Two days ago, I told you about the Religious Right’s attack on Kevin Jennings, the head of the Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. They claim that he failed to report a case of statutory rape in 1988, and admitted as much in a 2000 speech in Iowa. I pointed out that based on Jennings’ 1994 book, he indirectly and pretty definitively placed the boy’s age at late 16 or early 17, which is over the Massachusetts age of consent.
On The Situation Room today, CNN’s Jessica Yellin said…exactly the same thing. Twice.
I can’t believe they didn’t even give me a shout out!!! [insert fake angry smiley thing here]
Kevin Jennings’ statement released last night:
Twenty one years later I can see how I should have handled this situation differently. I should have asked for more information and consulted legal or medical authorities. Teachers back then had little training or guidance about this kind of thing. All teachers should have a basic level of preparedness. I would like to see the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools play a bigger role in helping to prepare teachers.
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Sec. Jennings came up in today’s White House press briefing:
Q On a different subject, the right went after Van Jones for statements that he had made in the past. He lost a job. This guy Yosi Sergant at the National Endowment of the Arts was their next target. He lost his job. Now conservatives are going after Kevin Jennings at the Department of Education for what they say is, I don’t know, facilitating — I can’t tell what it was — but anyway, something bad. (Laughter.) It was facilitating statutory rape. And I’m wondering, first of all, if you guys — are you aware of this latest campaign? Do you have anything substantive to say about what they are saying about this guy, Kevin Jennings, and when does — what do you think of this hop-scotching from appointment — Obama appointment to Obama appointment?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the Department of Education had a statement on this. I would point you to that. I think there are many good people from every political persuasion that seek to serve their country and serve in government. I think it’s a sacrifice, but one that people do voluntarily because they love their country.
I think it’s a shame to watch what they do — I think it’s a shame — I hope that as people watch, they’ll match up some of the actual truth to what is being said on some of these occasions and start to provide a little reality check to some of what’s going on.
As I said Tuesday, there is no better person than Kevin Jennings for the job that he has been hired to do. Jennings has spent the majority of his adult life making schools safe for all students; it would be a tragedy to lose his expertise because of this big ball of nothing.