ATTACKS ON JENNINGS INTENSIFY…. A few weeks ago, in the wake of Van Jones’ resignation from the administration, the right turned its proverbial guns on Department of Education official Kevin Jennings. The smear campaign against Jennings has now incorporated a significant chunk of the House Republican caucus.
Fifty-three House Republicans have signed a letter to the Obama administration asking for the ouster of Kevin Jennings, an official charged with promoting school safety, because of his career as an advocate of teaching tolerance of homosexuality.
“As the founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, Mr. Jennings has played an integral role in promoting homosexuality and pushing a pro-homosexual agenda in America’s schools — an agenda that runs counter to the values that many parents desire to instill in their children,” the lawmakers write.
The ringleader of this lynch mob is Rep. Steve King, a right-wing Republican from Iowa, who yesterday accused Jennings of “ignoring the sex abuse of a child” when he was a young schoolteacher. The charge is false, but of particular interest is the fact that King’s office knows the charge is false, but made it anyway.
The campaign against Jennings is getting uglier, driven by anti-gay animus, cheap efforts to embarrass the administration, and the odd notion that Jennings may be a “czar” of some kind, which necessarily makes him a target for the right. For what it’s worth, Jennings wrote a book 15 years ago, and shared an anecdote about a student he met while teaching in 1987. The student, a 16-year-old young man, told Jennings he was involved with an older man in Boston. For the lynch mob, that means Jennings was aware of statutory rape and didn’t report it. In reality, the student was of the age of consent in Massachusetts.
As Jed Lewison noted, “Steve King’s attack doesn’t tell us anything about Kevin Jennings or the Obama Administration, but it tells you everything you never wanted to know about the vivid imagination of King and 52 of his GOP colleagues.”
By all indications, the White House is ignoring the far-right cries, and Jennings’ job is secure. Here’s hoping it stays that way.