A day after I raised concerns about the lack of attention the Kevin Jennings story was getting outside of the conservative press, a number of developments are changing the landscape although there is still a surprising lack of attention to this story by the mainstream media.
Progressive media watchdog Media Matters for America issued a press release attacking Fox News for launching another “smear campaign” against Jennings, the Obama’s administrations school safety czar.
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.
At the Center for American Progress–and Huffington Post–Eric Alterman argued that the Jennings story represented an “effective demonstration of the right-wing strategy of ‘working the refs’” by forcing mainstream media to follow the scandal.
Yesterday, Jennings issued an explanation for his behavior and an apology. That story was picked up by Jake Tapper at ABC, and the Los Angeles Times . Kerry Eleveld of the Advocate also had a story yesterday, as did Andy Towle at Towleroad and EDGEBoston. Today, WH Press Secretary was asked about the story and he called the attacks “a shame to watch what they do.”
The story appears to be hitting a high point and the questions being asked about Jennings are increasingly being seen as anti-gay. The story needs attention by mainstream and LGBT media not in an attempt to “save” Jennings, but instead to guarantee that Jennings story is told in a fair and accurate way.
Right now, the story is largely being told by conservative media. Whenever a story is only being shaped by one ideological perspective or another, it is bad for journalism and for the story. More voices asking more questions can prevent stories from steamrolling and, ultimately, guarantee that readers and viewers have the entire story and not just the story from one ideological perspective. When the story is told by those committed to fair and accurate coverage, it is always better for the news consumer and the subjects of new stories.