WND's new Jennings smear: He "counseled a 15-year-old to keep quiet" about relationship with older man

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

In recent days, the conservative website WorldNetDaily has in three separate articles falsely claimed that Education Department official Kevin Jennings "counseled a 15-year-old student to keep quiet about being seduced by an older man." In fact, the student Jennings counseled was 16 -- the legal age of consent -- and there is no evidence that Jennings told the student to "keep quiet."

WND: Jennings "counseled a 15-year-old student to keep quiet"

From an October 10 WND article:

WND revelations about Kevin Jennings, the safe schools czar, and Chai Feldblum, his EEOC nominee, have resulted in criticism in Congress and from group's concerned about their actions and statements from the past.

A dozen members of Congress demanded Friday that Obama dismiss Jennings following WND disclosures about his past, including an incident in which he counseled a 15-year-old student to keep quiet about being seduced by an older man.

From an October 15 WND article:

Members of Congress have written to Obama demanding he dismiss Jennings following WND disclosures about his past, including an incident in which he counseled a 15-year-old student to keep quiet about being seduced by an older man.

Jennings says now he should have handled the situation while he was a teacher involving the sexually active student "differently," but the statement from Jennings failed to express "regret."

From an October 21 WND article:

Members of Congress have written to Obama demanding he dismiss Jennings following WND disclosures about his past, including an incident in which he counseled a 15-year-old student to keep quiet about being seduced by an older man.

Jennings says now he should have handled the situation while he was a teacher involving the sexually active student "differently," but the statement from Jennings failed to express "regret."

No evidence Jennings told student "to keep quiet"

Accounts of the conversation provide no evidence that Jennings urged the student "to keep quiet." In a 2000 speech to the Iowa chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, Jennings said that after the student told him, "I met somebody in the bus station bathroom and I went home with him," Jennings "didn't know what to say. Knew I should say something quickly, so I finally -- my best friend had just died of AIDS the week before -- I looked at Brewster and said, 'You know, I hope you knew to use a condom.' " In his 1994 book, Jennings wrote that when the student told him the "story about his involvement with an older man," Jennings "listened, sympathized, and offered advice." None of this supports WND's repeated claim that Jennings encouraged Brewster "to keep quiet" about the incident."

Claim that student was 15 has been conclusively debunked

Jennings' attorney stated in 2004 letter that student was 16, which is -- and was -- MA age of consent. 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]

Former student: "I was of legal consent at the time." The former student provided Media Matters for America with the following statement, which Media Matters published on October 2:

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.

- Brewster

Former student's driver's license also indicates he was at least 16 when he approached Jennings. Media Matters also exclusively obtained the Massachusetts driver's license of the student confirming that at the time of the incident he was at least 16 years of age.

WND smears follow Limbaugh's baseless claims that Jennings "urged," "facilitated" the relationship

Limbaugh: Jennings "urged" the "15-year-old" to "further the relationship" with "older man ... forcing his way" on him. Rush Limbaugh advanced the thoroughly debunked smear that Jennings encouraged an illegal sexual relationship between a male high school student and an older man, taking the attack even further to baselessly assert that the student -- who Limbaugh falsely claimed was 15 years old at the time -- told Jennings that "an older man is forcing his way on me, sex and so forth," and that in response, Jennings "urged the 15-year-old to further the relationship." In fact, the student was of legal age at the time, and the accounts of the conversation Limbaugh used to advance the smear provide no evidence that the student said he was assaulted or that Jennings encouraged the student "to further the relationship."

Limbaugh accused Jennings of having "encouraged" and "facilitated" a sexual relationship between student and an older man. Limbaugh stated on his radio show that "Obama's safe school 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." [Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/28/09]

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, LGBTQ, Government, Cabinet & Agencies
Network/Outlet
WorldNetDaily
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