Huffpost Media
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Terry Krepel Headshot

Accuracy in Media's Smear of Kevin Jennings Backfires

Posted: Updated:

It's never good when an organization does something that runs contrary to its name.

In the case of Accuracy in Media, that means publishing something inaccurate. But AIM has done that before -- its columns by Cliff Kincaid and Don Feder, among others, are laden with false, misleading, or just plain bizarre claims. This time, however, AIM went from beyond merely false to potentially libelous.

A Dec. 10 AIM blog post by Allie Duzett, "an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia," was headlined "Media Ignore Pedophile Schools Czar" and began this way:

While CBSNews.com has 108 stories on the Salahis, the site only features one story on the "Safe Schools Czar" of the Obama administration, Kevin Jennings. The article on Jennings, entitled "Kevin Jennings Gets Boost from White House," was written on October 1, 2009. The article defends Jennings, who was selected for the position largely because of his work founding and directing the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a radical gay promotion group.

However, since October 2009, a lot has happened with President Obama's favorite pedophile. Videos have surfaced of Jennings teaching 14-year-old boys the dangerous sexual practice of "fisting," and discussing with them the particulars of oral sex.

The second paragraph is entirely false. The controversial session to which Duzett is referring -- one of "over 50 sessions" at the 2000 conference sponsored by GLSEN, according to Jennings, founder of the group and its executive director at the time -- was run "by two [Massachusetts] Department of Education AIDS-HIV education specialists and a consultant to the department," as reported in a May 18, 2000, Boston Herald article highlighted by Media Matters. The Herald article went on to state that GLSEN "agreed yesterday that three workshop leaders crossed a line with raunchy content directed at students as young as 14 years old" and quoted Jennings as saying, "We need to make our expectations and guidelines to outside facilitators much more clear because we are surprised and troubled by some of the accounts we've heard."

Those false claims, it seems, was the basis of Duzett's claim that Jennings is a "pedophile." In fact, no allegations of pedophilia have been made against Jennings.

Shortly after Media Matters posted an item discrediting Duzett's claims (disclosure: I wrote that item for Media Matters), AIM removed Duzett's post from its website. (A screenshot of the full post is available at ConWebBlog.)

Given not only the false claims but the potentially libelous nature of Duzett's "pedophile" allegation, it seemed that more than a mere deletion was in order. AIM followed up the next day with a blog post that appropriately began with an apology:

Accuracy in Media regrets the publication of a blog entry accusing Department of Education official Kevin Jennings, a homosexual activist, of being a pedophile and personally teaching perverted sexual practices to young people. We have no evidence to support those specific charges. The blog entry was posted by an intern without permission, and has been taken down.

A good start. But then, AIM seemed it wanted to demonstrate that it had learned nothing from the incident by once again attempting to smear Jennings:

We continue to urge the media to vigorously investigate Jennings' background, which includes praise for homosexual activist and communist Harry Hay, a supporter of the North American Man-Boy Love Association. Jennings' role in promoting the homosexual agenda and exposing children to discussions of dangerous sexual practices through his organization, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), should also continue to be investigated. For the facts on Jennings, we suggest three important websites: www.missionamerica.com, where Linda Harvey has broken many stories about Jennings and GLSEN; www.AmericansforTruth.com, where Peter LaBarbera writes regularly about the controversy; and www.massresistance.com, where Brian Camenker has covered the scandal of Obama's appointment of Jennings in much detail.

Linking Jennings to Hays is nothing more than a guilt-by-association smear -- Jennings has never praised NAMBLA. If that's a game AIM wants to play, then it's fair to note AIM's appreciation for convicted felon and unrepentant domestic terrorist G. Gordon Liddy.

The organizations cited as a place to get "the facts on Jennings" have issues as well.

MassResistance is an anti-gay organization declared a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center that, as Media Matters has detailed, has been the springboard for numerous instances of right-wing falsehoods and misinformation about Jennings. Camenker has not only likened the gay-rights movement to Nazis, he has denied that gays and lesbians were a target of the Holocaust.

The other two organizations AIM cited are no better.

How anti-gay is Mission America's Linda Harvey? She has advocated (in her column published, naturally, at WorldNetDaily) that parents remove Harry Potter books from their children's collections because author J.K. Rowling revealed that Dumbledore is gay, asserted that "Open or suspected homosexuals should never be elected" because they are involved in "[w]eird sex, public displays of "affection" and nudity, and sex with youth," and complained that activists who opposed a bill to allow same-sex marriage in Maine weren't anti-gay enough. Mission America's attacks on Jennings and GLSEN are little more than warmed-over smears from other right-wing groups -- i.e., repeating claims about the explicitness of GLSEN's list of recommended books without noting that GLSEN also recommends that "adults selecting books for youth review content for suitability."

Peter LaBarbera, head of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, has been unambiguous in declaring that his attacks on Jennings (also based on recycled smears) are rooted in hatred of homosexuality:

One more point: it is now common for conservatives - especially non-religiously-affiliated media leaders like Sean Hannity (who should be applauded for his yeoman's work exposing Jennings) -- to make the odd disclaimer that the GLSEN/Jennings controversy (or whatever "gay"-related culture-war story they are discussing) "is not about homosexuality." Baloney. This is all about homosexuality and the "gay" activist agenda whose singular goal is to normalize homosexuality as a "civil right."

[...]

The politically correct "not-about-gays" caveat is about as illogical as claiming that the effort to expose systematic human rights abuses in China and North Korea "has nothing to with Communism." Anyone who calls himself "conservative" should know better. Besides, true conservatives should not be ashamed of enthusiastically conserving the age-old Judeo-Christian sexual/marriage ethic -- which has served mankind well and which rejects all efforts to approve of unnatural and destructive sexual behaviors condemned by God.

These are the people from whom AIM believes you can get "the facts on Jennings."

Additionally, AIM has long had an antagonism toward homosexuality. For instance:

  • AIM chairman Don Irvine wrote of "the first ever Pride month celebration at the White House": "Maybe next [President Obama] can repaint the White House a nice shade of pink and hang the rainbow flag in front to show his commitment to the gay cause."
  • AIM editor Cliff Kincaid asserted that news organizations should engage in a "Quit Gay Sex" campaign against "the dangerous and addictive homosexual lifestyle," using as justification for his argument the November "Quit to Live" anti-smoking campaign launched by ABC News after veteran journalist Peter Jennings died of lung cancer. Kincaid argued that news organizations should take up similar campaigns against homosexuality, given that "[l]ife-threatening sexually transmitted diseases among homosexuals are on the increase."
  • Kincaid claimed that the lagging ratings for the now-defunct MSNBC show The Situation with Tucker Carlson could be blamed on panelist Rachel Maddow, whom he described as "a lesbian with hair so short that she looks like a man."
  • Kincaid wrote that Howard Dean's "success" as a 2004 presidential candidate "will depend on concealing the facts about Dean's homosexual experiment -- and how he has used young people as sexual guinea pigs." Kincaid repeated a claim that "Dean was a key member of a sophisticated campaign that implemented the homosexual agenda in the state over a period of many years."

Is it any wonder that, in such an atmosphere, an AIM intern felt comfortable enough with spreading falsehoods and smears about Jennings to post them on the AIM website?

And what are those interns are being taught at AIM's American Journalism Center, the training ground for right-wing writers from which Duzett hails? Because it isn't journalism.