As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Latest Attack Of The Wingnut Brigade

Amazingly enough, conservatives weren't satisfied by the resignation of Van Jones and the funding cutoff for ACORN. Seems they are trying to attack the Administration relentlessly, as if that was their singular objective! There have been a few clumsy stabs this week, like the mild song praising the President, or the lame tape of community organizers praying to "O God," not "Obama"; or attacking the President for wanting to bring the Olympics and $22 billion dollars of economic activity to America. But the right thinks they've found a target with a Department of Education official named Kevin Jennings. Sean Hannity has practically jumped on his desk and demanded Jennings' resignation for allegedly "covering up statutory rape." I say allegedly because only Sean Hannity thinks that, and it certainly doesn't meet with the facts of the case.

Despite evidence to the contrary, Fox News -- led by Sean Hannity -- and other right-wing media have claimed that Department of Education official Kevin Jennings "cover[ed] up statutory rape" and violated Massachusetts law by not reporting to authorities a 1988 conversation in which a high school student told Jennings about his relationship with an older man. In fact, Jennings' attorney wrote in a 2004 letter that the student was 16 years old, which is -- and was at the time -- the legal age of consent in Massachusetts.

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]

What happened was that Jennings wrote about a conversation he had while a teacher - 21 years ago - where a 16 year-old student told him about a relationship with an older man. Jennings, who is gay, didn't report the kid to the authorities for doing anything illegal, mainly because he... wasn't doing anything illegal.

Nevertheless, Hannity is outraged (but that's redundant) and the trumped-up scandal is seeping into the media. John Aravosis writes:

Allen went on a right-wing TV show this morning and falsely accused Department of Education official Kevin Jennings of a crime. He said - falsely - that Jennings failed to report "an assault" on a young man, twenty years ago, which would be a crime under Massachusetts law at the time. In fact, Jennings was never informed of an assault on anyone. He spoke to a student, of the legal age of consent, who had sex with a man. Ta ta ta dum.

Yes, you guessed - they were g-a-y. And one was older than the other. Ergo, it must have been one of those gay pedophile predator types who always go after young boys, because those gays are such perverts - right?

I'm not surprised that FOX News and the far right hate groups are going after a gay appointee in the Obama administration. Anti-gay bigotry is ripe at FOX, in the religious right, and in the GOP base that now controls the Republican party. So none of this should surprise us. What does surprise me is when real journalists, real reporters, like Mike Allen, swallow the bait from the ilk of Sean Hannity and the Family Research Council, and report their sludge as fact, when it's an outright lie. It really makes you wonder why the media smells a story here. I doubt they'd be as interested if the two legal adults, and the Obama official, were straight.

And another thing. Would Mike Allen, and any other media outlet covering this story, prefer if the kid had killed himself? From the REST of the story, if you bother reading it, the kid didn't exactly sound long for this world. Can you imagine, in the 1980s mind you (which is when this happened), had Jennings outed the kid as gay, not just to his parents, but to the entire state (which would include his school), which is what Allen is proposing? Assuming the kid didn't kill himself, would his parents have kicked him out of their house (which happened, and still happens, to a lot of gay kids)? Gee, I'll bet the media covering this fake story didn't think of that one. No, they had a "sex" story involving a gay guy - three gay guys in fact - and well, how you can top that?

Jennings' real crime in the eyes of his accusers appears to be that he's a gay man. After all, a famous director drugging and raping an underage white girl without consent - that's OK for the establishment, and he shouldn't be punished because he's in their social class. Someone like Jennings not turning in a ghey for his consensual relationanship - that deserves a burning at the stake.

This ticky-tack distractions don't even have to succeed. It's part of an effort to chip away at the legitimacy of the President, so that when the big story breaks, these zombie lies can fit an invented pattern. That's all.

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