FLASHBACK: Rep. Steve King Defended Republicans Who Covered Up Actual Sexual Misconduct With Minors

October 05, 2009 1:55 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

It was only a matter of time before Rep. Steve King (R-IA) took up the religious right's crusade against Kevin Jennings.

Three years ago, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) defended Republican leaders who failed to report Rep. Mark Foley's (R-FL) inappropriate advances toward a teenage male. 

According to the Des Moines Register, King claimed the GOP leadership "has publicly said they had no knowledge of the vile instant messages" sent by Foley.  That statement was reported on October 3, 2006 -- two days after the Washington Post reported that Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) had been aware of Foley's behavior for months. 

Nevertheless, King is now attacking Kevin Jennings, the head of the Office of Safe & Drug Free Schools, for supposedly "look[ing] the other way on sexual abuse" (a lie that has already been debunked). In a press release, the far-right lawmaker called on President Obama to "fire" Jennings immediately:

Kevin Jennings lacks the appropriate qualifications and ethical standards to serve in a presidential administration. Despite serving as the 'safe schools' czar, Jennings has demonstrated a willingness to look the other way on sexual abuse. His life's work has been the promotion of homosexuality, even in elementary schools, and he has demonstrated no qualifications to make students safer in our schools. Jennings is committed to the 'safety' of only a narrow portion of American students, while expressing disdain for religion and traditional values. President Obama should fire Kevin Jennings immediately. [King Press Release, 10/5/09]

King is basically regurgitating false attacks propagated by the homophobic Family Research Council, which launched a smear campaign against Jennings in July, and Fox News.  Last week, Fox News repeatedly claimed that Jennings had failed to report the "statutory rape" of a 15 year-old gay student.

In reality, the student was sixteen and there was no sexual activity to cover up; the whole "controversy" was manufactured.  The student provided Media Matters and CNN with his driver's license and the following statement (emphasis added):

Since I was of legal consent at the time, the fifteen-minute conversation I had with Mr. Jennings twenty-one years ago is of nobody's concern but his and mine. However, since the Republican noise machine is so concerned about my "well-being" and that of America's students, they'll be relieved to know that I was not "inducted" into homosexuality, assaulted, raped, or sold into sexual slavery.

In 1988, I had taken a bus home for the weekend, and on the return trip met someone who was also gay. The next day, I had a conversation with Mr. Jennings about it. I had no sexual contact with anybody at the time, though I was entirely legally free to do so. I was a sixteen year-old going through something most of us have experienced: adolescence. I find it regrettable that the people who have the compassion and integrity to protect our nation's students are themselves in need of protection from homophobic smear attacks. Were it not for Mr. Jennings' courage and concern for my well-being at that time in my life, I doubt I'd be the proud gay man that I am today.

-         Brewster

Fox News has even issued an online correction (although that does nothing to make up for the vicious on-air attacks).  Will Rep. King do the same?