Jesse Jackson Sued: Harassment and Discrimination Against Gay Employee

The complaint makes serious (and scandalous) allegations against the civil rights leader and Rainbow PUSH.

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A former employee of Jesse Jackson Sr. has filed a wrongful termination and discrimination case against Jackson and his Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the Chicago Sun Times reports.  

In the complaint, filed with Chicago's Commission on Human Rights, Tommy R. Bennett alleges that Jackson fired him unjustly because he is gay, and that the civil rights leader forced him to perform "uncomfortable" tasks.

Bennett, who worked at the coalition as the national director of community affairs, says that his sexual orientation was known throughout the workplace primarily because of his side job: being "Aruba Tommy" on The Tom Joyner Morning Show.

He claims that Caroline Wiggins, the membership and volunteer coordinator, complained to Jackson that she did not wish to work with him because he was gay, and no action was taken when he reported this. The complaint also includes more lurid allegations, including that Jackson demanded that Bennett put cream between his legs to handle a rash, called him a "little motherf---er" and forced him to escort women to hotel rooms to meet Jackson -- and then clean up afterward.

"The Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. unequivocally deny Tommy Bennett's false claims of harassment, retaliation and discrimination," PUSH spokeswoman Lauren Love said in a written statement. "We are fully cooperating with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations and expect to be fully exonerated."

Jackson has a record of support for LGBT rights, including during his runs for president and his speech at the LGBT March on Washington in 1987. But that record isn't free from scandal. Jackson has admitted to an affair with a staffer, Karin Stanford, that resulted in the birth of a daughter, Ashley.

The coalition's statement goes on to say that Bennett's "inflammatory allegations are an attempt to malign Rev. Jackson and the organization, and are hurtful and harmful to the progressive community."

Clearly, someone's not telling the truth. We don't know how the facts will shake out, but "hurtful and harmful" is an accurate characterization of this scandal, regardless of the outcome.

Read more at the Chicago Sun-Times and the Windy City Times.

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