Jesse Jackson Hit with Gay Harassment Complaint
Civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson is the subject of a complaint from an openly gay former employee who alleges that Jackson targeted him for taunts and "humiliating tasks"--and asked him for oral sex.
The complaint was filed last year with the City of Chicago’s Commission on Human Rights, reported NBC Chicago on April 14.
The complaint, which was filed by Tommy R. Bennett, 55, is not a lawsuit, the article specified, though Bennett is seeking $450,000 in compensation. Bennett worked for Jackson at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, where--the complaint alleges--he was given "humiliating" assignments that included bringing women to Jackson in hotel rooms and tidying up after Jackson’s assignations. The complaint also claims that Jackson requested Bennett to service him orally.
Jackson says that all Bennett’s claims are false, the article reported.
"The Rainbow PUSH Coalition unequivocally deny Tommy Bennett’s false claims of harassment, retaliation and discrimination," an April 13 statement from the group said. The statement added that the Rainbow PUSH Coalition is "fully cooperating with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations and expect to be fully exonerated."
The group’s response followed an April 12 article in the Windy City Times on Bennett’s complaint.
"Rev. Jackson has a long record of support for LGBT rights, including during his runs for U.S. president and his speech at the LGBT March on Washington in 1987," the Windy City Times piece noted. "This is believed to be the first time an allegation has come forward claiming he was involved in sexual orientation harassment and discrimination."
According to the complaint, during Bennett’s two years with the group--during which time he acted as National Director of Community Affairs--he was subjected to anti-gay harassment from his superiors. Though he complained, nothing was done to rectify the situation, the filing asserts. Bennett was terminated in December, 2009--wrongfully so, the complaint asserts.
Bennett’s sexuality was a matter of public knowledge because he also worked in radio, appearing on the Tom Joyner Morning Show as flamboyant Aruba Tommy.
When Bennett became Jackson’s travel assistant, the complaint says, he was given tasks that included bringing women to Jackson’s rooms and then straightening up "[Jackson’s] room after sexual intercourse with women." The complaint also alleges that Bennett himself was approached by Jackson for sexual favors, on one occasion requesting that Bennett apply an unguent to Jackson to treat "a rash between his legs."
On another occasion, the complaint asserts, Jackson--in a half-dressed state and allegedly sexually aroused--regaled Bennett with a suggestive anecdote.
"Before Mr. Bennett left, Rev. Jackson stated that white folks took the word ’gay’ and gave the word its own definition. Rev. Jackson further stated that he was a real poor child in North Carolina and his name was first Jesse Burns, and then Jesse Robinson and then he became Jesse Jackson.
"Rev. Jackson stated that he played football and there was a gay high school teacher who took Rev. Jackson under his wings and told him that he needed education to go along with football," the complaint says, according to the Windy City Times article. "Rev. Jackson said, ’[F]rom that gay teacher, I got a good grade, I got to use his car, I got ten dollars and I got my dick sucked.’ Rev. Jackson said, ’[T]hat’s not gay, that is surviving.’"
The complaint also asserts that though Bennett was let go from the Rainbow PUSH Coalition ostensibly because of funding issues, others were hired by the group after his firing.
"[Jackson] used me as a scapegoat because he was dating two women," Bennett told the Windy City Times. "However, because I knew what was going on, he told his family and friends that I wrote a letter [outing one of the girlfriends], which was not true. By doing that, it looked like I was the bad person. At that point, [one of the alleged mistresses] told [Jackson] to get rid of me."
Along with compensation, Bennett wants GLBT-inclusive language to be added to the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s anti-discrimination policy.