Activist flatly denies harassment and unjust firing allegations by former staffer.
Last week ended on an embarrassing note for the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., who heads the civil-rights group Rainbow PUSH Coalition after reports surfaced that a former employee had filed a wrongful termination and harassment complaint against Jackson and his organization with Chicago’s Commission on Human Relations.
Tommy R. Bennett, also known as the Tom Joyner Morning Show’s “Aruba Tommy,” who is gay, alleges that he was unjustly fired and that during his tenure at Rainbow PUSH, he was required to perform uncomfortable tasks, such as escorting women to meet Jackson in hotels and clean up afterward, and applying cream to a rash between Jackson’s legs. He worked for the organization from 2007-2009 as its national director of community relations. Bennett is also charging that a female co-worker refused to work with him because of his sexual orientation. According to the Sun-Times, Bennett claims that he was laid off in December 2009 because of a “lack of funding” but was soon replaced by a new hire.
This isn’t the first time scandal has touched Jackson. In 2001, he admitted to an affair with a former staffer that produced a daughter.
Bennett filed his complaint last summer, but it is currently getting fresh media attention because of an article posted last week by the Windy City Times detailing some very unsavory details included in the complaint. According to that report, which is pretty disturbing, Bennett, who also served as a Jackson’s travel assistant, was called at 1 a.m. to the civil rights leader’s hotel room to take notes from Jackson who was allegedly dressed only in his skivvies and sexually aroused.
“I could tell by his look. His whole demeanor had changed. His breathing pattern had changed,” Bennett told the Windy City Times.
Rainbow PUSH “unequivocally” denies the allegations and predicts “full exoneration.” Jackson has a history of supporting gay rights and this is the first time he has been reported to harbor homophobic beliefs.
“The organization does not condone or tolerate discrimination in any form. Reverend Jesse L. Jackson Sr. and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition stands on their record of advocating for equality and human rights for all people - from standing up to affirm the humanity of persons with HIV-AIDS and advocating for HIV-AIDS education and research, to supporting marriage equality and the abolition of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy of the U.S. Military,” the statement reads. “[Bennett’s] inflammatory allegations are an attempt to malign Rev. Jackson and the organization, and are hurtful and harmful to the progressive community.”
The statement also said that the organization would not comment further while the matter is pending.
(Photo: Allen Fredrickson/Landov)