Valerie Jarrett, an adviser to former President Barack Obama, is at the center of a huge media firestorm after Roseanne Barr posted a racist tweet, which cost Barr her highly-rated sitcom. Here’s what you need to know about the woman behind Roseanne Barr’s offensive tweet and the aftermath that cost the comedienne her job.
Fact 1: Jarrett has been with Obama since his earliest days in politics — although she originally met him through Michelle Obama
Jarrett traces her relationship with Obama back to their time in Chicago politics. She held a number of positions in the city government, including chief of staff for Mayor Richard Daley and the head of the Chicago Transit Board from 1995 to 2005.
Back in 1991, she interviewed a young woman named Michelle Robinson for a job and immediately hired her. Robinson introduced her fiancé, Barack Obama, to Jarrett. Thus began one of the most powerful political partnerships to come out of Chicago.
After her stint in city government, Jarrett then entered the private sector as the CEO of the Habitat Company until she was picked by Barack Obama to be a member of his administration.
Having long been an adviser to the Illinois senator, she officially became tipped to be the White House’s senior adviser almost immediately after his election. She’s stayed busy after the end of Obama’s terms, joining the board of ride-sharing app Lyft.
Fact 2: Jarrett was arguably the closest person to the president — and one of the most controversial.
“Unlike Bert Lance, who arrived from Georgia with President (Jimmy Carter) and became his budget director, or Karen Hughes, who was President (George W.) Bush’s communications manager, Ms. Jarrett isn’t a confidante with a particular portfolio,” The Wall Street Journal reported in 2008. “What she does share with these counterparts is a fierce sense of loyalty and a refusal to publicly say anything that may reflect poorly on the candidate — or steal his thunder.”
During her time in the White House, Jarrett would chair the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, the White House Council on Women and Girls and the White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic, and Youth Sport, as well as managing the White House Office of Public Engagement, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Office of Urban Affairs.
Jarrett’s closeness to the president — and the fact that she didn’t seem to have any specific portfolio — made her a target of many individuals who saw her position in the president’s inner circle as associating her with almost any policy of the administration. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in his memoir, noted his objections to Jarrett’s involvement in matters of international affairs.
That, however, was nothing compared to the controversy she engendered after she left the White House.
Fact 3: Racially insensitive tweets by Barr cost the ABC comedienne her show
On Tuesday, in response to a tweet in which a user said that Jarrett had helped hide a lot during her time in the White House, Roseanne responded “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj,” the latter part meaning Jarrett, who is both African-American and was born in Iran to American parents.
Roseanne first tried to pass this off as a joke and noted that Islam wasn’t a race.
ISLAM is not a RACE, lefties. Islam includes EVERY RACE of people.
— Roseanne Barr (@therealroseanne) May 29, 2018
It's a joke-
— Roseanne Barr (@therealroseanne) May 29, 2018
However, Roseanne then quickly tweeted that she was leaving Twitter and apologized to Jarrett.
“I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans,” Barr wrote in her apology. “I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks. I should have known better. Forgive me-my joke was in bad taste.”
Fact 4: That didn’t save Roseanne’s job
It didn’t take long for ABC to announce that it was no longer going to be producing “Roseanne,” despite the fact that it had scored surprisingly high ratings in its revival.
“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant, and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” a terse statement from ABC read.
Co-stars were also quick to condemn the tweet, with Barr’s sitcom daughter, Sara Gilbert, also criticizing Roseanne’s remarks as “abhorrent.”
“Roseanne’s recent comments about Valerie Jarrett, and so much more, are abhorrent and do not reflect the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show. I am disappointed in her actions to say the least,” she tweeted.
Roseanne’s recent comments about Valerie Jarrett, and so much more, are abhorrent and do not reflect the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show. I am disappointed in her actions to say the least.
— sara gilbert (@THEsaragilbert) May 29, 2018
Fact 5: Jarrett says she wants to turn the incident into a “teaching moment.”
“First of all, I think we have to turn it into a teaching moment,” Jarrett said during an MSNBC town hall hours later. “I’m fine. I’m worried about all the people out there who don’t have a circle of friends and followers coming to their defense.”
Jarrett also used the occasion to take a jab at President Trump.
“The tone does start at the top, and we like to look up to our president and feel as though he reflects the values of our country,” Jarrett said during the town hall, titled “Everyday Racism in America.”
“But I also think every individual citizen has a responsibility too, and it’s up to all of us to push back. Our government is only going to be as good as we make it be.”
The remarks were particularly important inasmuch as part of the success of the “Roseanne” reboot had been Barr’s character — much like her real-life persona — taking on the position of a Trump supporter in a family generally opposed to the president.
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