Who Is Valerie Jarrett? New Details About The Obama Senior Advisor Roseanne Barr Used A Racial Slur Against

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Who is Valerie Jarrett?
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She's a champion for women's rights.

After one season back on the air, Roseanne was canceled after Roseanne Barr went on a Twitter tirade making a racist and abhorrent tweet about former Obama senior advisor, Valerie Jarrett. In the tweet (which has since been deleted), Roseanne wrote, “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj,” responding to a Twitter thread accusing Jarrett of covering up CIA spying.

No apology in the world can put Roseanne back in the good graces of Twitter and society alike. (And she's already tried to blame Ambien for her racist tweet.) But who is the woman at the center of these insults? Who is Valerie Jarrett? She’s certainly much more than the target of racist comments; in fact, her response to Roseanne’s tweet proves that she’s quite a classy woman:

“I think we have to turn it into a teaching moment. 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.”


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Here are 7 things to know about Valerie Jarrett.

1. She was born in Iran.

Though she was born in Shiraz, Iran, her parents are both Americans who were working overseas at the time. After her father left the military, he and his wife moved overseas, where he was the chair of pathology at Nemazee Hospital.

2. Her maternal great-grandfather was the first African American architect.

Robert Robinson Taylor, who served as second in command to Booker T. Washington (the founder and first president of Tuskegee University), was the first African American student to enroll in MIT in 1888. He also designed many buildings on the university campus. Talk about having ancestry that’s rich in history!

3. She married her childhood sweetheart.

Valerie married William Jarrett in 1983. In a Vogue article, she said, “Married in 1983, separated in 1987, and divorced in 1988. Enough said. We grew up together. We were friends since childhood. In a sense, he was the boy next door. I married without really appreciating how hard divorce would be.” The marriage produced one daughter, Laura Jarrett, who is an attorney and reporter for CNN. Her ex-husband passed away in 1993 at age 40 from a heart attack.

4. She has multiple degrees.

Jarrett earned her Bachelor’s in psychology from Stanford University, a Juris Doctor (JD) from the University of Michigan Law School, and an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Colby College. To say she is intelligent is a major understatement.

5. She’s a long-time friend of the Obamas.

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Though the friendship isn't what qualified her for her position in the White House. She worked closely with Michelle Obama in Chicago, originally interviewing her for a position at the mayor’s office in 1991. Michelle accepted the position, and introduced Jarrett to her then-fiancé, Barack.


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In a 60 Minutes interview, Jarrett said, “I called her up and I said, ‘Well, what do you think? We’d love to have you.’ And she said, ‘Well, my fiancé doesn’t actually think it’s such a great idea.’ And I said, ‘What?' So she said, ‘Yeah, that’s right. But I really am interested. So would you be willing to have dinner with us?”

Afterward, Jarrett “took the couple under her wing and introduced them to a wealthier and better-connected Chicago than their own.” Michelle later followed Jarrett to the Chicago department of planning and development. The rest, they say, is history.

6. She served as Senior Advisor for both of Obama’s terms.

Barack Obama asked Jarrett to join his campaign team prior to the 2008 election. Once elected, she became the White House Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison. She was one of three people holding the Senior Advisor title.

While serving in the White House, many described her as Obama’s greatest defender and closest friend. Anita Dunn, a friend of Jarrett and former White House communications director, said in an interview with The Washington Post, “Her position is that during the day she is staff, and at night she is a friend, and she clearly delineates between those two roles.”

7. She’s a champion of equal rights for women.

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She served as chair of the White House Counsel on Women and Girls. On International Women’s day this year, she wrote an op-ed for Fortune, telling women and girls to keep fighting the good fight:

“In 2016, the President Obama’s White House Council on Women and Girls helped launch the United State of Women at the first United State of Women Summit in 2016. We brought together more than 5,000 women, girls, and allies in Washington, D.C. and countless more online to share solutions to the problems we still face...

But the fight continues. And the United State of Women has grown into a national organization that unites and empowers all women to turn their passion into action. We break down intersectional barriers that prevent women from achieving equality, and we provide the tools, access, and connections they need in their communities and nationwide...

Over the last year, women have risen to the forefront of activism and have demanded more from our government, our employers, and our communities. We have been advocating for a range of goals, from fair workplaces to equal pay and reproductive health care. We won’t stop until we achieve the treatment we deserve.”


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Samantha Maffucci is an associate editor for YourTango. In her free time, you can find her obsessing about cats, wine, and all things Vanderpump Rules.

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