Will Right Wing Attacks on Kevin Jennings Force Him to Resign?

Much has been said about Kevin Jennings, the gay safe school czar whose teaching career is coming back to haunt him twenty years later. Attacks from Limbaugh, Hannity, Dobbs, and Kilmeade were to be expected, since they take their talking points from conservative operatives, and Jennings’ offered up easy fare. But Jennings’ supporters, who point to his record fighting school bullying, aren’t exactly winning the messaging war with their defense. So how much damage is being done here?


First, let’s get a few things straight. Jennings’ controversy isn’t new: He’s previously written about and addressed in speeches the advice he gave to a 15-year-old student of his, who told Jennings he was having a sexual relationship with an older man. Also, the attacks on Jennings reek of homophobia. Pushed by anti-gay groups like the Family Research Council, Jennings has been in the crosshairs since Obama hired him.

(Here’s just a sampling. From Limbaugh: “[I]f you wonder why the libs are really ticked off that [director] Roman Polanski might be extradited to face the music on that long-ago act with the 13-year-old girl, Quaaludes and rape, understand that Obama’s safe school czar is a guy promoting homosexuality in the schools and encouraged a 15-year-old kid to have a homosexual relationship with an older man, and even facilitated it. As I say, Snerdley, I wasn’t even going to get to this today, but you asked me about Polanski, and that’s that.” And Hannity: “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?”)

But none of that changes this situation: Jennings failed to protect a student from a harmful relationship. But how much penance must he pay? He’s publicly acknowledged his error in judgment, and he’s arguably done plenty in his career — from founding GLSEN to his new job with Obama — to keep more kids safe than in harm’s way.

Jennings’ main problem, then, is not his past discrepancies, but whether his supporters and the White House can silence the right-wing attacks on him. We’ve already Obama’s green czar Van Jones resign because of controversy (where Republicans made themselves out to be the victims). Jennings’ situation sounds eerily familiar.

(Thanks, Dave!)

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  • AlwaysGay

    Heterosexuals ALWAYS use sex as a fallback to undermine gay people. Sex plus gay people means a lot of bad things to the haterosexual. So even if it has nothing to do with sex the haterosexual will trot out sex and try to connect it to gay people because it will automatically sway other haterosexuals into believing them. These attacks on Kevin are because he’s gay.

  • Kyle24

    Let’s not bring up his use of steroids. Another bad example for kids to follow.

  • ksu499

    If Jennings resigns or is asked to step down over this, you can forget about anything useful coming out of the Obama administration.

  • Josh

    It has been revealed and verified by Media Matters and CNN that the student was in fact 16 which is the legal age of consent in MA.

    So Jennings didn’t do anything wrong. He did good by telling the student if he has sex he should practice safe sex.

    This was like 20 years ago anyways wasn’t it? Besides if he had outed a student back then be might have destroyed that student’s life.

    It is so sad that the gay media often goes along with right wing spin.

    The student was not 15 and was not being abused by a predator.

  • BobinLA

    Jennings claims that it was a different time and teachers didn’t know how to handle these kinds of situations. Really???? 1989 wasn’t 1959. If a 16 year old female student was sleeping with an older man what would he have done? a younger student with an older person certainly wasn’t revolutionary for 1989. maybe that the student was gay was different, but why not apply the same standards for straight students to gay ones.

  • jason

    And yet right-wing pin-up girl Sarah Palin failed to protect her own daughter from pre-marital sex. Where is Limbaugh’s outrage on this?

  • tjr101

    This guy better NOT resign… enough of the lies being spread by the self-righteous right-wing bigots.

  • a. mcewen

    You know I hate it when we buy into the lies of the religious right. Media Matters interviewed the student in question. I suggest that the creators of this site read the interview.

    I understand the need to be accurate and objective sometimes, but I am VERY disappointed with how Queerty has made several anti-Jennings implications without waiting for all of the facts and without considering the sources of the lies.

    And no Jennings shouldn’t resign because he did NOTHING wrong.

  • Macca

    16 is 16, be it male or female. Safe sex applies to both Bob. And since 16 was and is the legal age of consent, age is not a matter for discussion or implication of errant behaviour. What is up for discussion is the ‘rights’ witch hunt to take down the administration. Can you imagine what would have happened to anyone doing this sort of witch hunt on the Bush administration? There would’ve been hell to pay and god knows what else. As one writer stated, this administration had better grow some balls and fight back or might as well write off the rest of this term.

  • mitt

    Sexual education is not sex education, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have acted as counsel if that is what the boy needed. Obviously these things happen when children don’t have healthy, functional families to submit these problems too. Should he have done it differently? I don’t think he had a choice, just like it won’t be his choice to resign.

  • sarah

    Jennings bad choice really isn’t what bother me. It is his latest statement saying that he admired Harry Hay and admitted pedofile and founding member of NAMBLA (north american man boy love alliance)Jennings said that he admired him and his accomplishments. What the hell do you make of that? Before this all came out I thought homosexuallity was completely different than pedofilia. But now all I read is that this guy is so great and that it is all trumped up charges by the right. I don’t know what to think now. How can you defend people like this just because they have done good things for the homosexual community? NAMBLA isn’t about man boy love, it is about finding young boys for the desires of older men. Some boys are consenting, some aren’t. But the men are all preditors.

  • ericka v.

    Jennings should stay if you want the perception of gays to be child predators. Read his book titles he approved and the excerpts. Then think about it from a parent side,

    No one is making anything up, the attacks on him are Jennings still looks guilty and more to the point, his books suggest he is. The slick calls that the right wing are after him is pure crap, all anyone has to do is use his own words.

    Endorsing Harry Hay speaks volumes about the man.

    He is a walking, talking, political liability. And a NAMBLA believer.

    Sell that to America as natural.

  • tongueuntied


    Study your history.
    Hay’s relationship to NAMBLA is an infinitesimal percentage of his overall contribution as the founder of the Mattachine Society and ONE, as well as the Radical Faeries. PLEASE research before you SPOUT.

  • Lukas P.

    Since this thread has found new life, I have 2 questions. 1) How has Jennings performed in his assigned duties, compared to the prior holder(s) of the post? 2) ¿¡How does Adam Lambert feel about this?! And his glamberous fans?

    Am *just* trying to drive more traffic to
    Queertyville, and clicks on the monetized ads with the second Q, but the first one is an honest que(e)ry.

Comments are closed.