FACT CHECK: Did a Special Assistant to President Obama, Barvetta Singletary shot at a police officer in an incident of gun violence ignored by the media?
Claim: A Special Assistant to President Obama, Barvetta Singletary, shot at a police officer in an incident of gun violence ignored by the media.
WHAT’S TRUE: White House staffer Barvetta Singletary was arrested and charged with assault after discharging a gun during a domestic dispute with her boyfriend (a Capitol police officer) in August 2015.
WHAT’S FALSE/UNPROVEN: Singletary shot at a police officer because he was a cop, was trying to kill the victim, reported directly to President Obama, and her arrest was ignored by large media outlets.
Examples: [Collected via e-mail and Twitter, October 2015]
Assistant to president Obama shoots at boyfriend. Barvetta and her bad ass Beretta! Kicking ass ghetto style! Don’t hold your breath waiting to read about this in the mainstream media.
Wondering if it is true that an Obama assistant resigned after firing a gun a police. Her name is Barvetta Singletary.
A special assistant to the president the president who recently lamented that an inability to pass gun control was one of the great failures of his administration was arrested after she allegedly fired a pistol at her boyfriend during a domestic dispute. Barvetta Singletary, 37, didn’t help advance her boss’ crusade against gun violence when she invited her boyfriend, a Capitol Hill police officer, over to her house for sex. Afterwards, she accused him of seeing another woman and demanded to see the texts on his cellphones. When he refused, Singletary reached into her boyfriend’s bag, according to the arresting documents, and pulled out the two cellphones and his service weapon, a .40 caliber Glock 23. She demanded he tell her the passwords to the phones. He refused. “Your phone is more important than me holding the gun on you,” she said, shooting the couch where he was sitting. Singletary is the Obama administration’s House legislative affairs liaison and was paid $125,000 a year. Let’s just say she wasn’t a low-level staffer.
Her purposeful gun crime while working for this gun-hostile administration is more important than the time Dick Cheney accidentally shot a friend while Dove hunting. But which one received more news coverage?
— Hank Quinlan (@Quinlan_Hank) September 5, 2015
Barvetta Singletary, a special assistant to the President and the House legislative affairs liaison, was arrested last Friday after the
— Berwin Kleinstein (@hakylulamupe) September 5, 2015
Origins: In early August 2015, 37-year-old White House staffer Barvetta Singletary was arrested and charged with first-degree assault, second-degree assault, and reckless endangerment following a domestic dispute with her boyfriend.
As Washington television station WRC reported, during an 7 August 2015 domestic dispute Singletary allegedly fired one shot towards the sofa on which her boyfriend was sitting (hitting the floor) after he refused to disclose the passwords to his cell phones:
According to charging documents, Barvetta Singletary sent her boyfriend a text, asking him to come to her Upper Marlboro home for sex. After they had sex, Singletary confronted her boyfriend about the other woman he was dating.
Investigators say Singletary asked her boyfriend to step outside, and they both went to his car. Once inside the car, Singletary asked to see her boyfriend’s cellphones, police said. When he refused, Singletary reached into his bag and retrieved two cellphones and the victim’s .40-caliber Glock 23 service weapon, charging documents state.
Singletary pulled the gun out of its holster, pointed it at the victim and said, “You taught me how to use this. Don’t think I won’t use it,” the arrest warrant said.
Once inside, she demanded the passwords to his phones, yanking the Glock from its holster and pointing it at him when he didn’t cooperate, the documents said.
“Your phone is more important than me holding this gun on you?” she allegedly said to her boyfriend, who was glued to her sofa 10 feet away.
When he still refused to give up his passwords, Singletary fired one round at him that hit the floor, sending the officer running, police said.
E-mails and social media rumors about Singletary that were circulated months after the fact commonly claimed the altercation had occurred “last Friday,” an ambiguity that lent plausibility to the rumor’s claim the “mainstream media” suppressed reporting of the arrest (since it hadn’t appeared in recent news). However, the incident was covered at the time it occurred by major mainstream news outlets such as the Washington Post, USA Today, the Daily Mail, the Washington D.C. Sun Times, Fox News, and the New York Daily News.
The fact that the complainant was a police officer was incidental to the story; Singletary shot at him because he was a boyfriend with whom she was involved in a romantic dispute, not because he was a cop. And given that various news reports stated that Singletary fired a single round in the direction of the couch where her boyfriend was sitting but hit the floor, it isn’t clear whether she actually intended to harm him but missed, or whether she deliberately sent the round into the floor in order to scare her boyfriend (without injuring him).
Rumors commonly referred to Singletary as a “Special Assistant to President Obama,” a term which is technically correct but which caused many social media users to incorrectly infer that Singletary reported directly to the President and served him personally in some sort of secretarial or administrative capacity prior to her September 2015 resignation. Senior White House staffers are granted the title “Assistant to the President,” second-tier staffers are called “Deputy Assistant to the President,” and third-tier staffers (of which Singletary was one) are termed “Special Assistant to the President.” According to the White House’s most recent staffer salary disclosure report, there are approximately 21 employees serving in the first-tier capacity, 19 in the second-tier of White House assistants, and 59 with the title “Special Assistant to the President.”
Singletary had served as a as deputy chief of staff in the House of Representatives before being named as a White House staffer in June 2014:
SINGLETARY GOES TO 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVE: Barvetta Singletary is moving from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other. She’s leaving Capitol Hill to join the White House legislative affairs team, an administration official confirms to PI. She comes to the White House from Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn’s office, where she most recently served as deputy chief of staff and policy director. “She has depth on a range of issues, including: transportation, appropriations, health care, energy, ag and budget issues. She is deeply respected by members and staff on both sides of the aisle for her policy knowledge and focused but even keeled nature. She is a team player in every sense,” a senior White House official said. That official added: “Fun fact: She also happens to have an amazing singing voice, which she puts to use at church and among friends, when she can be convinced.”
On 10 August 2015, a White House spokesperson released a statement regarding Singletary’s arrest:
We are aware of the matter and have temporarily placed the employee in question on unpaid leave and revoked her access to the complex until we have more information. We will take additional actions as needed. For further questions, I would refer you to the Prince George’s County Police Department.
Singletary resigned her White House position the following month.
Last updated: 14 October 2015
Originally published: 14 October 2015