The latest attack on Kevin Jennings is that he was once an ACT UP activist and that he gave money to a exhibition related to the history of ACT UP.
The poster on the right (that WND ran under the title "Obama's safe-schools boss sponsors radical porn") will be a part of the exhibition, which gets right to the heart of their complaint against Jennings: gays and children are sharing a sentence. These are the same people who were quite content with the fact that queer people were dying of AIDS back during the late 80's and early 90's, so the fact that they're attacking an organization trying to stop the deaths of millions of people for (literally) interrupting the opera is quite telling.
I don't know how to read that other than "He's gay, therefore he's evil." ACT-UP had in-your-face tactics, yes, but letting people die by the tens of thousands in hopes that they would be converted to conservative Christianity and stop having gay sex isn't that subtle either. ACT-UP was a response to an epidemic, one that, unsurprisingly, the right ignored because they didn't like the victims all that much. And now, to attack someone for being involved in an effort to save those same lives that the right at the time was happy to let die takes an incredible amount of chutzpah.
But here's how the Washington Times, in an unattributed editorial, put it:
ACT UP, like NAMBLA, was not even considered a mainstream group among homosexuals. With his record of putting his radical agenda before everything else, Mr. Jennings doesn't belong at the Department of Education in any role.
ACT UP is the new NAMBLA. That's clever. Is it because saving gay people's lives ensures that more children will be molested (because all gay people are child molesters, of course) or because interrupting the opera while thousands are dying is as bad as having sex with a 7-year-old?
And ACT UP isn't really outside of the mainstream ideologically: looking through the contributors' list here at TBP I see a quite a few people who I know were involved in ACT UP. Generally, if someone was out and active in the community at the time, they were probably working in some way with ACT UP. They're condemning an entire population from that era.
Sean Hannity says that Jennings's involvement in ACT UP means he should be fired. Fox Nation ran this graphic (via Media Matters):
Also, the WND article linked above cites the fact that the publisher of Jennings's book on being a gay teacher also published a book of short stories on lesbian vampires. Because everyone who's ever written a book is responsible for all the content their publisher has ever published.
Grasping. For. Straws.
So, for people keeping track, here are Kevin Jennings's sins so far:
- Not reporting consensual, gay sex between two people of legal age to the police in 1988 in a state with a ban on sodomy.
- Praising one of the founders of the gay rights movement, Harry Hay, the man who started Mattachine. Harry Hay also wanted NAMBLA to march in Pride decades later, so obviously Jennings is pro-pedophilia.
- Writing the introduction to a book called Queering Elementary Education, which was about fighting homophobia and gender policing in elementary school. But the title is scary!
- Saying that he doesn't care what the Religious Right thinks.
- Taking part in ACT-UP, the most effective group in the history of the gay movement that was trying to end a terminal illness.
- Donating money to a historical exhibit at Harvard.
- Using a publisher that also published a book on lesbian vampires.
- Saying he wanted a curriculum that would promote "respect [for] every human being regardless of sexual orientation, regardless of gender identity, regardless of race or religion or any of the arbitrary distinctions we make among people."
- In a discussion of racism in schools, Jennings said: "It should be impossible to graduate from NYU or any other school of education without coursework -- required coursework -- that address issues of bias in the classroom and how it might influence your teaching."
The point isn't that any of these accusations is damning in and of itself. They're hoping that they work together to create the impression that there's a controversy here, that there's something wrong with Kevin Jennings that isn't just the fact that he's gay and works with children. And, little by little, it seeps into the mainstream media, since they have no way to understand this situation other than to photocopy the right's attacks and say that Jennings is a "controversial" appointee. The hope is that, eventually, the left and Obama will just get tired of defending him and get rid of him.
GLAAD put out a statement on this last week:
GLAAD CONDEMNS ANTI-GAY ATTACKS ON KEVIN JENNINGS
OCTOBER 16, 2009, New York, NY - The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the nation's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, today condemned anti-gay attacks on Kevin Jennings, assistant deputy secretary for the Office of Safe & Drug Free Schools.
"Anti-gay activists have been relentlessly attacking Kevin Jennings for years," said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. "Over time, credible media have come to deal with these stories in a fair and responsible manner. They independently research the far right's assertions, discover that there is nothing to them, and have refused to lend credibility to false, malicious claims by presenting them as news.
"The media have the exact same responsibility today, and it's been discouraging to see a small handful of outlets move toward taking the far right's bait," Barrios added. "Over the past two decades, Kevin Jennings has worked to make schools safer for all students. He is a committed public servant. And no one - from Kevin Jennings in the Department of Education to the brave gay and lesbian Americans who serve honorably in our nation's military -- should continue to be subjected to these kinds of anti-gay witch-hunts. Nobody should be fired from their job because they're gay, yet this is exactly what far-right activists are trying to do to Kevin Jennings.
"These attacks are wrong, they are defamatory, and our nation's media must not be complicit in these attempts to force a qualified public servant from his job simply because he's gay," Barrios said.
Hopefully other LGBT orgs will jump in on this one before it gets out of hand. The folks on teevee will need reasons to say this is homophobic, or else coverage will end up looking like what we saw in the New York Times.
More on Kevin Jennings smear campaign: