Thursday, October 14, 2010

Valerie Jarrett and "Lifestyle Choice"

via Jonathon Capehart of the Post

Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, has taken her lumps since my video interview with her was posted yesterday. We talked about infrastructure and her concern about the rash of nationally reported suicides of gay youth. Unfortunately, she trampled on that concern when she said that 13-year-old Justin Aarberg made a "lifestyle choice."

Contrary to the caustic comments on websites like firedoglake, I know Jarrett knows better than this. That's why I didn't correct her or ask her to explain herself during our sit-down at the White House. But viewers don't know her heart. They just know that what she said was offensive.

I e-mailed Jarrett last night and asked her a simple question, "Do you think being gay is a 'lifestyle choice'?" Here is her response in its entirety.

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.

Yes, Jarrett made a mistake. But those who think she and the president don't care about the rights of gay men and lesbians, don't give a damn about bullying and the tragedies of gay youth suicides are wrong. Jarrett is no Tony Perkins. She is no bigot.