The Obama administration isn't adequately vetting important presidential appointees. When it was exposed that former "green jobs czar" Van Jones believed in crazy conspiracies about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, it was questionable whether anyone had even bothered to Google individuals before they received presidential appointments. In that case, the White House strategy was to refuse to answer questions and hope interest faded away. That approach worked for most of the media, which carried water for President Obama's scandal-plagued pick. Stonewalling scandal is not what Americans were expecting from an administration that promised to usher in an "unprecedented level of openness in government." Instead, a pattern of presidential obfuscation is developing.
For more than a 1 1/2 weeks now, The Washington Times has tried unsuccessfully to get the Obama administration to answer questions about the controversies surrounding Kevin Jennings, the president's "safe schools czar." On Wednesday, Mr. Jennings released a five-sentence statement regarding his knowledge about the sexual abuse of a high school sophomore named Brewster when he was a teacher at the teenager's school. After repeated denials and backpedaling, Mr. Jennings finally halfheartedly admitted this week that perhaps covering up sex between an adult and a high school student might not have been totally appropriate. "I can see how I should have handled this situation differently," he said.
This week's meager statement answered no important questions, and the evidence we have reported indicates that Mr. Jennings' behavior violated Massachusetts law. The teacher was obligated to report suspected abuse. That he didn't in at least one case reveals outrageous judgment on Mr. Jennings' part. Since the first case came to light, another purported incident has emerged. True to form, and despite repeated requests, Mr. Jennings and the Obama administration refuse to answer any questions about new complications regarding this presidential appointee's background.
In his 2006 book, "Mama's Boy, Preacher's Son," Mr. Jennings refers to a student named Robertson who had come to talk to Mr. Jennings about a homosexual relationship. This raises the possibility that Mr. Jennings did not blunder in his handling of just one student but did so with at least one other student. There are detailed write-ups in Mr. Jennings' books about all the students he counseled to "use a condom." Is it unreasonable to expect that schoolteachers and counselors like Mr. Jennings actually might discourage high school students from engaging in inappropriate and possibly dangerous relationships?
According to Mr. Jennings' own accounts, a number of differences between the Brewster and Robertson cases suggest they involve different teenagers. Among them, Brewster knew Mr. Jennings was homosexual before he sought counseling and started off their conversation by asking about how Mr. Jennings' ring symbolized his commitment to his partner. Robertson only learned about Mr. Jennings' homosexual orientation from Mr. Jennings' himself.
According to Mr. Jennings, Brewster was distraught the one time he came to talk to Mr. Jennings but left the teacher's office "with a smile on his face that I would see every time I saw him on the campus for the next two years, until he graduated." Robertson met regularly with Mr. Jennings in his office to talk about his sexual adventures but also to indicate that he was depressed about his life. Brewster appears to have had only one homosexual partner, "an older man" he discussed with Mr. Jennings, while Robertson was said to have had multiple relationships, and the ages were never mentioned.
Mr. Jennings provided detailed information about Brewster's age, his year in school and the man who picked up Brewster in a bus-station bathroom and took the teenager to the adult's home. That level of detail was not provided for Robertson.
There are some similarities in the experiences of the two boys. Both Brewster and Robertson were brought to Mr. Jennings' office by one of his advisees, possibly because the advisees knew that Mr. Jennings was homosexual and that both of these boys were engaged in homosexual relationships. Mr. Jennings relates that he asked both boys if they were in homosexual relationships before they opened up and told him about it. Both boys entered into relationships with homosexuals they met in Boston. Both boys told Mr. Jennings at some point that they didn't want to use condoms because "my life isn't worth saving anyway." This claim fits with Mr. Jennings' theory that homosexuals are burdened by society. The teacher used his discussion with Robertson as a backdrop to write that "all young gay people [were] taught that their lives were literally 'worth less' than those of straight people."
The tale gets even more troubling. On Oct. 25, 1997, at a conference for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, Mr. Jennings stated, "One of the people that's always inspired me is Harry Hay." The late Hay was a "gay-rights" activist most notorious for supporting the North American Man Boy Love Association. In 1983, speaking in support of NAMBLA, Hay claimed: "[I]f the parents and friends of gays are truly friends of gays, they would know from their gay kids that the relationship with an older man is precisely what 13-, 14-, and 15-year-old kids need more than anything else in the world."
Admiration for someone associated with such a noxious organization raises questions about the motivation behind the counseling provided by Mr. Jennings. It's possible that Mr. Jennings' astounding advice to students in his charge wasn't a mistake but was based on what he really believes is acceptable.
Serious questions about Mr. Jennings keep piling up. When the press raises legitimate ethical concerns about a high-profile presidential appointee, the White House shouldn't erect a wall of silence. It only makes us wonder what the Obama administration is trying to keep hidden in the closet.