Right-wing media outlets have relied on false or misleading claims by MassResistance, a Massachusetts-based anti-gay group, in advancing several recent attacks on Department of Education official Kevin Jennings. The founder of MassResistance -- a group the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled a "hate group" -- reportedly denied that gays and lesbians were a target of the Holocaust and has compared the gay rights movement to the Nazis. The organization has also called on parents to keep their children home from school during an event promoting awareness of, and opposition to, anti-gay bullying and has stated that suicide prevention programs for gay and lesbian youth have no "legitimate medical or psychological basis."
The anti-gay right's newest line of attack on Department of Education staffer Kevin Jennings is that he "knew" in advance about the content of a seminar held at his organization's 2000 conference, in which two Massachusetts Department of Education employees engaged in explicit discussion of sexual practices with a teen audience. But the evidence those right-wing sources are hanging their hats on is extremely thin - even for them.
WorldNetDaily and Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft are both claiming that one of those instructors is on the record stating that Jennings knew. Both are pointing to a blog post by the anti-gay hate group MassResistance which states, "Of course Jennings and the Massachusetts Department of Education knew beforehand what the 'sexuality educators' would discuss with children at the 'fisting' workshop. The instructor Margot Abels said so herself."
But the statements MassResistance cites Abels reportedly making only indicate that her immediate supervisors in the Department of Education were aware of her work - not Jennings or other GLSEN officials. MassResistance emphasizes Rod Dreher's Weekly Standard report that "Abels fumed to the press that the education department had known perfectly well what she had been doing for years and hadn't cared until the tapes had surfaced." They also point to a report in the conservative Mass News, which states that Abels told the LGBT newspaper Bay Windows that "she had the support of state officials during her seven years at the state Department of Education," and quoted her statement that "Maybe David Driscoll [Commissioner of Education] didn't always know everything that we did, but certainly our supervisors did."
So no, Abels hadn't "said so herself" that Jennings "knew beforehand" the contents of her workshop.
The other piece of "evidence" MassResistance and their allies in the right-wing blogosphere are pointing is as follows:
Jennings, after all, worked hand in hand with the Mass. Department of Education from the beginning, as co-chair of the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth education committee, which set up the statewide program, "Safe Schools for Gay and Lesbian Students" in the DOE. That is the program the fisting workshop instructors worked for.
In fact, as the bio on Jennings' website indicates, he left that commission years before the 2000 conference. Unless these people are alleging some massive conspiracy in which Jennings plotted out the details of the workshop discussion years in advance (and I suppose we can't really rule out that sort of logic from them), this line of reasoning falls apart pretty quickly.
For that matter, even if Jennings had been aware of the general contents of Abels' presentation (and there's no actual evidence to that effect), that still wouldn't in any way support the argument that he was aware of the specific discussion the right-wing finds so offensive before it happens. What we're left with is still that Department of Education officials held the seminar at GLSEN's conference, Jennings criticized them, and they were fired or resigned.
In short, the right is dredging up a ten-year-old instance that was widely reported at the time, and using innuendo and faulty logic to try to smear Jennings with it. But I guess we couldn't have expected any less.
After hackers reportedly stole emails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU), word of the criminal breach and use of the emails to attempt to undermine the overwhelming consensus on global warming moved from the blogs of climate-change skeptics, where links to the emails were originally posted by anonymous commenters, to foreign media outlets and right-wing political blogs. Media Matters for America tracks the story's movement across the Internet, which took less than two days and culminated in a call by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) for an investigation into "the IPCC and on the United Nations on the way that they cooked the science to make this thing look as if the science was settled."
The Gateway Pundit blog falsely suggested that the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, a group founded and formerly headed by Department of Education official Kevin Jennings, had distributed to children an explicit safe-sex booklet. In fact, a community health group -- not GLSEN itself -- reportedly said that it had mistakenly "left about 10 copies" of the booklet on an informational table it rented at a 2005 GLSEN conference at Brookline High School in Massachusetts; the group reportedly apologized for doing so; GLSEN stated that if it had known the booklets had been at the conference, it would have demanded they be removed; and the Brookline school superintendent reportedly said he believed no students had actually taken the book.
Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft has published blog posts this weekend targeting Department of Education official Kevin Jennings under the hair-on-fire headlines, "Breaking: Obama's Safe Schools Czar's Question to 14 Year Olds: 'Spit vs. Swallow?... Is it Rude?' (audio-video)" and "Fistgate: Barack Obama's Safe Schools Czar Promoted "Fisting" to 14 Year-Olds (audio-video)." Two problems: The audio isn't of Jennings, and these stories aren't even remotely new.
Back in 2000, Jennings' organization, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), held a conference at Tufts University. The conference featured numerous workshops for students and educators, including "How to decide whether to come out at work," and "Strategies and curriculum ideas for addressing gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gender issues in a high school English curriculum." One of the workshops, titled "What They Didn't Tell You About Queer Sex and Sexuality in Health Class: Workshop for Youth Only, Ages 14-21," was run by two Massachusetts state Department of Education staffers and a state DoE consultant.
Basically, during the workshop, students asked a lot of very explicit questions about sex, and received explicit answers. As Hoft himself acknowledges in the body of his posts, it is the Department of Education staffers - not Jennings himself - who appear in the audio giving those answers. An activist for the anti-gay group Parents Rights Coalition (now MassResistance) snuck into the workshop and taped it, in a possible violation of state laws banning the taping of people without their permission (stop me if you've heard this one before).
Jennings subsequently criticized the workshop to the Boston Herald:
"Like the Parents Rights Coalition and the Department of Education, GLSEN is also troubled by some of the content that came up during this workshop," said Kevin Jennings, national executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
He said people who run workshops in the future will get clearer guidelines, though Jennings said the network's annual conference at Tufts University should not be judged on the 30-student seminar "What They Didn't Tell You About Queer Sex and Sexuality in Health Class."
"We need to make our expectations and guidelines to outside facilitators much more clear," said Jennings. "Because we are surprised and troubled by some of the accounts we've heard." [Boston Herald, 5/18/2000]
And to the Boston Globe:
Meanwhile, officials at the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, said they would also be looking further into the March workshops, because they would also be opposed to graphic sex talk that would be inappropriate for young adults.
"From what I've heard, I have concerns as well," said executive director Kevin Jennings. "GLSEN believes that children do have a right to accurate, safer sex education, but this needs to be delivered in an age appropriate and sensitive manner."
But, he was also critical of the coalition's agenda.
"What troubles me is the people who have the tape know what our mission is, they know that our work is about preventing harassment and they know that session was not the totality of what was offered at a conference with over 50 sessions," he said. "Our mission is being misrepresented." [Boston Globe, 5/18/2000]
You'll notice that that's two separate articles quoting Jennings responding to the workshop. That's because contrary to Hoft's claim that this story is "Breaking," it was a big deal when it happened more than nine years ago. In addition to the local Boston papers, which each devoted several articles to it, the story received coverage in the AP, National Review, The Washington Times, The Weekly Standard, The New York Post, UPI, and on Fox News.
The workshop's organizers (i.e., the people in the tape) were fired or resigned, though one later got her job back. Nice people that they are, the Parents Rights Coalition went on to use the incident to call for the elimination of state funding for Gay-Straight Alliance groups and the disbanding of the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth. [Boston Globe, 5/18/2000] Oh, and they tried to sell copies of the tape of the workshop for $5 a pop.
Back in June, MassResistance posted the audio of the workshop online, as part of their ongoing effort to get Jennings fired. I assume Hoft has broken it out now because it goes well with his smear that Jennings promoted "Child Porn in the Classroom." Unfortunately, as with that smear, the facts just don't match Hoft's rhetoric.
Conservative blogs have claimed that Department of Education official Kevin Jennings is unfit as "Safe Schools Czar" because he supposedly promoted "child porn" by allowing an education organization he founded to recommend for students in grades 7-12 books that included sexually explicit content. The organization, however, specifically stated on its book list website that "some titles for adolescent readers contain mature themes" and recommended that "adults selecting books for youth review content for suitability"; further, schools regularly teach books that contain sexually explicit material.
Conservative media have recently suggested that scientists at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia intentionally "threw out" or "destroyed" the raw temperature data "underpinning the man-made-warming theory," in the words of the New York Post, echoing a recent London Times article that said it is "now impossible" to examine how the CRU made its conclusions. In fact, according to the scientists, the raw data is still available at the meteorological services where they obtained it -- director Phil Jones said the CRU simply did not keep copies for "less than 5 percent of its original station data" in its database because those "stations had several discontinuities or were affected by urbanization trends."
American Power has more on the Salahi's leadership role with the the American Task Force on Palestinian, the "moderate" rights groups pushing a thinly-veiled program of Palestinian nationalism and the "right of return" (the backdoor destruction of Israel).
According to Discover the Networks, ATFP's former vice president is Rashid Khalidi, the Columbia University Middle East Studies professor and militant Palestinian rights activist. Khalidi cites the late Edward Said as his major influence, and according to the entry cited, "As with Said before him, Khalidi's involvement with the Palestinian cause goes beyond mere support." And, "Khalidi so strongly identified with the aims of the PLO, which was designated as a terrorist group by the State Department during Khalidi's affiliation with it in the 1980s, that he repeatedly referred to himself as 'we' when expounding on the PLO's agenda." Also, according to Campus Watch, ATFP remains in full support Kahlidi, for example, during charges of academic misconduct in 2005, at the time of Senator Barack Obama's meeting with Tareq Salahi. See, "ATFP EXPRESSES FULL SUPPORT FOR COLUMBIA PROFESSOR RASHID KHALIDI.
Note too that Obama's ties to the Palestinian community became something of an issue during the 2008 campaign. See, the Los Angeles Times, "Allies of Palestinians See a Friend in Obama." Plus, from Andrew C. McCarthy and Claudia Rosett, "In Obama's Hyde Park, It's All in the Family: Passing Anti-American Radicalism From Generation to Generation.
As you may recall. The LA Times hid the tape of Barack Obama attending a 2003 Jew-bash where he praised and toasted the former PLO operative Rashid Khalidi.
With Barack Obama, it's always about the radicalism. Always.
It looks like the Salahi security breach is much more than just an "embarassment" for the Secret Service. [emphasis in original]
Trumpeting a Drudge Report headline, Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft claimed that Senate Democrats "will only deliberate 10 hourson [sic] SATURDAY before they vote to nationalize one-sixth of the US economy." In fact, the Senate vote scheduled for Saturday is a vote on a cloture motion -- which would allow the full Senate to begin debate on the health care reform bill -- not a vote on whether to pass the bill, as Hoft suggested.
Right-wing websites including the Fox Nation have highlighted a question asked of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a November 9 press conference in Seattle by a local reporter who said, "Do you think it's fair to send people to jail for not buying health insurance?" In fact, the penalty under the House health care reform bill for failure to purchase insurance is a tax, not jail time, and willful failure to pay federal income taxes can result in civil or criminal penalties.
The right-wing blog Gateway Pundit says Christians are the target of more hate crimes in the U.S. than Muslims:
In the real world... Hate crimes against Muslims have steadily declined since 2001. Today there are more reported hate crimes against Christians in the United States than Muslims.
That's a reference to the fact that there were 115 reported hate crime incidents against Muslims in 2007, according to the FBI, and 118 against Christians.
Now, this would be a good time to keep in mind that 78 percent of American adults are Christian, and 0.6 percent are Muslim. In other words, there are about 130 times as many Christians in the US as there are Muslims. And yet there were essentially the same number of reported hate crimes against Muslims as against Christians in 2007.
That sure paints a different picture than Gateway Pundit's statement that "there are more reported hate crimes against Christians in the United States than Muslims," doesn't it?
In an effort to downplay hate crimes against Muslims, Gateway Pundit has accidentally provided a reminder of just how disproportionately Muslims are the victims of such crimes. Heckuva job, GP.
Members of the conservative media, including Fox News, are attacking President Obama for not attending the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. But when Obama has traveled abroad in the past -- including a trip in which Obama commemorated D-Day -- Fox News and figures at other media outlets have criticized him for supposedly going on an "apology tour."
Following the shootings at the Fort Hood Army Post, the Fox Nation and right-wing blogs launched political attacks on President Obama's remarks at a the Tribal Nations conference at the Interior Department, in which he addressed the tragedy after making introductory remarks.
Following Democrat Bill Owens' November 3 victory in the contested NY-23 Congressional race, right-wing bloggers have sought to highlight the "under-reported fact" that Bill Owens "campaigned against the public option." However, while Owens modified his position on the public option during the course of the campaign, he has expressed support for a public option since September, and on October 30 Owens endorsed the public option in the House health care reform bill.
Numerous conservative media outlets are pushing a distortion of comments made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a roundtable discussion with business leaders in Pakistan to suggest that she celebrated the notion that "[w]e tax everything that moves and doesn't move," in contrast to lower tax rates in Pakistan. But in her comments, Clinton actually called on Pakistan to raise more revenue of its own, rather than relying on U.S. aid, and said that U.S. taxpayers and Congress say, "[W]e want to help those who help themselves."