A gay ex-employee of Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition filed a politically explosive lawsuit, claiming the civil rights leader demeaned, humiliated and harassed the homosexual man and consigned him to repulsive and degrading tasks before firing him.
Tommy R. Bennett, 55, filed the discrimination complaint with the Chicago’s Commission on Human Rights that alleges serial ill treatment due to his sexual orientation. Bennett was allegedly given “demeaning and demoralizing tasks” that he was required to perform as part of his duties for PUSH, such as escorting women to and from Jackson’s hotel room and cleaning up after sexual intercourse; fetching erectile dysfunction pills for Jackson; and, in one instance, being asked to apply ointment to a rash on Jackson’s inner thigh.
Bennett’s complaints automatically carry an air of plausibility and credibility based on Jackson’s past reputation for womanizing and fathering a child outside of his marriage. Worse, however, is that the complaint could subject Jackson to charges of flagrant hypocrisy because he almost single-handedly made the plight of gay and lesbian Americans a part of the overall civil rights movement.
Not surprisingly, Rainbow PUSH categorically deny the charges, saying in a prepared statement: “The Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., unequivocally deny Tommy Bennett’s false claims of harassment, retaliation and discrimination. We are fully cooperating with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations and expect to be fully exonerated.”
Many may have become familiarized with Bennett from his past stints as “Aruba Tommy” on the “Tom Joyner Morning Show.” Though the complaint was filed less than three months after Bennett’s termination in December 2009, the complaint only recently received the attention after a Chicago LGBT newspaper, the Windy City Times, published an article on the subject, which was then shared on Twitter by Joyner and others.
In the complaint, Bennett stated why he acquiesced to the supposed grotesque treatment of Jackson and his staff:
“They asked me to travel with the Reverend for just a couple of weeks, and that turned into a year,” Bennett told theGrio.com
“I would never apply for a job to pack his clothes, clean up the hotel room after he met different folks there, buy his underclothes,” he says. “[But] I tried my best because I loved serving the community and, before my feelings, I put the community first.” –terry shropshire