As Media Matters has documented, the right wing has been after Kevin Jennings for some time now. Conservative media unleash anti-gay rhetoric in attacks on Jennings:
The latest target in the Glenn Beck-driven conservative media witch hunt for Obama administration "czars" is Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools director Kevin Jennings. In their attacks on Jennings, numerous conservative media figures have resorted to thinly veiled homophobic appeals to paint Jennings, who is gay, as a "radical" "gay activist" with an "agenda" of "promoting homosexuality in schools," and have misrepresented or distorted Jennings' previous comments about religion and tolerance.
CNN's Jessica Yellin debunked some of those attacks on CNN's The Situation Room.
Transcript below the fold.
BLITZER: Meanwhile, another little-known member of the Obama administration is now coming under some serious fire from some conservatives. And, like others before him, he potentially could be in jeopardy.
Let's bring in our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, to explain what's going on this time.
Jessica, what is going on?
YELLIN: Well, Wolf, let's put this in context. This happens at the same time that we're hearing about all this violence in Chicago schools, about swine flu.
Those are exactly the kinds of issues that Kevin Jennings is in place to help stop, to help resolve. He's in charge of the office that supports programs to stop school violence and keep kids safe. But now he's being targeted by critics of the Obama administration, not for his work -- not for his work fighting bullying, but here's the context.
Jennings is gay. In a book, he describes an incident in which he counseled a gay student who had sex with an older man, and Jennings did not report the incident to authorities. This all happened back in 1988.
And, in a statement, now Jennings says -- quote -- "Teachers back then had little training or guidance about this kind of thing. Twenty-one years later," he says, "I can see how I should have handled the situation differently."
Well, the Family Research Council is calling on Jennings to resign, saying -- quote -- "You do not need special training to know that child molestation is wrong."
Many other organizations are also going after him, organizations that are critical of the administration.
Now, there are a few things to point out here. First, there is no proof that this student who had sought -- who sought Jennings' advice had been an actual victim of child molestation. A legal letter and several of Jennings' own accounts make it clear the student was likely of legal age when this happened.
But, also, the groups that are going after Jennings have targeted him from the day he got his job, long before all this incident came to light. The Family Research Council, for one, started a stop-Jennings campaign, accusing him of promoting homosexuality to school kids.
Now, we should point out, this man has been honored by many organizations of different stripes. His supporters include William Weld, a former Republican governor of Massachusetts. Supporters say that he is not just about helping gay kids, but all kids.
For now, Wolf, at least for now, his own boss and the White House have given them their full support.
BLITZER: All right, we will see how this plays out. Thanks very much, Jessica, for that context. Good perspective. Appreciate it very much.