Rush Limbaugh advanced the thoroughly debunked smear that Department of Education official Kevin 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 baselessly asserted student told of sexual assault and Jennings urged student “to further the relationship”
From the October 7 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: I meant to play this audio sound bite yesterday. I didn't get it in time -- nobody's fault, we were just busy. I have it now. This is 2000, in Iowa, at the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network -- it's an event there. It's audio of Obama's safe schools czar, Kevin Jennings. This is the guy that, the 15-year-old kid approached him, said, “I'm having a -- an older man is forcing his way on me, sex and so forth.” And Jennings says, “That's fine, are you using a condom?” and urged the 15-year-old to further the relationship, and then said later, “I saw this kid come back to school and every day had a big smile on his face. I knew I'd done a good thing.” That's Obama's safe schools czar. [emphasis added]
Evidence in no way supports Limbaugh's claims of sexual assault, advice “to further the relationship”
Accounts of conversation do not substantiate claim that student said he was sexually assaulted. In the 2000 speech that Limbaugh cited, Jennings stated that the student, “Brewster,” -- who Media Matters has established was of the legal age of consent at the time of his conversation with Jennings -- told him, “I met somebody in the bus station bathroom and I went home with him.” In his 1994 book, Jennings wrote that Brewster told him “a story about his involvement with an older man he had met in Boston.” But at no point did Jennings state that Brewster told him, "[A]n older man is forcing his way on me," or in any way suggest that a sexual assault had occurred, and Limbaugh provided no additional evidence to support his claim.
Accounts of the conversation provide no evidence that Jennings urged the student “to further the relationship.” In the 2000 speech that Limbaugh cited, 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 Limbaugh's claim that Jennings encouraged Brewster “to further the relationship” that Jennings, in Limbaugh's baseless telling, knew to be coercive.
Jennings' attorney: Book indicates Jennings had no cause to believe student was being abused. In an August 3, 2004, letter, Constance M. Boland of the law firm Nixon Peabody -- which represented the organization that Jennings ran, wrote of Jennings' 1994 account of his conversation with the student, “Nowhere in the book does Mr. Jennings state that he understood the student was being abused of victimized, or that he suffered injury from any abuse.” Boland added, “Based on the plain meaning of the words in the book, it is clear that Mr. Jennings had no 'reasonable cause to believe' that the student was being abused in any way. Because there was no abuse and no 'sexual victimization,' the statute [requiring school employees to report suspected cases of abuse] does not apply." [Boland letter, 8/3/04]
Student: “I had no sexual contact with anybody at the time.” In an October 2 statement obtained by Media Matters for America, Brewster said that "[i]n 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."
Limbaugh previously accused Jennings of of having “encouraged” and “facilitated” a sexual relationship between a male high school student and an older man. Limbaugh previously 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.” [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/28/09]
Limbaugh's claim that student was a “15-year-old kid” has been thoroughly debunked
Former student's driver's license shows he was at least 16 when he approached Jennings. Media Matters exclusively obtained the Massachusetts driver's license of the student confirming that at the time of the incident he was 16 years of age.
Former student: “I was a sixteen-year-old” and “was of legal consent at the time.” The former student provided Media Matters 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.
Jennings' attorney stated in 2004 letter that student was 16, which is -- and was -- MA age of consent. In the August 3, 2004, letter, Boland 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]
CNN, FoxNews.com reports confirm “Brewster” was 16 at the time. Fox News, which repeatedly advanced the falsehood that Jennings, in the words of Bill Hemmer, knew of a “statutory rape” and “never reported it,” has attached an editor's note to at least two FoxNews.com articles stating, “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.” CNN's Jessica Yellin, after reporting that CNN had spoken to the student, aired an image of the student's driver's license, stating that it “verifies he was actually 16 at the time, not 15, which means that if there had been sex, he was actually the legal age of consent in Massachusetts.”