Bullying | Jonathan Capehart | News | Valerie Jarrett

White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett Apologizes for Calling Homosexuality a 'Lifestyle Choice'

Yesterday's post about Jonathan Capehart's Washington Post interview with White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, in which she referred to anti-gay bullying victim Justin Aaberg's sexuality as a "lifestyle choice", inspired a great deal of comments.

Jarrett Today, Capehart defended Jarrett, saying she's "no bigot", and published an apology from Jarrett for her use of the term.

Jarrett's statement:

"In a recent interview I was asked about the recent tragedies about gay youth who have committed suicide, and I misspoke when I referred to someone's sexual identity as a 'lifestyle choice.' I meant no disrespect to the LGBT community, and I apologize to any who have taken offense at my poor choice of words. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not a choice, and anyone who knows me and my work over the years knows that I am a firm believer and supporter in the rights of LGBT Americans. Most of all, I hope this does not distract from the issue I was asked about -- the desperate, tragic decision by some young people who feel that their only recourse is to take their own lives because they are being bullied or harassed because they are gay, or because others believe they are gay. We must instill in young people respect for one another, and we must set an example of mutual regard and civility to create an environment that is safe for every person, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."

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  1. Good. Somebody is listening. Now they need to start ACTING!

    Posted by: Sean | Oct 14, 2010 10:10:10 AM

  2. No -the fact remains -she does believe what she said yesterday as do most of Barry's staff. They fundamentally do not understand, won't understand and have no desire to fully understand. Very sad for LBGT people who thought it would be different.

    Posted by: nick | Oct 14, 2010 10:11:27 AM

  3. Good- they need to know that we're listening and that they have to speak and act carefully.

    Posted by: D Gregory smith | Oct 14, 2010 10:14:47 AM

  4. I'm sorry - but the phrase 'lifestyle choice' doesn't just rolloff the tongue. People don't just say it out of the blue... she said what she meant. She just got careless and slipped. She's as much a 'friend' the LGBT community as Obama is our 'fierce advocate.'

    Posted by: Jon Brian Blake | Oct 14, 2010 10:17:22 AM

  5. F*** you Jarrett - you offensive moron.

    F*** you Obama you lying hypocrite.

    F*** you HRC for your betrayal of the LGBT community.

    Direct action seems more useful than the HRC at this point

    Posted by: Martin Murray | Oct 14, 2010 10:18:37 AM

  6. whatever. A forced apology because she let slip what she REALLY thinks? not nearly good enough. And she has the fucking audacity to say this: "anyone who knows me and my work over the years knows that I am a firm believer and supporter in the rights of LGBT Americans." Well, if that weren't just a self-serving lie then you would have resigned your job in protest at this point. You have done nothing for our community and your indignant "apology" only reinforces the notion that you feel superior to those of us who "choose" to be gay. Fuck you Valerie.

    Posted by: gaylib | Oct 14, 2010 10:18:51 AM

  7. People don't use those terms by accident. She's not really sorry.

    Posted by: Kira | Oct 14, 2010 10:21:57 AM

  8. Can someone tell me the difference between the Obama Administration and the Republican party? They both do their best to manipulate our community to their advantage.

    Posted by: Gary Brown | Oct 14, 2010 10:22:36 AM

  9. Sorry, the White House's Freudian slip is showing. Want to help LGBT youth understand their value as human beings? Be the fierce advocate you promised to be and do everything you can to overturn DOMA and DADT and pass ENDA immediately. It's a trite phrase, but actions DO speak louder than words. This is a hollow apology that would make Carl Paladino proud.

    Posted by: Tim | Oct 14, 2010 10:22:45 AM

  10. I think it's one of those things that a not-too-intelligent person says when they are trying to be politically correct about something they actually don't care too much about. She's probably no bigot, as she claimed. Somewhere deep down, she probably just thinks that being gay is frivolous, but non-offensive. She probably doesn't care that much.

    She needs to be fired immediately.

    Posted by: Andalusian Dog | Oct 14, 2010 10:24:39 AM

  11. She said that she was wrong, that she does not believe that it is a lifestyle choice.

    I don't believe that she had any ill intent.

    Apology accepted.

    You know, Jarrett is in her mid-50's. I know supporters of gay people who are her age that use "lifestyle choice" as well (including some gays).

    It is a bit of an anachronism.

    I'm glad that she took heat over this because, yes, nomenclature is important but noneed to browbeat Jarrett over something like this.

    Posted by: Chitown Kev | Oct 14, 2010 10:24:56 AM

  12. It is careless comments such as hers that demean gay people (even among "straight supporters") and promote an environment of intolerance that leads to bullying, violence, and suicide. The White House must be so proud right now.

    Posted by: Andalusian Dog | Oct 14, 2010 10:26:33 AM

  13. When the wing nuts seize control next month, all this will be a moot point.

    Posted by: Rad | Oct 14, 2010 10:27:25 AM

  14. The standard "non-apology" apology

    "I apologize to any who have taken offense at my poor choice of words."

    How about this instead:

    "I apologize for my offensive choice of words"

    Why does it have to be couched in language that makes it clear that some people may not have been offended? Like anyone who was offended really has the problem of being over sensitive?

    The woman is a professional adviser and spokesperson for the most powerful man in the world. She certainly ought to know the proper language to use when speaking about LGBT issues. She didn't "misspeak". "Lifestyle choice" was the phrase that came naturally to her. Maybe she didn't intend to be offensive. Maybe she didn't know any better. But, it certainly proves that she didn't care enough to have made herself knowledgeable beforehand. Can you think of any other minority group she would have spoken about without having prepared herself beforehand? You know the White House goes to great lengths to make sure the don't make these kinds of "mistakes" when talking about or meeting with foreign dignitaries. Why the lackluster attitude wen it comes to the LGBT community?

    Posted by: Tim | Oct 14, 2010 10:27:37 AM

  15. I think it WAS a mistake. "lifestyle choice" is the kind of nonsense phrase that just get's programmed into people. Especially older people.

    My mother, who is very supportive, sometimes uses "choice" when talking about LGBTQs and it's because *she doesn't understand the implications of it being a choice*. The important thing is that she knows that I *am* gay, not that I *choose* to be.

    She's not part of our community, she's not fully cognizant of what the nuance of the words mean. AND we have bigger problems. We called her out, she apologized, good. Now let's focus back on DADT and gay youth.

    Posted by: John P | Oct 14, 2010 10:29:26 AM

  16. Oh please, it's semantics. She made a linguistic error. You know most straight people are not as finely tuned to the semantics of LGBT language as gay people. Apology accepted, issue over.

    Posted by: Mike C. | Oct 14, 2010 10:29:35 AM

  17. Let's be clear: if we had a Republican administration, there would be no chance of such a misstatement, because there would have been no statement about anti-gay bullying since the Republicans believe the issue either does not exist or must be silenced.

    So, I give her credit for speaking out to begin with and for apologizing for her ignorant choice of words. The unfortunate thing is that her choice of words has become the story, and she deserves full blame for that. In 2010, anyone who is claiming to speak with authority on gay issues should know how wrong and offensive the term "lifestyle choice" is to gay people. When your tone-deafness becomes more powerful than your message, you need to do better, a lot better. We shouldn't have to keep telling the administration this, but . . .

    Posted by: Ernie | Oct 14, 2010 10:32:46 AM

  18. Valerie Jarrett's opposition to bullying is as meaningless as this apology.

    Is it any wonder LGBT teens are bullied when the president validates homophobia by opposing marriage equality, by defending DADT; by doing nothing about DOMA or ENDA, and when his special adviser Valerie Jarrett says that being gay is a 'lifestyle choice'.

    The Obama administration is scarcely any better than the Bush administration. At least with Bush we knew he hated us.

    Obama claims to support us, but opposes our civil and human rights at every possible moment.

    I'll be voting Green from now on. Votinf for the 'lesser of 2 evils' simply doesn't cut it any more, for me.

    Posted by: Martin Murray | Oct 14, 2010 10:33:56 AM

  19. Mistake or not, words matter so they need to be chosen very carefully. This is especially true when speaking from or on behalf of The White House. Whether mistakenly saying a young person made a "lifestyle choice" or suggesting that one is working to end DADT this year (eh, Mr. President?), it does matter what you say and how you say it.

    Posted by: Rob | Oct 14, 2010 10:40:21 AM

  20. She's a good woman, and I believe she meant no harm.

    However, that she's not versed in correct language indicates a White House that has no high-level presidential staff who are intensely conversant with LGBT issues. And that's the problem -- not her terrible words, but that nobody close to the President knows exactly what equality is all about.

    Posted by: K in VA | Oct 14, 2010 10:45:41 AM

  21. Andy leaves out the most disturbing part of Capehart's defense of Jarrett. Although Capehart acknowledges that Jarrett made an error, he apparently does not think that he did anything wrong. He says he did not correct Jarrett because he knows her heart. That does not in any way explain his choice to have the video posted, without even a blog post from him acknowledging her use of the term "lifestyle choice" and his decision to let it pass.

    Jonathan Capehart really doesn't get it. And the thing is, he goes on TV as a representative of the gay community. He is window-dressing, who is willing to help the Washington Post cover up the anti-gay agenda many of its editors want to push.

    Please help call Jonathan Capehart out on this, and on his previous, mindless support of the Obama administration.

    Posted by: Vector Shente | Oct 14, 2010 10:45:41 AM

  22. I think she is doing the right thing to apologize, and I don't think she felt forced to do so—it was brought to her attention what she was implying and she immediately apologized. I think she's a smart, capable woman who's on our side; if I'm not mistaken, she has in the past intimated that she herself is pro-marriage equality. Regardless, she is not an enemy. If we're down to arguing about whether Valerie Jarrett is an enemy of the gays, I don't see us ever making progress of any kind because there will always be someone to fight against.

    She's one of the good guys. I do believe that saying "lifestyle choice" is easy to do. That was a very accepted phrase when she was younger and I think when government officials begin speaking for print they try to sound as "appropriate" as possible. This was clearly the wrong phrase, but she just as clearly gets that.

    I'd rather re-focus on pressuring Obama on DADT and DOMA than crucifying admittedly not-so-powerful allies for blunders for which they've abjectly apologized.

    Posted by: Matthew Rettenmund | Oct 14, 2010 10:48:58 AM

  23. Can we give the woman a break? People make mistakes. She obviously is a huge supporter of us. Come on people. Let's not bite the hand that feeds us.

    Posted by: Will | Oct 14, 2010 10:55:15 AM

  24. @Matthew - agreed. The apology, apparently heartfelt and informed, does not create some "credit" on the ledgar, merely offsets the "debit" created by her ill-chosen (no pun intended) words. There is still a whole lot of debit balance to be paid off!

    Posted by: Sean | Oct 14, 2010 10:56:10 AM

  25. I agree with the majority of posters here who recognize this was no "slip of the tongue" and she meant what she originally said. It is the pervading attitude in this country that we all had to have chosen our orientation, despite the growing scientific evidence to the contrary. Sigh.

    Posted by: Keith | Oct 14, 2010 10:56:26 AM

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