Continuing the smear campaign against Education Department official Kevin Jennings, Sean Hannity claimed that Jennings is in favor of “indoctrinat[ing]” schoolchildren about homosexuality, and radio talk show host Sandy Rios said of Jennings, "[W]e're talking about raping the innocence of our children." To support her claim, Rios falsely claimed that a passage in a book for which Jennings wrote the foreword describes a mother telling her 8-year-old daughter she was “attracted sexually” to the same girl her daughter liked.
Hannity and Rios claim Jennings favors indoctrinating schoolchildren about homosexuality
Hannity on Jennings: “What about Christian parents that ... don't want their kids to be indoctrinated?” Hannity said on the October 8 edition of his Fox News program: “I don't care how liberals raise their kids. If you want to teach your kids about condoms and cucumbers, whatever, go ahead. You liberals, do what you want. But you know what, don't -- I don't want to send my kids to school to have my values contradicted by a teacher, by a counselor.” Hannity subsequently brought up Queering Elementary Education, a book Jennings wrote the foreword to, and said to Democratic strategist Steve Murphy: “What about Christian parents that send their kids to school that don't want their kids to be indoctrinated into your belief system?” [Hannity, 10/8/09]
Rios on Jennings: “We're talking about raping the innocence of our children.” Also on the October 8 edition of Hannity, in a segment highlighted by the blog Gateway Pundit, Hannity said to Rios, a radio talk show host and president of Culture Campaign, “Mainstream media is making excuses. They're giving us the White House talking points. You know, that, well, [Jennings is] really a good guy. We've got to look at his whole career. The kid was 16; the kid wasn't 15. You know, why do you think everybody's ignoring this?” Rios responded: “I think they're ignoring him because they're afraid of the White House. Sean, I can't think of any other explanation, because Kevin Jennings' actions, his words, the things that he's done are appalling and disgusting. And we're talking about raping the innocence of our children -- he's doing it purposely.” [Hannity, 10/8/09]
Rios grossly distorted, mischaracterized passages not written by Jennings to smear him
Rios distorted passage from Queering Elementary Education to claim that “it's all about having sex with adults -- children and adults.” After saying, "[W]e're talking about raping the innocence of our children -- he's doing it purposely," Rios added:
The queering of education -- the queering of elementary education book, I don't know if you've looked at that, but it's all about having sex with adults -- children and adults. There's one story in there -- and I'd ask parents not to let their kids listen to this -- about an 8-year-old girl whose mother is a lesbian, and they are talking about sex education in public schools, and the mother says what's wrong with it. And the mother says, because it doesn't talk about the clitoris.
Then they discuss a group of children playing, little girls together, and the mother and daughter talk about which of the girls they're attracted to, and it so happens they're attracted sexually to the same girl. That is the nature of that book that he wrote a foreword to. There are no excuses. I don't care if it's mainstream media. I don't care what they put on it. There are no excuses. This is appalling. [Hannity, 10/8/09]
Passage about girl's friend does not describe mother as being “attracted sexually” to child's friend. Rios' claim that the passage involved a mother saying she was “attracted sexually to the same girl” is false. In fact, the passage, says:
One evening, as we wait for Steph's computing class to begin, three girls around twelve years old come cheerily in to collect some material for their next class. They look confident and speak assertively, arms and hair swinging. I notice Steph has taken my hand and is squeezing it.
I look across and notice a faint shy blush on her face. “What's up, Steph?”
Steph is still staring at the girls. She whispers, “Which one do you like?”
“All of them. They look like really nice, smart young women.”
Steph persist [sic]. “No! I mean, which one do you like.”
“Which one do you like, sweetie?”
Steph nods her head toward the long-haired girl in jeans and T-shirt who's doing most of the questioning in articulate computer-speak. “Do you like her too?”
“Yes, I do,” I reply.
Steph smiles slightly, pleased, still not taking her eyes off the girl.
“What're you feeling, Steph?”
Steph smiles shyly. She shrugs and looks at me with embarrassment. I squeeze her hand. “It's okay, Steph. She's gorgeous, and if you think that, that's fine. Enjoy those feelings, there's nothing wrong with them.”
In the meantime, Steph also has crushes on two boys. Getting out of the car one afternoon with a friend who's come to play, she looks at the houses across the street and declares, “I wish Peter lived there and Anthony lived there. Then I could see both of them.”
Her friend looks scornfully at her. “You can only love one person.”
“That's the way it is. Unless you're a lesbian.”
“If I was a lesbian, I'd want Peter and Anthony to be girls. Anyway, maybe I'll love no one. Maybe I'll love girls or boys, or both. Maybe lots of both!” And she laughs cheekily as her friend remonstrates. [“A Child's Negotiation of Multiple Lifeworlds” by Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli in Queering Elementary Education, pages 78-79]
Passage about sexual education has nothing to do with children and adults having sex. Rios did not explain how a passage in which a mother says it's “wrong” that sex education “doesn't talk about the clitoris” is evidence that the book is “all about having sex with adults -- children and adults.” In fact, the passage itself -- which is part of a chapter written by a woman who says she “identifies as heterosexual,” that her daughter is the biological child of her “male partner” and herself, and is describing her experience with the Australian school system -- has nothing to do with such a topic.
From Queering Elementary Education:
Getting ready for school one morning, seven-year-old Steph asks, “What's artificial insemination?”
I ask, “Were you interested in what Uncle Matteo was saying last night?” I had been chatting to a gay Italian friend, Matteo, about his daughter, a baby he'd had with a lesbian and his plans to have another. Steph had been sitting with us silently listening.
Steph nods. “If they don't have sex, how can they have babies, that's all I wanted to know, really. At school we learned that it takes a man and woman who are married to each other to have a baby, but Uncle Matteo is gay and he isn't married. But I know he's had a baby.”
I explain how many gays and lesbians are now becoming parents without having sex with each other. And this leads to a chat about women's decisions about having sex and babies, and that leads on to how women should never let anyone exploit their sexuality. And this leads to a conversation about what else was missing from the “sex education” lessons at school -- the clitoris! We talk about the book Steph has at home showing where the clitoris is. The question comes: “But why didn't they show it in the book at school? I looked for it but the teacher acted like nothing was there. I know it's there.” Steph has been taught that it is the clitoris that givers her pleasure when she masturbates.
Steph picks up her schoolbag. She's ready for another day at school, and as we head out the door, she says with a scornful snort, “They don't say all the truth at school but I know it anyway.” [Queering Elementary Education, Page 73]
In foreword, Jennings describes book as offering ways to “address antigay bigotry” that exists in elementary schools. From Jennings' foreword:
The reality is that this issue -- antigay bigotry -- is already in our schools. It's not only in our schools, it's pervasive, it's rampant, it's out of control. Little kids are learning to hate, and they're learning it right now, in elementary schools across America. It's not a question of whether or not we should “bring this issue into our schools.” It's a question of whether or not we are going to address an issue that is omnipresent in our schools. If we mean it when we make students pledge allegiance to a flag that promises “liberty and justice for all” at the start of each school day, then the choice is clear. We must address antigay bigotry, and we must do it as soon as students start going to school.
In this groundbreaking volume of plainly written, cutting-edge scholarship, Will Letts and Jim Sears have pointed us down the path to a brighter tomorrow. Here they bring together a diverse range of writers who offer both theoretical constructs and practical advice to those who believe our schools should actively foster the values of justice. Queering Elementary Education gives us the tools we need to move ahead. The sweeping nature of the essays -- addressing issues of race, the perspectives of students, parents, and teachers, the challenges of different disciplines, and a host of other matters -- offers invaluable breadth and depth. [Queering Elementary Education, Pages x - xi]
Hannity, others have repeatedly engaged in anti-gay rhetoric, smears against Jennings
Hannity: "[T]his is a guy that's advocated promoting homosexuality in schools." Hannity stated that “this is a guy that's advocated promoting homosexuality in schools. This is a guy we have talked about his past. He's had contempt for religion, et cetera, et cetera. ... Isn't the issue here that what they're teaching oftentimes, value-wise, contradicts what parents are teaching? And isn't that morally wrong?” He later added, “I don't know what it is about liberals. I think they think they have the right to raise our kids. I mean, you know, the idea that you would promote whatever your agenda, on sexuality, any controversial issue.” [Hannity, 9/25/09]
Wash. Times posts doctored transcript to claim Jennings called for mandatory “LGBT course” for teachers. The Washington Times' Kerry Picket reprinted a doctored transcript -- originally posted by a conservative blog -- of 2008 comments by Jennings to falsely claim Jennings had said he wanted teachers to be required to “take an LGBT course” -- a claim also echoed by the Fox Nation. In fact, responding to an audience member who asked about how to combat stereotypes held by teachers based on race, gender, and ethnicity as well as sexual orientation, Jennings did not call for a mandatory “LGBT course,” but rather called for a mandatory course on “issues of bias in the classroom” for aspiring teachers in order for them to be aware of “how biases can influence how you interact with your students.”
Hannity, others have advanced a smorgasbord of false and outrageous smears against Jennings. Conservative media outlets have repeatedly advanced the falsehood that Jennings, in the words of Fox News host Bill Hemmer, knew of a “statutory rape” and “never reported it.” Additionally, on October 7, after Hannity introduced his Fox News show by asking, “Does Kevin Jennings support the group NAMBLA?” Karl Rove falsely claimed that Jennings had engaged in “high-profile, in-your-face advocacy of things like NAMBLA and gay rights and queering elementary school curricula.” Neither Rove nor Hannity provided any evidence that Jennings has ever “support[ed]” -- let alone engaged in “high-profile, in-your-face advocacy” of -- NAMBLA, and Rove's suggestion that support for “gay rights” is somehow related to support for NAMBLA is a smear. Furthermore, several conservative media figures, including Hannity, have compared Jennings to film director Roman Polanski, who was charged with rape and pleaded guilty to having sex with a girl who was 13 at the time after allegedly plying her with drugs and alcohol.