Three months ago, Fox News was forced to issue a humiliating retraction of the false allegations it had leveled against Department of Education official Kevin Jennings. Now, Maxim Lott, the FoxNews.com reporter at the center of those falsehoods, has re-emerged with more smears of Jennings.
This time, in an article headlined “Obama's Safe Schools Czar Tied to Lewd Readings for 7th Graders,” Lott reported that Jennings “is under fresh attack after it was revealed that the pro-gay group he formerly headed recommends books his critics say are pornographic.” In the article, Lott grossly distorts the contents of books recommended by GLSEN for grades 7-12 and waits until the 13th paragraph to disclose that the list of books included the disclaimer that they “contain mature themes” and the recommendation that “adults selecting books for youth review content for suitability.”
And just who are the “critics” who apparently inspired Lott's article? In short: anti-gay bigots.
There's Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, who last year announced his desire “to export homosexuals from the United States” -- a comment for which he later apologized (sort of). FRC's website states: “Family Research Council believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed. It is by definition unnatural, and as such is associated with negative physical and psychological health effects.”
Lott also quoted Peter LaBarbera of American for Truth about Homosexuality. LaBarbera has explained that his attacks on Jennings are “all about homosexuality and the 'gay' activist agenda whose singular goal is to normalize homosexuality as a 'civil right.' ”
The fact that Fox continues to allow Lott to report on Jennings is some of the strongest evidence yet that the network isn't a news outlet at all but is actually a right-wing political organization whose mission is to concoct dishonest, bigoted attacks with which to damage progressives and the Obama administration.
Let's revisit some of Lott's past work on the Jennings beat.
On September 30, Lott reported as fact that more 21 years ago, as a young teacher in Massachusetts, Jennings “didn't report that a 15-year-old boy told him that he was having sex with an older man.”
At the time, there was substantial evidence available that Lott's claim was false. As Media Matters pointed out, a publicly available 2004 letter from Jennings' lawyer stated that the student was actually 16 years old when the conversation took place. The Massachusetts age of consent is -- and was at the time -- 16; Jennings was under no obligation to report anything. (The student later said that he “had no sexual contact with anybody at the time.” )
On October 1, after reporting as fact that the student was “15,” Lott apparently decided to check whether this claim was true. As Media Matters exclusively revealed, Lott sent a Facebook message to the student, asking if the “rumor” that he was 15 at the time was “accurate.”
Normally, this is the sort of thing journalists ask before leveling allegations at public servants. But Lott and Fox News are apparently so obsessed with gay-baiting that accuracy has become a secondary matter that can wait until after they've run with their charges.
On October 2, two days after Lott's story ran, Media Matters published a statement from the student and a copy of his driver's license, definitively proving that he was 16 at the time of his conversation with Jennings. That same day, the student wrote to Lott and demanded a correction. Eventually, Fox added the following editor's note to the top of Lott's article: “Since this story was originally published, the former student referred to as 'Brewster' has stepped forward to reveal that he was 16 years old, not 15, at the time of the incident described in this report.”
Three months later, Lott's back. And he's got a new smear.