David Limbaugh continued the right-wing assault on Department of Education official Kevin Jennings, using anti-gay rhetoric and advancing a number outrageous smears and distortions in order to attack him as a “known homosexual activist” who was appointed to “propagandiz[e] for the normalization of homosexuality.” These smears and distortions include the conclusively debunked falsehood that Jennings “failed to report statutory rape,” the false suggestion that Jennings praised a gay rights activist because he was a “promoter of pedophilia,” and the claim that Jennings - currently a board member of Union Theological Seminary - should be disqualified from public service because he purportedly “harbored a hatred for God” as a teenager.
Limbaugh continues right-wing's anti-gay assault on Jennings
Limbaugh uses anti-gay rhetoric to attack “known homosexual activist” Jennings. In his December 18 Creators Syndicate column targeting “known homosexual activist Kevin Jennings,” Limbaugh says Jennings is a “federal bureaucrat in charge of making our local schools indoctrination facilities for homosexuality, er, safe.” Limbaugh concluded: “How many of you believe this appointment has to do with promoting safe schools, as opposed to propagandizing for the normalization of homosexuality?”
Right-wing media has unleashed anti-gay rhetoric in attacks on Jennings. 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,” and have misrepresented or distorted Jennings' previous comments about religion and tolerance. Moreover, in a blatant appeal to homophobia, the right-wing media have termed a series of allegations “Fistgate,” even though several of those allegations have little or nothing to do with the sexual practice of fisting -- or, for that matter, with Jennings himself.
Limbaugh cites Jennings' purported teenage “hatred for God” as reason for Obama not to hire him
From Limbaugh's column:
Why would Obama, a self-professed Christian, choose Jennings, who admitted in his 2006 memoirs that he harbored a deep-seated hatred for God and religious believers at the time he embraced a homosexual lifestyle?
Jennings wrote: “Before, I was the one who was failing God; now I decided He was the one who had failed me. ... I decided I had done nothing wrong: He had, by promising to 'set you free' and never delivering on His promise. What had He done for me, other than make me feel shame and guilt? Squat. Screw you, buddy -- I don't need you around anymore, I decided.”
Limbaugh subsequently acknowledged that Jennings “may have since modified his beliefs,” but offered no explanation for that statement.
Passage Limbaugh cites concerns his mindset as a teenager more than 30 years ago. The passage Limbaugh references from Jennings' 2006 memoir, Mama's Boy, Preacher's Son, describes his feelings as a “seventeen-year-old-boy” in the early 1980s [Page 100].
Jennings also wrote in his memoir that he since found from the Bible “the inspiration I need to continue my work.” In Jennings' 2006 memoir, he also wrote:
How ironic that, in my middle age, I have returned to the book that shaped the lives of my father and mother, the book whose misreading almost destroyed me as a child, and have found in it the inspiration I need to continue my work. I guess so doing honors them. “Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land” (Exodus 20:12).
Thanks, Mom, for teaching me the difference between right and wrong. I honor you by passing the lessons you taught me on to the next generation. And I know that those who oppressed and opposed you once and who try to oppress and oppose me still will one day be greatly ashamed. I know this because I'm your boy, and because I'm a preacher's son.
And because the Bible tells me so. [Pages 262-263]
Jennings is reportedly an active member of the board of the Union Theological Seminary. Think Progress wrote in its “fact check” of right-wing smears of Jennings:
Jennings later went on to serve as an active member on the board of the Union Theological Seminary (UTS) in New York, the nation's most prestigious Protestant seminary. ThinkProgress spoke with Rev. Serene Jones, President of UTS, who disputed any claims that Jennings was anti-religion:
In my role as the president [of UTS], and as pastor, I have met few people as deeply Christian and as deeply committed to the work of justice in the world than Kevin Jennings. He's a man of enormous faith, and not just in terms of prayer and church attendance -- both of which he does devoutly -- but in terms of his care for the poor, the suffering, the children, the vulnerable in our society. [...]
He's an active member of the board at Union Theological Seminary and Kevin Jennings tithes, not only in terms of his use of money, but his use of his time and his values and I just wonder how many of the people who are attacking him have taken their own faith serious enough to make the kind of financial, moral, vocational commitment that Kevin Jennings has made with his life.
Limbaugh repeats tired attacks on Jennings
Limbaugh falsely claims Jennings failed to report “statutory rape” of student. Limbaugh claimed that Jennings “failed to report the homosexual statutory rape of a high-school sophomore to the administration or the police.” In fact, a 2004 letter from Jennings' attorney, as well as a statement from the former student and his Massachusetts driver's license, definitively show that he was at least 16 -- the legal age of consent in Massachusetts -- when he approached Jennings.
Limbaugh attempts to link Jennings to promotion of pedophilia. In his column, Limbaugh wrote that “Jennings is also the man who admits to being inspired by Harry Hay, a homosexual activist and promoter of pedophilia.” In fact, in a 1997 speech, Jennings praised Hay. 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 pedophilia. Right-wing media sources including The Washington Examiner, The Fox Nation, The Washington Times, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Karl Rove have similarly used his praise of Hay to attempt to link Jennings to pedophilia.
Limbaugh falsely claims that “GLSEN presenters taught kids how to perform 'fisting.' ” Limbaugh wrote that at a workshop during a 2000 conference for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, which was founded and directed at the time by Jennings, “GLSEN presenters taught kids how to perform 'fisting' -- a vile, despicable, obscene act involving the fist and other body parts.” In fact, the workshop in question was conducted by three state Department of Education employees or contractors; Jennings reportedly criticized some of the workshop's content when the recordings of that workshop were first released by the anti-gay group now known as MassResistance in 2000.