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. Some serious "all or nothing" thinking going on here. She wasn't perfect, so she must be evil incarnate. Don't misunderstand; I get the importance of language. I want anyone who speaks out on issues important to us all to be absolutely sincere, never make a misstep, and always say just the thing that will win over hearts and minds. But I am also pragmatic.

    Go ahead. Teach those phonies a lesson by not voting, or voting for someone who hasn't a snowball's chance. Throw those babies out with the bath water; the world is overpopulated anyway. But first, spend some time in front of the mirror, imagining how your nose-less, spited face is gonna look.

    Posted by: TJ | Oct 14, 2010 11:10:44 AM

  2. "Let's not bite the hand that feeds us"

    I don't know about you, but I don't eat out of ANYBODY's hand. Especially when it is a constitutionally derived RIGHT like equality. It's not some treat being doled out by some benevolent overseer. And all you apologists are a fucking embarassment. Get some self respect before you dare to lecture any of the rest of us.

    Posted by: gaylib | Oct 14, 2010 11:14:10 AM

  3. By the way, I do agree with the posters as far as Capehart is concerned.

    I think that pursuing the line of questioning about Jarrett's choice of phrase would have in no way jeapordized Miss Capehart's precious WH access.

    Capehart is such a tool.

    Posted by: Chitown Kev | Oct 14, 2010 11:21:17 AM

  4. No, If she meant what she said her apology would read:

    "I did not intend for my remarks to hurt anyone"

    THAT is not an apology, that is a burn, its "Sorry you are such a pussy, pussy". Her apology was a real apology, she apologies for her word choice and admits to doing the thing that pissed people off.

    People screw up, don't be so childish people, if someone apologies be an adult and accept. You don't need to forget but you can forgive, you assholes.

    Posted by: Fenrox | Oct 14, 2010 11:22:20 AM

  5. @gay lib: I'd say the hand got bit, or at least harshly smacked. The result was to immediately apologize and admit the error. But clearly, the error should never have happened in the first place, so we are back to either/ or, all or nothing. Idealistic, but not practical.

    Posted by: TJ | Oct 14, 2010 11:22:46 AM

  6. It is what she did not say that matters- and she did not say what the White House plans to do to prosecute every school administrator who does not follow their state education department laws about making sure that every student has a safe school in which to learn.

    Posted by: Demand Equality | Oct 14, 2010 11:24:45 AM

  7. I thought she was smarter.
    After a couple of months of Obama in the White House I wrote here on Towleroad: where is the change...? I was called inpatient (okay) and whatsoever not nice (not okay).
    It is clear now: NO CHANGE! That's what I believe in.

    Posted by: Martin FLL | Oct 14, 2010 11:25:38 AM

  8. Good intentions are great. How about looking deeper and tackling where all this bullying comes from? Cultural and legal practices against gay Americans must change now -- talk and belated apologies are not enough.

    Posted by: X | Oct 14, 2010 11:36:08 AM

  9. She's Carl Pallidino in a dress.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 14, 2010 11:46:54 AM

  10. @x - you are right. Belated apologies are not enough. It's why we keep fighting. We call people out. We keep trying to change hearts and minds. I wouldn't blame anyone for waiting for actions before fully accepting words. We called the woman out. She listened. We may not have completely changed a heart and a mind. But we may have started a process. As FENROX above suggests, the adult thing is to accept an apology. It doesn't mean that that's the end of the story.

    Posted by: TJ | Oct 14, 2010 11:56:20 AM

  11. OH GET OVER IT and get out and lobby against republican and wingnut candidates who want to overturn gay marriage in iowa and in parts of my state (CALIFORNIA) wish to see biblical punishment instated for gay people (death by stoning) GET OUT AND GET ACTIVATED TO TELL YOUR CANDIDATES WHAT YOU WANT AND HOLD THEIR FEET TO THE FIRE. Don't just bitch on this site. Take action. You think John McCain and Sarah Palin would be championing our cause now? Really? Do you think ODonnell will? How about the guy running against Feingold? These are the real issues. Don't take your toys and go home mad. TAKE ACTION.

    Posted by: rapture | Oct 14, 2010 12:19:59 PM

  12. I'm so sorry, Valerie. You're still an asswipe.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Oct 14, 2010 12:32:55 PM

  13. Question: A White House senior adviser is sent as a representative to speak to a different minority, let's say Asian groups or African-American groups. The next day, she gives an interview where she talks about "the Orientals" or "the Negroes."

    What's the most likely scenario?:

    A) the White House fires her a** so fast it makes her head spin and she doesn't get a chance to apologize until after she's lost her job.

    B) she apologizes a few days later, keeps her job, and everybody moves on.

    The correct answer is: likely "A" for most other minorities; inevitably "B" if the minority is gays.

    Posted by: bobbyjoe | Oct 14, 2010 12:41:22 PM

  14. Ah, another one of this kind of apology:


    Posted by: PDX Guy | Oct 14, 2010 12:57:54 PM

  15. great, so tell your boss to change his mind on appealing the ruling ending discrimination in the military

    Posted by: r | Oct 14, 2010 1:28:01 PM

  16. She used a phrase that was always code for "gays choose to be this way and it's wrong" -- I'm glad she apologized, and believe she understands it better now, but it's horrible that the White House apparently doesn't know many gay people and hasn't given LGBT equality issues more than 30 minutes of sustained thought. With the teen suicides so in the news, we could use some Presidential leadership -- a brief talk from our leader, fluently using words like "gay" and "lesbian", speaking to those teens and to bullies and their parents, saying that it's OK to be gay.

    Yeah, not gonna happen. Every antigay politician and talking head now opposes marriage equality by saying that they "believe what President Obama believes." This is a big problem. He needs to say something.

    I don't think he or Michelle really have any gay friends. We are not part of their lives (dress designers don't count).

    Posted by: Jeff | Oct 14, 2010 1:35:33 PM

  17. Why is it that Obama, his wife and numerous people in the Obama administration, always say they misspoke. Don't they have speech writers? Can't they just apologize. I've never seen an administration say this as much as they do.

    Posted by: Name: | Oct 14, 2010 2:15:46 PM

  18. To hear a white house offical strongly state that sexual orientation is not a choice is really great. I'm pretty sure it is something we never got out of the Bush white house, and didn't the clinton administration skirt around this issue (or am I misremembering).

    However, we need more than an apology, someone should be pounding the white house on this.

    Posted by: Joe | Oct 14, 2010 2:22:49 PM

  19. The hand that feeds us? C'mon...you aren't sellin' that line still, are you? LOL! Sad little faggots...you get nothing, and some of you LIKE IT!

    OF course this was an accident. However, it's a revealing accident. And that's that...the cat's out of the bag, and the administration's conception of gay people is about thirty to forty years out of date (they simply have no relevant reference point)...and if that's so, just imagine what the bush admin's was...

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 14, 2010 2:23:31 PM

  20. She is not too old to know better. I am a gay man of her age and she's been around long enough, especially in Chicago, to be well versed in language that is appropriate and not demeaning. The language she used is demeaning and in using it she is buying into the Christianist attacks on us.

    That being said, I hope she's sorry about the language she used and not about the reaction. She knows better.

    Posted by: Keith | Oct 14, 2010 2:34:34 PM

  21. It's important to remember that Obama was *for* marriage equality until he decided to run for President.

    He seems not to understand the implications of that, what it says to us about his heart. Gay equality is not a matter of principle to him, only a matter of politics.

    I hold no hope that Clinton would have been any better. I will continue to vote anti-Republican, since they're worse, but in truth, we've all been disenfranchised, and there is no one to believe in.

    Posted by: adamblast | Oct 14, 2010 3:04:27 PM

  22. "Gay equality is not a matter of principle to him, only a matter of politics."

    Which pulls the curtain back on the principles that guide his decisions. Are you calling our president a whore? A whore with no scruple except his own self promotion and aggrandizement? I find this troubling from an OBOT.

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 14, 2010 3:10:34 PM

  23. Yeah, "she meant what she said" about this one little term, but she must be lying about all the other words she said.

    Makes perfect sense... if you're dimwitted.

    I'm about the same age she is and at the time when she probably first started working with gay people, WE used that same term.

    Posted by: BobN | Oct 14, 2010 3:17:20 PM

  24. I'll believe that this administration cares anything about LGBT people when the President himself makes a statement about, anti-gay bullying, youth suicide, and himself goes to a fundraiser by an LGBT organization! ( BTW, I fucking hate HRC, and have for many years, and have never felt that they were an organization that should be at the forefront of our community!)

    Posted by: Bobo | Oct 14, 2010 3:22:54 PM

  25. This is typical political backpedaling.

    Posted by: CB | Oct 14, 2010 6:36:55 PM

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