homosexuality in the public school curriculum as well as the inevitability of their (GLSEN) agenda winning. In the following clip Mr. Jennings discusses why he thinks it is important to have a pro-homosexual curriculum in the public schools starting in kindergarten." [Washington Times "Water Cooler," 10/6/09]

Jennings actually said: "This should be our curriculum ... you must respect every human being regardless of sexual orientation, regardless of gender identity, regardless of race or religion, or any of the arbitrary distinctions we make among people." In the video Picket linked to, Jennings addressed a 2000 GSLEN rally in Iowa, stating: "I would see students who, when they were told that they should respect other people, were like, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. I know.' And I thought about how rare it is that there are students out there who already know in elementary school that, yes, you are supposed to respect other human beings." Jennings continued, "The whole idea that this is not in your curriculum should offend everyone in the audience. This should be our curriculum: Our curriculum at kindergarten, and first grade, and second grade and every grade until students have graduated school should be that you must respect every human being regardless of sexual orientation, regardless of gender identity, regardless of race or religion or any of the arbitrary distinctions we make among people."

Wash. Times: Jennings "implies a pro-homosexual educational curriculum will eventually be mandated in schools." Picket further wrote that Jennings "says it will be against the law to discriminate against sexuality and implies a pro-homosexual educational curriculum will eventually be mandated in schools." [Washington Times "Water Cooler," 10/6/09]

Jennings actually said: "Some day, discrimination on sexual orientation in our schools, just like discrimination on race and gender, will be against the law, and it will be part of our curriculum to teach respect for all." In the same remarks, Jennings said, "Someday, discrimination on sexual orientation in our schools, just like discrimination on race and gender, will be against the law." He further stated that "it will be part of our curriculum to teach respect for all. Not the [inaudible]. Not the exception."

Breitbart: Jennings "Criticizes Schools for Promoting Heterosexuality." In an October 6 post at his Breitbart.tv website, Andrew Breitbart posted audio from Jennings' 2000 speech under the headline, "Uncovered Audio: Obama's 'Safe Schools Czar' Criticizes Schools for Promoting Heterosexuality."

Jennings said that schools attempting to "affect your sexual orientation" "doesn't work." In the audio clip posted by Breitbart, Jennings stated, "[W]e all know what's really promoted in our schools. Heterosexuality is promoted in our schools. Every time kids read Romeo & Juliet or are encouraged to go to the prom or whatever it is, kids are aggressively recruited to be heterosexual in this country, and you know what? It doesn't work. The reality is, is that if schools could affect your sexual orientation, there would have been no gay people in the first place. But there are still people out there who believe that myth, because you know what? It's easy to panic people if you make them think that they're after your kids."

Distortions advance Family Research Council attack on Jennings

FRC: Jennings "promoting a pro-homosexual agenda in America's schools." A June 2009 document released by the conservative Family Research Council headlined, "Why homosexual activist Kevin Jennings is not fit for the Department of Education," stated: "Jennings and the organization he founded have been the leaders in promoting a pro-homosexual agenda in America's schools, beginning in kindergarten. His positions are extreme and narrow-minded, his rhetoric harsh and hate-filled, and his qualifications and ethical standards questionable at best." [FRC's June 2009 In Focus]

Jennings: "[I]t's easy to panic people if you make them think that they're after your kids." In the audio clip posted at Breitbart.tv, Jennings stated that "there are still people out there who believe that myth, because you know what, it's easy to panic people if you make them think that they're after your kids."

Conservative media have obsessively engaged in a homophobic attack on Jennings

Media conservatives attacked Jennings with homophobic, extreme rhetoric. In their attacks on Jennings, numerous conservative media figures have resorted to thinly veiled homophobic appeals to paint Jennings, who is gay, as a "radical" "gay activist" with an "agenda" of "promoting homosexuality in schools."

Fox News, others ran with falsehood that Jennings "cover[ed] up statutory rape." Fox News and other media advanced the falsehood that Jennings, in the words of Fox News host Bill Hemmer, knew of a "statutory rape" and "never reported it." While pushing this attack on Jennings, these media figures ignored evidence that the student who told Jennings about his relationship with an older man was of legal age. Media Matters for America has since confirmed that the student was of legal age and that these smears of Jennings were false. The former student at the center of the Jennings controversy provided Media Matters with a statement that he "was of legal consent at the time." Additionally, Media Matters obtained a copy of the student's driver's license, which shows that he was 16 at the time -- the legal age of consent in Massachusetts.

Media manufactured Jennings-NAMBLA link. In addition to the statutory rape smear, the Fox Nation and The Washington Examiner linked Jennings to the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) based on a 1997 speech in which Jennings praised gay rights activist Harry Hay, who had spoken in support of the organization. But like many obituaries written about Hay upon his death in 2002, Jennings was touting Hay as a gay civil rights pioneer for his role in helping start "the first ongoing gay rights groups in America" in 1948, and Jennings' comments had nothing to do with NAMBLA.

From Jennings' GLSEN address:

JENNINGS: But I thought, "What is wrong with our schools where we have to have students teach the teachers?" We've inverted what school is supposed to be like, tragically, on this issue, where the students have to educate the educators about the issue in far too many schools.

And then I would listen to Elaine's story, and I would hear about a teacher who was already doing the right thing, and I would see students who, when they were told that they should respect other people, were like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. I know." And I thought about how rare it is that there are students out there who already know in elementary school that, yes, you are supposed to respect other human beings. What would make this [inaudible] would be a fundamental [inaudible] in our curriculum. The whole idea that this is not in your curriculum should offend everyone in the audience. This should be our curriculum: Our curriculum at kindergarten, and first grade, and second grade and every grade until students have graduated school should be that you must respect every human being regardless of sexual orientation, regardless of gender identity, regardless of race or religion or any of the arbitrary distinctions we make among people.

If we cannot teach this very basic lesson in our schools, we will be very surprised how hard it is for some of these students to be able to learn French or English or math. It's hard to focus on going back to the basics. We're hearing a lot about this election year -- let's go back to the basics. Well, you know what? You can't focus on reading, writing and arithmetic when you are instead focusing on survival.

[...]

JENNINGS: But I'm not too worried about what happens in Oregon on Tuesday. In some ways I'm worried, because I think if it passes in Oregon you'll see it in Iowa; you'll see it in other states. And that troubles me. But on the other hand, I was a history teacher, and I know that -- something that our opponents don't seem to realize, and that is that our victory is inevitable.

As Martin Luther King once said, the arc of the universe is long, and it bends towards justice. Someday, discrimination on sexual orientation in our schools, just like discrimination on race and gender, will be against the law, and it will be part of our curriculum to teach respect for all. Not the [inaudible]. Not the exception. And we will get there because the of incredible LGBT students like the ones that you met in Chicago, who -- unlike my generation felt we had to wait until we were in our 20s to have a life -- have decided, "I'm going to come out, and I'm going to live my life now." We'll get there because of the incredibly brave teachers who refused to be scared and cowed into a closet. We'll get there perhaps most of all because of our incredible straight allies like Elaine [inaudible].

You know, Ghandi once said you must be the change you wish to see in your world. And with GLSEN, you were the first gay-rights group in America to [inaudible], because we thought, "If we want to live in a world in which sexual orientation is not a factor upon which we judge people, we have to see that reflected in our own organization. Or we have to be able to see people of all sexual orientations and all gender identities, and all ages and all races come together. And if we could embody what we wanted to see achieved, then someday it might actually happen.

[...]

JENNINGS: I find it amazing this in on the ballot for a couple of reasons. First of all, we all know what's really promoted in our schools. Heterosexuality is promoted in our schools. Every time kids read Romeo & Juliet or are encouraged to go to the prom or whatever it is, kids are aggressively recruited to be heterosexual in this country, and you know what? It doesn't work. The reality is, is that if schools could affect your sexual orientation, there would have been no gay people in the first place. But there are still people out there who believe that myth, because you know what? It's easy to panic people if you make them think that they're after your kids.

Posted In
Government, Nominations & Appointments
Network/Outlet
The Washington Times
Person
Andrew Breitbart
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.