political defense

Does It Matter If Kevin Jennings Counseled a 16-Year Old Student?


Everyone knows the best offense is a good defense. So when it comes to safe school czar Kevin Jennings, accusations that some twenty years ago he foolishly advised a 15-year-old student not to end a sexual relationship with an older man are being countered with this: the boy was actually 16, putting him over the legal age of consent! Surely that clears Jennings of any wrongdoing, right?!

The student in question (now a grown man) is identified only by his first name Brewster. And even he is coming to Jennings’ defense, providing the left-wing media watchdog website Media Matters with a statement and a copy of his driver’s license to prove he was 16 at the time he sought Jennings’ council. (Jennings has acknowledged he told the boy only to be sure to use a condom with the older man, but did not advise the student to terminate the relationship.) And because Media Matters is in the business of shooting down right-wing attacks (it’s good sport on this website, too!), there’s also this hilarious Facebook exchange between Fox News producer Maxim Lott and Brewster on Friday, which amounts to the cable channel trying to confirm “rumors” about Brewster’s age, when it already reported he was 15. (Queerty has also reported Brewster was 15 at the time, citing other media reports.)


So now that we’ve established Brewster was 16 in 1988 when his conversation with Jennings took place, is Obama’s underling off the hook? Of course not. Jennings will forever be the guy who told a high school student how he should carry on a relationship with an older man. (He’s acknowledged his foolish advice.) Even though Brewster met the age of consent for Massachusetts, we still have a situation where Jennings, given the opportunity to keep a teenager safe from an older man clearly preying on him, chose not to.

When it comes to young people, age of consent laws are best applied are best used to ensure teenagers cannot be criminally prosecuted when they have sex with each other. (Read: Two 16-year-olds should not have to register as sex offenders if their parents catch them in the act.) But as a school teacher, Jennings owed Brewster a bit more responsible advice than “use a condom” with an older man. (The age of Brewster’s lover has, curiously, never been reported. Was he 30? 60?)

Jennings has apologized, and that’s as much as he can do. But now we’re squabbling over technicalities: Because Brewster was 16 at the time, Jennings is now off the hook?

Please. If Jennings were a safe school czar under President George W. Bush, and straight, Olbermann & Co. would be dumping on him any chance they got, and we would be cheering them along. Inappropriate behavior is inappropriate behavior, especially with young people. Jennings failed on that front, no question. But should it cost him his career? Probably not.

The attacks from the right, however, will not end there. His critics are not satisfied, and it’s arguable that Jennings still faces criticism because he’s an out gay man. If he were a straight guy, would Hannity and Limbaugh be going after him so forcefully? Maybe, given they did so with green czar Van Jones. Working for Obama is the ultimate scarlet letter to the right, which, in fact, works to Jennings’ benefit: He can brush this off as merely a misguided attack from the right, and not a substantive argument about his job qualifications.

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  • BobinLA

    We need to know the age of the “older” man. If the other guy was not a teen then Jennings gave the 16 year old kid bad advice.

  • aaron

    He will never be cleared because he is gay.

    Really, half the GOP congressman in Washington could admit to an underage gay affair and the other half to snorting blow off the tailbone of a needy lobbyist/hooker/intern in front of a church on Sunday, and still the party leadership would say, gosh, that’s too bad, what a shame, let us now respect the privacy of the families involved at this difficult time and leave them alone.

    However, the gays are evil, duplicitous and twisted people bent on destroying children and families and America with their wild buttsex orgies and oh won’t someone PLEASE think of the children!!

    That is why he will eventually resign.

    Sad and true.

  • @freedom4usa

    It’s not that he’s gay, he is a sicko, you need to do more research on the guy, he should not be around kids and should have nothing to do with being a safe schools czar. His advice was not only irresponsible, but his lack of respect for children and their rights is disgusting. See ? Jennings http://bit.ly/2x3IP

  • aaron


    Right Wing Wurlitzer Fail.

  • Justin O.

    I think you’re framing the issue in a way that makes him look worse than he is. In your second sentence, you say “he foolishly advised a 15-year-old student not to end a sexual relationship with an older man.”

    What really happened was that he DIDN’T advise the student to end the relationship. He didn’t actively encourage him to stay in the relationship, which your post made it sound like.

    And how well do teenagers respond to a message of “you shouldn’t be seeing this guy” anyway? It’s almost like abstinenance-only education – it’s unlikely to work, so you should at least be making sure the kid is being safe even if you disagree with his choices. I’m not saying Jennings made the right decision…I’m just saying I don’t think it’s as black and white as all that.

  • Jimmy

    Whatever the fate of Mr. Jennings, the vetting process by Pres. Obama’s staffers leaves much to be desired.

  • mike

    @Jimmy: Agreed!

  • McShane

    No. 5 · Justin O.;I agree, the matter is not all that Black and White.
    As far as Obama staffers vetting someone for the kind of advice he gave everyone: please 1they’re not picking a Vice President.!

  • Old Timer

    This one shows how fragile the gains are for gay people. At any minute, we are vulnerable to being labeled “dangerous” and “sick” for what would be seen as typical stuff if everyone concerned had been straight.

  • Dale

    Good grief is this ever being blown out of proportion by the right wingnuts. He advises a young man to practice safe sex, but it’s perfectly fine for a married congressman with children to put on a daiper for and have sex with a D.C. madam hooker. Indeed, they themselves gave him a round of APPLAUSE when he returned to Washington.

    Give me a F*%^$#G break!

  • Steve

    Jennings didn’t do anything wrong. In hindsight, 20 years later, he could have done better. But what he did wasn’t bad. He listened to the 16 year old, and tried to help. There’s nothing wrong with that. In order to help youth, it is necessary to be trusted. Without trust, there is no opportunity to help.

    The right-wing lunatics seize on every opportunity to criticize, even when they have to make up lies. That really is wrong.

    How many Catholic priests run immediately to tell the police every time a 16-year-old youth confesses to doing something sexual? That answer is probably very near zero.

  • Fitz

    This is so obviously an attempt to spill blood into the tank. It makes the wing-nuts looks even nuttier.
    No one is going to get excited about this. But it does show how
    easily the implication of “pervert”, basically, can get thrown at any gay man in any situation.

    He wasn’t a mandated reporter, it wasn’t a mandated reporting situation, and it wasn’t bad advice.

  • chris

    are we forgetting the fact that teenagers don’t want advice like ‘stop seeing him because you will get AIDS and die’. We don’t WANT to hear shit like that. What we do want is advice we will choose to use, such as: ‘use a condom’.
    Anybody who thinks a teenager would actually listen to an adult when they say to stop doing something, is borderline retarted. Jennings did the right thing by giving Brewster clear advice that he could use and advice that would keep him safe from STD’s.

  • Steve


    Suppose Jennings did tell the teen to stop having sex with the older guy. Do you think he would have listened? 16 year olds are going to do what they want to do. The advice he gave was what is called “harm reduction.” Example: you give IV drug users clean needles to reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. Telling them to kick the heroin habit isn’t going to work.

  • joe

    according to brewster, he did not have sex with the older male, (as reported by cnn).
    @Steve: thank you, I am a psycology major and you took the words right out of my mouth.


    please do more research for future “reports”, queerty.

  • schlukitz

    As Shakespeare would more than likely have said “Much ado about nothing!”

  • AlwaysGay

    It doesn’t matter what happened. Haterosexuals will still attack Kevin and try to get him fired because he’s gay. They will still connect sex with him because sex is always the fallback for haterosexual. Sex plus gay people means a lot of bad things to haterosexuals and haterosexuals always believe the worst even if nothing happened.

  • Josh

    If the guy was legal age and in a consensual relationship then how can we say the other guy was “clearly preying” on him????

    What could Jennings have done besides tell him to be sure to use safe sex???

    Was he suppose to out the student to his parents or the Principal?

    Was he suppose to give full on relationship advice??

  • Chris

    Grow up. The U.S. ha some of the oldest age of consent laws in the world. In most First World countries the age of consent is getting lower. The Religious Right Puritans in the U.S. make most of the world laugh. If a 16 yo wants to have sex he is old enough to know better. Most states in the U.S. prosecute a 16 year old as an adult, even a 14 y.o.
    Face it mom and dad, little Susie and Johnny are having sex. An 18 y.o can go to war, but can’t drink. What crazy law will we enact next?

  • QueerToday

    “clearly preying on him” Do you have proof of that? I was under the impression the boy sought out a sexual encounter…

  • bruce

    If both parties were over the age of consent, what’s the problem? There are millions of over-the-age-of-consent females having affairs with older men. Where is the outrage of retarded Republican lawmakers on this?

    Republicans will continue to dig a deeper and deeper hole for themselves. Fraud News is no better.

  • Shhh

    I remember being 13 and talking to guys who were in their 30’s online…even met some of them. I am now 22. This is a serious issue that’s swept under the rug because it makes us gays look bad when in reality ignoring the problem puts young people’s health (both mental and physical) at risk.

  • hephaestion

    Kevin Jennings is an American hero. Those who are attacking him are ignorant, evil hypocritical sluts pretending to be moral when they have never committed an act of morality in their lives.

  • Miguel

    Uh… Queerty? “Clearly preying on him?”

    Get your head out of your ass. Or maybe just read your source material. Sounds like a good time was actually had by all.

  • Sam

    Show of hands: If a 16 year old male had told a straight teacher that he was having sex with an older WOMAN, and the teacher said “use a condom,” how many of you think it would be brought up as a reason to fire said teacher from another job two decades later?

    That’s what I thought. Every supposed “wrong” Jennings committed has been thoroughly debunked. There was no law saying he should report the incident. Even if there had been, he’d have needed to know the identity of the older man to make a report, which he didn’t. And because the student was over the age of consent, even if Jennings HAD gotten the man’s name and reported him to authorities, no one would have been able to do anything, because the student and man were only engaging in legal, consensual sex.

    This is a homophobic right-wing attack, pure and simple. And Queerty is playing right along with it. Again: QUEERTY, YOU SUCK.

  • Distingué Traces

    Well, the student’s age could only “clear” him if he had been charged with a crime in the first place.

    Which he wasn’t.

    So he’s left exactly where he was before: in the court of public opinion.

  • TTN

    No it does not matter about the age anymore, especially since we found out that his age was 16 at the time, not 15 as previously reported.

  • Paul

    One of my most influential relationships was as a 16 year old with a 42 year old man. He taught me much, and i cared deeply for him. I ended the relationship at the age of 18. I’m soooo glad to have known this man.

Comments are closed.