Jackson Subject of Gay Harassment Complaint
By BJ Lutz [not a pun!] – NBC Chicago – Apr 14, 2011
A former employee of the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. at the Rainbow Push Coalition has filed a bombshell wrongful termination and discrimination complaint against the civil rights leader with the City of Chicago’s Commission on Human Rights. The complaint, filed sometime last year by Tommy R. Bennett, a regular on the Tom Joyner Radio show and member of Barack Obama’s LGBT Leadership Council, includes shocking allegations about Jackson’s behavior toward the openly gay staffer including an allegation that the civil rights leader propositioned him.
Jackson has denied the allegations in a legal response that was filed in July 2010 and resurfaced when the Windy City Times published a story Tuesday.
Bennett, 55, claims Jackson ridiculed him in front of other employees and required him to perform “humiliating tasks” like escorting women to Jackson’s various hotel rooms, cleaning up after alleged trysts and packing his clothing. It also includes an allegation that Jackson asked for oral sex, according to the claim.
Jackson flatly denied each claim in his response. “The Rainbow PUSH Coalition unequivocally deny Tommy Bennett’s false claims of harassment, retaliation and discrimination,” the organization said in a statement released late Thursday, adding that it is “fully cooperating with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations and expect to be fully exonerated.”
Bennett has not commented to NBCChicago.
Bennett worked for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition for more than two years as the National Director of Community Affairs. The complaint states that Bennett endured a string of discriminatory treatment from multiple supervisors, but his protests were met with deaf ears.
In 2008, Bennett assumed the duties of Jackson’s travel assistant. In that capacity, Bennett alleges to “clean his [hotel] room after sexual intercourse with women.”
Bennett’s complaint requests back and front pay, compensation for emotional distress and punitive damages all to the tune of roughly $450,000. Bennett also wants an amendment to the civil rights organization’s non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Jackson, a former presidential candidate, has been married to his wife, Jacqueline Lavinia Brown, since 1962, but has had bouts with infidelity. One affair with a staffer resulted in the birth of a girl in 1999. He has five children with Brown, including Jesse Jackson, Jr., who represents Illinois’ 2nd District in the United States House of Representatives.
H/t our brilliant political artist Bob Keyser!
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