Continuing Fox News' witch hunt against Obama administration officials the news network has labeled “czars,” Sean Hannity advanced a laundry list of false, baseless, or misleading claims about Department of Education official Kevin Jennings, White House science adviser John Holdren, State Department official Harold Koh, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu. For instance, Hannity suggested -- despite evidence to the contrary -- that Jennings covered up statutory rape; falsely claimed that Holdren “supports, you know, forced sterilization” ; and smeared Koh by repeating the claim that Koh “says, well, Sharia law can be applied in American courts.”
Hannity smears Jennings by suggesting Jennings covered up statutory rape
Hannity: Jennings did not tell authorities about “statutory rape” of 15-year-old. From the “Great American Panel” segment of the October 1 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
HANNITY: All right. So we have, you know, another czar in trouble -- and many of them. All right, the latest one, this guy Kevin Jennings. You know, here's a guy -- you're a pastor -- and a 15-year-old kid goes into his office, seeks advice. He's having a relationship with an older -- with an adult, which, by the way, he said it was 15. That would be statutory rape.
And does he call the police, does he tell authorities, does he get in counseling? No, he asks him if he wore a condom.
Obenshain: Jennings is “a mandatory reporter as a teacher, and yet allowed this to happen without protecting the child.” During the segment, panelist Kate Obenshain, vice president of Young America's Foundation, asserted: “But for the man who is supposed to be promoting safe schools -- he's a mandatory reporter as a teacher, and yet allowed this to happen without protecting the child.”
Jennings' attorney: Conversation was “with a sixteen-year-old student” ; “no factual basis” that Jennings was “aware of any sexual victimization of any student.” In an August 3, 2004, letter, Constance M. Boland of the law firm Nixon Peabody -- which represented the organization that Jennings ran -- 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].
Massachusetts age of consent is -- and was at the time -- 16. As Media Matters has also documented, at the time Jennings had the conversation with the student, the age of consent as provided by chapter 119, section 51A, of the General Laws of Massachusetts was 16.
Massachusetts law required reporting by those with reason to believe child “is suffering serious physical or emotional injury resulting from abuse,” and lawyer said Jennings had no reason to believe student was abused. In 1988, teachers in Massachusetts were required to make a report if they had “reasonable cause to believe that a child under the age of eighteen years is suffering serious physical or emotional injury resulting from abuse inflicted upon him including sexual abuse.” In her letter, Jennings' attorney Boland stated, “Nowhere in the book does Mr. Jennings state that he understood the student was being abused or 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 does not apply.” [Boland letter, 8/3/04]
Hannity guest notes anti-gay aspects to campaign against Jennings. During the segment, panelist Pastor Jacques DeGraff stated, "[P]eople who are raising these objections, many of them have problems with homosexuals in schools. And those are stated problems -- that many of the issues are about they promote homosexuality in school. So why don't we say that?" Media Matters has documented the anti-gay rhetoric used by members of the conservative media to attack Jennings.
Hannity falsely claims Holdren supports forced sterilization
Hannity claims Holdren “supports, you know, forced sterilization.” Obenshain stated during the segment, “I think that Barack Obama has made a decision to surround himself with people who are activists. You look at who he's chosen for these czars. And these are not somebody who have mistakenly tumbled into these positions. They've been selected.” Hannity responded, “I mentioned that earlier. I mean, you have, you know, Holdren, who supports, you know, forced sterilization." Later, Hannity similarly asked, “What about the guy that supported forced sterilization, again, in a book?”
Hannity has repeatedly distorted Holdren's words to attack him on sterilization, abortion. Hannity has repeatedly distorted Holdren's words to falsely claim that Holdren supported forced sterilization and abortion. In fact, Holdren never “advocated” for any kind of involuntary birth control; he co-authored an environmental sciences book more than 30 years ago that discusses “compulsory control of family size” including abortion and sterilization as a possible consequence for countries whose expanding birth rates are not curbed by “milder methods.”
Hannity smear: Koh “says, well, Sharia law can be applied in American courts”
Hannity repeats smear that Koh supported use of Sharia law in U.S. courts. Hannity also said, “You have another guy that says, well, Sharia law can be applied in American courts.” Hannity has previously made that claim about Harold Koh, the State Department legal adviser. The claim has been denied by Koh himself during Senate testimony, Koh's spokesman, and the organizer of the event at which Koh supposedly made the remarks about Sharia law. In addition, University of California-Davis law professor Anupam Chander wrote in an April 2 blog post that "[i]n the 71 articles penned by Harold Koh that appear in the Westlaw law review database, there is but one article that mentions Sharia," and in that article, Koh “denounces the government of Iran for 'impos[ing] a strict form of Sharia law that denies basic rights to women and minorities.' ”
Hannity attacks Chu for advocating for white roofs, which would help environment
Hannity: “You have another guy who wants to paint every roof in America white.” Hannity also said: “You have another guy who wants to paint every roof in America white.” Hannity did not specify to whom he was referring, but Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in London: “There's a friend of mine, a colleague of mine, Art Rosenfeld, who's pushing very hard for a geo-engineering we all believe will be completely benign, and that's when you have a flat-top roof building, make it white. Now, you smile, but he's done a calculation, and if you take all the buildings and make their roofs white and if you make the pavement more of a concrete type of color rather than a black type of color, and you do this uniformly ... it's the equivalent of reducing the carbon emissions due to all the cars on the road for 11 years.”
Research indicates that making changes Chu advocated “could mean a one-time reduction of 44 billion tons of carbon dioxide.” Hannity did not note that a recent study “estimate[s] that permanently retrofitting urban roofs and pavements in the tropical and temperate regions of the world with solar-reflective materials would offset 44 billion tonnes of emitted CO2, worth $1.1 trillion at $25/tonne.” The study adds: “How can the reader visualize this one time offset of 44 billion tonnes of CO2? The average world car emits about 4 tonnes of CO2 each year. Permanently increasing the solar reflectance of urban roofs and pavements worldwide would offset 11 billion car-years of emission.”
Hannity attacks on “czars” part of Fox News witch hunt
Hannity, Beck, others have repeatedly attacked Obama administration officials with falsehoods. Following the lead of Fox News' Glenn Beck, who has repeatedly attacked Obama administration “czars” with falsehoods, smears, and misinformation, on September 18, Hannity aired a list of “10 people who President Obama has appointed or nominated to work on your behalf in your government” and asked, “Should any of them be fired?” Hannity's case for dismissing the advisers largely consisted of false attacks, distortions, and trivial guilt by association. During that segment, Hannity attacked Holdren, Koh, and other Obama administration officials. Additionally, on September 30, Hannity said of Jennings, “I want him fired.”