White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett apologized to the gay community Thursday after she referred to homosexuality as a "lifestyle choice" during a discussion about the wave of recent teen suicides.
"I meant no disrespect to the LGBT community, and I apologize to any who have taken offense at my poor choice of words," Jarrett said in a written statement.
The Obama confidante made the off-hand comment in an interview Wednesday with The Washington Post. She was talking about a speech she delivered Saturday to the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, on teens who've killed themselves after being bullied over their sexual orientation.
In praising the parents of one teenager who killed himself in Minnesota, she said: "These are good people. They were aware that their son was gay. They embraced him, they loved him, they supported his lifestyle choice. But yet when he left the home and went to school, he was tortured by his classmates."
The blogosphere seized on the "lifestyle choice" remark, a no-no among those who argue homosexuality is not learned behavior. Gay rights blogger Michael Petrelis slammed Jarrett for using the "obnoxious phrase," calling her choice of words an "outrage."
"Did she get her talking points from Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council? It's doubly offensive that (Washington Post reporter John) Capehart makes no effort to point out how dangerous Jarrett's thinking is," he wrote.
Nearly every reader comment attached to The Post interview online similarly criticized Jarrett for using the term.
Jarrett explained Thursday that she simply "misspoke."
"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," she said. "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."