Advancing the newest ludicrous and bigoted attack in a long series of failed efforts by conservatives to smear Education Department official Kevin Jennings and force his firing, Fox News' Sean Hannity and the Washington Times editorial board have insisted that Jennings' past involvement with the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) somehow disqualifies him from serving in the Obama administration. But such arguments are absurd, given that ACT UP, an anti-AIDS activist organization, has been credited with both creating awareness of the AIDS epidemic in America and facilitating more effective treatment of the disease.
Conservatives say ACT UP link is grounds for firing Jennings
Hannity uses Jennings' link with ACT UP as evidence Jennings "does not deserve that position." On the October 16 edition of his Fox News show, Hannity expressed his usual outrage toward all things Kevin Jennings: "We now found out from Worldnet Daily this week that he was once a member of the radical group Act Up. Are you saying that Sean Hannity is on a witch hunt when I think this man does not deserve that position?" [Hannity, 10/16/09]
Wash. Times called Jennings "unsuitable" for his job due to his association with ACT UP. In an October 22 editorial, The Washington Times stated: "Mr. Jennings' membership in ACT UP merely reinforces how unsuitable he is for the honor of serving as a presidential appointee."
ACT UP credited with helping AIDS patients get medicine "much faster" and increasing awareness of the epidemic
NY Times: ACT UP helped change distribution of AIDS drugs to allow patients to "obtain them much faster." According to a 1990 New York Times article: "Pressure by [ACT UP] has not only helped keep the epidemic in the news; it has also helped bring major changes to the way the Federal Government tests and distributes experimental drugs, allowing patients to obtain them much faster." The Times further reported:
Perhaps Act-Up's clearest imprint has been its role in speeding the dissemination of new drugs, a change that may affect treatment of many diseases in addition to AIDS.
At the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic, the Food and Drug Administration would typically allow the distribution of drugs only after testing both their safety and efficacy, a process that kept many promising but unproved drugs off the shelves for years. Many AIDS patients argued that they did not have time to wait.
Act-Up conducted a two-front assault to get the Government to release safe drugs faster, even if their medical benefits were still not completely known: It gained enough expertise to second-guess the experts. And it threw fits, heckling committee meetings of the Food and Drug Administration, and calling a key official a murderer and a Nazi. ''We were beastly to her,'' [ACT UP founder Larry] Kramer said.
In the last year, Act-Up members say, their pressure has played a significant role in making available faster than usual two new drugs -- ganciclovir and DDI -- and in lowering the price of an old one, AZT.
Former New York City health commissioner: ACT UP had "enormous effect" on changing drug distribution system that was previously ''unfair and constraining.'' The 1990 New York Times article further reported: "'There's no doubt that they've had an enormous effect,' said Dr. Stephen C. Joseph, the former New York City Health Commissioner who himself has been a target of Act-Up's ire. 'We've basically changed the way we make drugs available in the last year.' " The Times reported that Joseph "credits Act-Up with helping change aspects of a system that had been 'unfair and constraining.' "
Former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: ACT UP played "a significant role" in expanding access to experimental drugs. The New York Times also reported:
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is among those officials previously reviled by Act-Up -- in 1988 Mr. Kramer wrote an article calling him ''an incompetent idiot'' and a ''monster.'' Dr. Fauci now credits the group with playing a constructive role.
''Did Act-Up play a significant role in the whole idea of expanded access to experimental drugs?'' Dr. Fauci said. ''The answer is yes.''
New Yorker: ACT UP "brought the issue of AIDS to center stage." "The original New York chapter [of ACT UP], founded in 1987, spawned sister organizations in other cities, some of them overseas, and the group brought the issue of AIDS to center stage by mounting smart, brash protests." [The New Yorker, 11/9/92 (subscription required)]
New Yorker: ACT UP's protests "inspired speedier trials of new drugs," helped force government to acknowledge AIDS victims. "By creating vivid controversies, ACT UP has inspired speedier trials of new drugs, and ... played a part in forcing the government to acknowledge tens of thousands of cases of AIDS among women and intravenous-drug users whose illnesses hadn't been included in the official definition of the disease." [The New Yorker, 11/9/92 (subscription required)]
Fox Nation, Gateway Pundit, WND smear Jennings with false charge of "Anti-Christian Art Porn Exhibit"
WND: "Obama's safe-schools boss sponsors radical porn." In an article headlined "Obama's safe-schools boss sponsors radical porn," the conservative website WorldNetDaily reported that Jennings "is being credited for helping sponsor a Harvard University display honoring the work of the radical homosexual organization Act Up."
Fox Nation: "Safe School Czar Linked to Anti-Christian Porn Exhibit?":
Gateway Pundit: "Jennings funded a pornographic anti-Christian art show." In a post headlined "Figures. Pornographic Anti-Christian Harvard Art Show Funded By Obama's Safe Schools Czar," Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft wrote that "Obama's Safe Schools Czar Kevin Jennings funded a pornographic anti-Christian art show now on display at Harvard University."
Exhibit actually features "posters, stickers, and other visual media" used by ACT UP's AIDS activists
From a July 2 press release announcing the exhibit:
The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts and the Harvard Art Museum present ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987--1993, an exhibition of over 70 politically-charged posters, stickers, and other visual media that emerged during a pivotal moment of AIDS activism in New York City. On view at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts October 15--December 23, 2009, the exhibition chronicles New York's AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) through an examination of compelling graphics created by various artist collectives that populated the group. The exhibition also features the premiere of the ACT UP Oral History Project, a suite of over 100 video interviews with surviving members of ACT UP New York that offer a retrospective portal on a decisive moment in the history of the gay rights movement, 20th-century visual art, our nation's discussion of universal healthcare, and the continuing HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Wash. Times, Hannity regularly smear Jennings
Wash. Times repeatedly smears Jennings with false claim that he failed to report "sexual abuse" of student. In an October 4 editorial, The Washington Times advanced the discredited falsehood that Jennings "violated Massachusetts law" over 20 years ago by "covering up" the "sexual abuse" of one of his students and also advanced the manufactured link between Jennings and the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) because of Jennings' past praise of gay rights activist Harry Hay. In fact, the student in question has confirmed that he was, indeed, 16 years old at the time of the incident, which is -- and was -- the legal age of consent in Massachusetts, and in the 1997 speech in which Jennings mentioned Hay, Jennings' praise was of Hay's work as an early gay rights activist and had nothing to do with NAMBLA. At one point, the Times advanced the smear that Jennings allowed "sexual abuse" to compare Jennings to former Rep. Mark Foley.
Wash. Times distorted Jennings' comments to claim he "spoke about the promotion of homosexuality in the public school curriculum." The Washington Times 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," 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, 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 posts doctored transcript to claim Jennings called for mandatory "LGBT course" for teachers. The Washington Times' Kerry Picket reprinted a doctored transcript -- originally posted by a conservative blog -- of 2008 comments by Jennings to falsely claim Jennings had said he wanted teachers to be required to "take an LGBT course" -- a claim also echoed by The Fox Nation. In fact, responding to an audience member who asked about how to combat stereotypes held by teachers based on race, gender, and ethnicity as well as sexual orientation, Jennings did not call for a mandatory "LGBT course," but rather called for a mandatory course on "issues of bias in the classroom" for aspiring teachers in order for them to be aware of "how biases can influence how you interact with your students."
Hannity repeatedly made false claim that Jennings did not tell authorities about "statutory rape" of 15-year-old. Hannity repeatedly advanced -- despite evidence to the contrary -- the false claim that Jennings covered up statutory rape. He subsequently admitted that "the kid has since come out, and he said, 'No, no, I was 16 at the time,' " but added, "I'm not convinced of the timeline."
Hannity asks, "Does Kevin Jennings support the group NAMBLA?" On the October 7 edition of his Fox News show, Hannity asserted there were "shocking new allegations about President Obama's safe schools czar," and then asked: "Does Kevin Jennings support the group NAMBLA?" In fact, in a 1997 speech often cited by conservatives attempting to smear Jennings as a supporter of NAMBLA, Jennings reportedly said, "One of the people that's always inspired me is Harry Hay, who started the first ongoing gay rights groups in America. In 1948, he tried to get people to join the Mattachine Society." Jennings' remarks include no mentions of NAMBLA. Upon Hay's death in October 2002, numerous obituaries noted that Hay was a pioneer of the American gay rights movement -- just as Jennings noted in his 1997 speech.
From the October 16 edition of Fox News' Hannity (retrieved from the Nexis database):
HANNITY: And we continue with our "Great American Panel." All right. You said, so it's a witch hunt that we're on about these czars. I have a question for you. If you have a guy that's our safe schools czar, has a history of drug and alcohol abuse and tells a sophomore in high school, when the sophomore says that he's having a sexual relationship with an older man, "I hope you used a condom."
When he praises a guy associated with the North American Man Boy Love Association, Harry Hay. We now found out from Worldnet Daily this week that he was once a member of the radical group Act Up. Are you saying that Sean Hannity is on a witch hunt when I think this man does not deserve that position?