Rev. Jesse Jackson, who at one time was a respected civil rights leader, has responded to a former employee's allegations that he was fired for being gay.
According to the Windy City Times, in the original complaint, Tommy Bennett—who worked at Jackson's Rainbow Coalition from 2007-2009 as the national director of community affairs, said his sexual orientation was known to his co-workers due to his high profile side job as a radio personality on the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show.
Bennett claims he experienced discrimination almost immediately after he started the job. In addition to discrimination, Bennett said he was subjected to verbal abuse and asked to perform demeaning tasks as Jackson's travel assistant.
In 2008, Bennett claims he "was summoned to Rev. Jackson's hotel room" at the Hilton Chicago O'Hare Airport Hotel, and instructed to apply cream to Jackson, who "had a rash between his legs."
Another time at the same hotel, Bennett says Jackson summoned him again, and this time he was dressed only in his "briefs and a v-neck t-shirt." Jackson allegedly became visibly aroused and his "breathing pattern had changed."
Bennett is demanding a total of $450,000 for emotional distress and punitive damages. He is also asking for an amendment of Rainbow PUSH's non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Jesse Jackson strongly denied the allegations in an official response, calling the explosive allegations "hurtful and harmful to the progressive community".
Jackson's joint response with Rainbow PUSH stated:
The organization does not condone or tolerate discrimination in any form. [Bennett's] inflammatory allegations are an attempt to malign Rev. Jackson and the organization, and are hurtful and harmful to the progressive community. We are fully cooperating with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations and expect to be fully exonerated.”