As part of their smear campaign against Obama Education Department official Kevin Jennings, conservative media figures including Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Ann Coulter have compared Jennings to film director Roman Polanski, stating -- in the words of Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers -- that "there needs to be zero tolerance for this kind of stuff," specifically citing Jennings and "the Roman Polanski stuff." Thus, media conservatives are smearing Jennings -- who counseled someone who was of age at the time and who has said he did not have a sexual relationship -- with the outrageous suggestion that he is comparable to Polanski, who was charged with rape and pleaded guilty to having sex with a girl who was 13 at the time after allegedly plying her with drugs and alcohol.
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Polanski pleaded guilty to sex with 13-year-old; Jennings counseled someone who was of age
Polanski pleaded guilty to sex act with 13-year-old. Polanski fled the United States after pleading guilty to a charge of having sex with an underage girl. According to grand jury testimony by the victim, Polanski had plied the girl with pills and alcohol before having sex with her. According to her grand jury testimony, the victim said she was "afraid" of Polanski, and repeatedly told him "no" and asked to go home.
By contrast, Jennings counseled a person who was of age. As Media Matters for America has documented, Jennings' attorney stated in 2004 that the conversation conservatives have focused on was with "a sixteen-year-old student" -- the legal age of consent in Massachusetts -- 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." On October 2, Media Matters published a statement from the student in question, who said he was "of legal consent at the time" -- a statement confirmed by his driver's license -- and that he "had no sexual contact with anybody at the time, though I was entirely legally free to do so."
Powers echoes Hannity's calls to fire Jennings, cites Polanski and calls for "zero tolerance for this kind of stuff"
Powers: Jennings "should be fired" because "there needs to be zero tolerance for this kind of stuff ... like the Roman Polanski stuff." Asked by Sean Hannity on his Fox News program about "our safe schools czar," Fox News contributor and New York Post columnist Kirsten Powers stated that "the reason I would say he should be fired" is that "there needs to be zero tolerance for this kind of stuff. Because when you start saying, like, the Roman Polanski stuff was so disgusting, you know, and just -- and just appalling." Hannity stated, "He raped and sodomized a 13-year-old girl that he pumped full of drugs." [Hannity, 10/7/09]
Limbaugh says to understand "libs" reaction to Polanski, you have to look at Jennings
Limbaugh: "So if you wonder why the libs are really ticked off that Roman Polanski might be extradited," look at Jennings. From The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: So if you wonder why the libs are really ticked off that Roman Polanski might be extradited to face the music on that long-ago act with the 13-year-old girl, Quaaludes and rape, understand that Obama's safe schools czar is a guy promoting homosexuality in the schools and encouraged a 15-year-old kid to have a homosexual relationship with an older man, and even facilitated it. [9/28/09]
Hannity repeatedly brings up Polanski while discussing Jennings
Hannity: Jennings "[j]ust like with the Roman Polanski thing." During a discussion of Jennings on October 7, Hannity said: "Do you think I am wrong to demand he be fired and stay on this? And when you now get into the NAMBLA, the praise of this guy Harry Hay, it throws me over the top. Just like with the Roman Polanski thing. This is about children. This is about -- he's a sophomore in high school."
Hannity: "[L]et me expand the argument" about Jennings to Polanski. After a falsehood-laden discussion of Jennings and other Obama administration officials on October 1, Hannity said on his Fox News program, "Let me ask -- let me expand the argument in this sense. We've been dealing with the issue of Polanski for the last number of nights here on this program, and I'm shocked. You know, here's a guy, he pumps a 13-year-old girl full of Quaaludes and alcohol 30 years ago. He's 44, she's 13. He -- he sodomizes this girl, and more than a number of Hollywood liberals are saying we should not put him in jail." Guest Rev. Jacques DeGraff responded, "In New York City the hero of the Super Bowl two years ago is sitting in a prison cell right now because actions have -- actions have consequences." Hannity then interjected: "Except if you're Kevin Jennings."
Hannity "dovetail[s]" discussion of Jennings into discussion of Polanski. On September 30, Hannity said: "I want to get into this Roman Polanski issue. But I want to start with some news that we -- we have tonight. ... We have the safe schools czar, a guy by the name of Kevin Jennings, OK? And he -- he writes this book, and he gives information to a 15-year-old. ABC News and Jake Tapper write about this tonight. A 15-year-old sophomore, and his advice to him when he -- when he's having a gay relationship is, you know, 'Did you use a condom?' He knew it was an older adult. Now, as The Washington Times said, at the very least, statutory rape occurred. And he didn't report it." After discussing Jennings for several minutes, Hannity said, "Let me dovetail into the Roman Polanski issue."
Coulter compares Jennings to Polanski "anally raping a 13-year-old girl"
Coulter compares Jennings writing the forward of a book to Polanski "anally raping a 13-year-old." On October 1, right-wing commentator Ann Coulter said to Hannity during a discussion of Jennings: "I liked your list at the beginning of all the problems [President] Obama has had with all the czars and appointees and cabinet nominees, but I have a slightly different list. You have ACORN encouraging and counseling these -- these two, well, actors as it turns out, how to avoid taxes, how to bring Salvadoran sex slaves into the country, underage girls. You have all of Hollywood and -- and media elites defending Roman Polanski for anally raping a 13-year-old. And now you have this guy who's written the introduction to Queering Elementary Education. I mean, that is the issue here. And you mentioned Bill Ayers. This -- can't you just let kids be kids? No, they want to sexualize -- sexualize kids. And forget the homosexual aspect of it; just sexualizing kids generally and teaching them about how to come out or how to deal with homosexuality in kindergarten. It's monstrous what they're doing." [10/1/09]
American Spectator contributor: "Pelosi to Polanski to Jennings: Why Sean Hannity Is Right"
Lord in American Spectator: "a left-wing philosophy that doesn't blink about adults sexually preying on kids" is "showing up" in Polanski petition, "placement of Mr. Jennings." American Spectator contributor Jeffrey Lord wrote an October 6 piece headlined, "Pelosi to Polanski to Jennings: Why Sean Hannity Is Right." In the piece -- which Media Matters for America senior fellow Eric Boehlert noted advances the false assertion that Jennings was "sought out by a 15-year-old boy asking for advice about an affair with an older adult male" -- Lord said of Jennings and Polanski:
It is this sentiment that manifested itself with San Francisco honoring Harry Hay, knowing full well he was famous for his advocacy of adult male sex with "thirteen, fourteen and fifteen year old " boys. It showed up with Nancy Pelosi and the entire San Francisco political establishment happily marching behind Harry Hay, never uttering a peep of objection. And now it is showing up in arenas as diverse as the petition demanding the release of Mr. Polanski and the placement of Mr. Jennings in, of all places, the United States Department of Education -- where Jennings is laughably charged with the issue of school safety.
What's really going on here is the slow-motion injection into the American political and social mainstream of what might be called "Hayism" 8 -- the core idea that sex between adults and children is just no big deal. Not for the boys of Harry Hay, not for Nancy Pelosi and the San Francisco political establishment (she wasn't marching alone, you know), not for Roman Polanski and his rich, famous, and powerful friends in Hollywood and the international film community, and -- more to the point -- not for the Obama White House, which has appointed Mr. Jennings.
Polanski comparison one of several smears against Jennings
Conservative media falsely claim Jennings covered up statutory rape. As Media Matters has documented, Fox News and its websites Fox Nation and FoxNews.com repeatedly advanced the falsehood that Jennings, in the words of Fox News host Bill Hemmer, knew of a "statutory rape" and "never reported it."
Rove falsely claimed Jennings advocated for NAMBLA. On October 7, after Hannity introduced his Fox News show by asking, "Does Kevin Jennings support the group NAMBLA?" Karl Rove falsely claimed that Jennings had engaged in "high-profile, in-your-face advocacy of things like NAMBLA and gay rights and queering elementary school curricula." Neither Rove nor Hannity provided any evidence that Jennings has ever "support[ed]" -- let alone engaged in "high-profile, in-your-face advocacy" of -- NAMBLA, and Rove's suggestion that support for "gay rights" is somehow related to support for NAMBLA is a smear.
From the October 7 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
KIRSTEN POWERS (Fox News political analyst): I guess the argument in defense of Obama and Jennings is that the kid was actually 16 years old.
HANNITY: Jennings is the one that said it was 15.
POWERS: Right, right.
POWERS: Yeah. My response to that is, like, so what? And so the kid was 16 and not 15? What's the difference? I don't really see the difference, frankly. And, you know, if we were talking about a 16-year-old involved with an 18-year-old or something, that's a little different. But, you know, when we talk about a much older man and a 16-year-old, 15-year-old coming to a counselor and saying, "I'm having sex with this older man," I really -- I don't think the appropriate response --
HANNITY: What do you think of the --
POWERS: -- is, "I hope you're wearing a condom."
HANNITY: Do you think I am wrong to demand he be fired and stay on this? And when you now get into the NAMBLA -- the praise of this guy Harry Hay, it throws me over the top. Just like with the Roman Polanski thing. This is about children. This is about -- he's a sophomore in high school.
MARC THIESSEN (former Bush speechwriter): If this was a 16-year-old girl that was having sex with an older man --
HANNITY: Wouldn't matter.
THIESSEN: But, I mean, look, people would be -- the whole country would be outraged about it. The fact that this is -- this is a 16-year-old child who is being abused by an older person, and the -- and the counselor says nothing but "are you wearing a condom" is just appalling.
POWERS: But you know what's interesting about that, actually, a lot of people on the left wouldn't be outraged about it.
JUDITH MILLER (Fox News contributor): That's right.
POWERS: I have a friend who works on age of consent, and you have a lot of left-wing groups arguing that a 13-year-old can consent to sex.
HANNITY: Oh goodness, are you serious?
POWERS: Because they -- why? Because they want them to be able to consent to having an abortion because that makes them a woman and they want to be able to have consent. I mean, that's how it's all -- where it's wrapped around.
HANNITY: This is why your --
POWERS: And you are -- that's what you're --
HANNITY: -- your party is out of touch with the mainstream of America.
POWERS: I think -- I think these type of people are out of touch with most Democrats. I don't think that's --
POWERS: But -- but it actually goes on.
HANNITY: The guy is --
POWERS: You know --
HANNITY: The guy is in the White House. He is our safe schools czar. It's mind-numbing to me.
POWERS: Yeah -- no, and I think, you know, and the reason I would say he should be fired -- and I don't like calling, you know, for people to be fired. And he may be a perfectly nice person -- I don't know. I just think there needs to be zero tolerance for this kind of stuff.
POWERS: Because when you start saying, like, the Roman Polanski stuff was so disgusting, you know, and just -- and just appalling. The things suggesting that --
HANNITY: It's horrible.
POWERS -- that somehow --
HANNITY: He raped and sodomized a 13-year-old girl that he pumped full of drugs.
MILLER: Drugged -- drugged, raped, and sodomized.
POWERS: Yeah, but you have all these people arguing that it's not that big of a deal, and you just -- I think it is a big deal.
HANNITY: I don't know if you want to go down this road. Am I right? Should he be fired?
MILLER: I don't think I really want to get into this at all.
HANNITY: You don't want to go there. No, no, no --
MILLER: Because, you know, this is not my area.
From the October 1 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
REV. JACQUES DeGRAFF: Yeah, I see a pattern of distraction from the main issues of the day.
HANNITY: He -- no this -- this --
DeGRAFF: This is a distraction --
KATE OBENSHAIN (vice president, Young America's Foundation): Protecting children is the main issue.
DeGRAFF: -- and the main issues of the day -- the main issues of the day are health care in America and getting the economy right. And all of these things are continued distractions by people on the right, the people who lost the last election, to try and distract the American people --
HANNITY: You don't think this is evidence of extremists?
DeGRAFF: -- from the issues that are affecting Main Street and 125th Street across this country.
HANNITY: Yeah, Kate, go ahead.
OBENSHAIN: If people on the right or anywhere don't stand up for children being protected, there is something very wrong.
DeGRAFF: But Democrats stand up.
OBENSHAIN: But Cass Sunstein is kooky --
DeGRAFF: And this administration stands up for children. This administration has put more money in education than the last 29 secretaries of education.
OBENSHAIN: Then get rid of the guy --
DeGRAFF: No. No.
OBENSHAIN: -- who said it was OK for a 15-year-old to be having sex with an adult.
DeGRAFF: And the answer is no.
OBENSHAIN: That's where they stand up for children.
DeGRAFF: No, no. They stood up where they can by putting their money where their policies are.
DeGRAFF: Unlike -- unlike the administration --
OBENSHAIN: What about this 15-year-old child?
DeGRAFF: Unlike the administration of George Bush, which passed No Child Left Behind --
OBENSHAIN: You have to feel some righteous indignation about that.
DeGRAFF: -- and put no money with it.
OBENSHAIN: This is wrong.
DeGRAFF: This administration is on a tour right now. The secretary of education is on a tour --
HANNITY: All right.
DeGRAFF: -- to raise the quality of schools.
LT. COL. BRIAN BIRDWELL (RET.) (author): Can I -- can I jump into this thing real quick, if I may, Sean?
BIRDWELL: This is not about a particular policy. This is about the philosophy of government that our nation will live under.
HANNITY: All right, but let me ask --
BIRDWELL: That's what this fight is about.
HANNITY: Let me ask -- let me expand the argument in this sense. We've been dealing with the issue of Polanski for the last number of nights here on this program, and I'm shocked. You know, here's a guy, he pumps a 13-year-old girl full of Quaaludes and alcohol 30 years ago. He's 44, she's 13. He -- he sodomizes this girl, and more than a number of Hollywood liberals are saying we should not put him in jail. Do you have a problem with that?
DeGRAFF: In New York City the hero of the Super Bowl two years ago is sitting in a prison cell right now because actions have -- actions have consequences. A former --
DeGRAFF: -- prizefighter raped a girl, was convicted, and he -- his celebrity could not save him. He did time in jail, because actions have consequences.
DeGRAF: Roman Polanski, like every other American citizen, has to face the bar of justice, and actions have consequences.
DeGRAFF: They have consequences.
HANNITY: If you don't report a crime against a child that is having sex with an adult -- I thought actions had consequences.
DeGRAFF: Actions have consequences, and he --
From the September 30 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
BOONE: That's quite a parlay, by the way.
HANNITY: Oh, parlay, yeah, exactly. We have the safe schools czar, a guy by the name of Kevin Jennings, OK? And he -- he writes this book, and he gives information to a 15-year-old. ABC News and Jake Tapper write about this tonight. A 15-year-old sophomore, and his advice to him when he -- when he's having a gay relationship is, you know, "Did you use a condom?" He knew it was an older adult.
Now, as The Washington Times said, at the very least, statutory rape occurred. And he didn't report it. Now he's saying that he made a mistake. Only because it's been reported on. My question is, where's the vetting process?
BOONE: Safe schools is the job he has been given and given the name of czar. What is his definition of safety? Is there not a moral equivalent in there any place?
HANNITY: Let me dovetail into the Roman Polanski issue. You know, I am shocked, and I'll put up on the screen all of Hollywood. We've got the French government, the Polish government. They're all coming to his defense.
Now, here is what we now know. We now know that he raped a 13-year-old girl when he was 44. He pumped her up with Quaaludes and alcohol. This was anal sodomy on this 13-year-old girl. Finally, we've got this guy.
BOONE: While she was begging him to stop.