Arrest of 'Special Assistant to the President' Gets Scant, Poor-Quality Press Coverage

August 12th, 2015 10:52 AM

My, the news about Barvetta Singletary's domestic violence arrest involving gunfire has been kept mighty quiet.

Press reports have typically opened by describing Ms. Singletary as "a White House staffer." Several paragraphs later, readers learn that she is — or perhaps "was," as she has for now "has been placed on temporary unpaid leave and is banned from White House grounds" — the "special assistant to the president and House legislative affairs liaison." Though it's impossible to be certain given bureaucratic bloat, this would seem to be a position which reports directly to Barack Obama. Even if it isn't, can anyone imagine a similar circumstance generating so little notice during a Republican or conservative presidential administration?

Let's look at how the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, did all it could to downplay the situation (presented in full because of its brevity, and for fair use and discussion purposes):


So let's see:

  • Make the person seem unimportant in the headline and opening paragraph — check.
  • Keep the person's name out of the story for as long as possible, in this case the third paragraph — check.
  • Keep the person's actual position apparently reporting to the president out of the story for as long as possible, in this case the fourth paragraph — check.
  • Keep the term "domestic violence" out of the report completely — check.

Beyond that, the AP would never have passed up the opportunity to report the following details carried at NBC Channel 4 in Washington if the incident had taken place during a press-disfavored administration (bolds are mine):

A White House staffer threatened her boyfriend, a U.S. Capitol Police officer, with his own weapon during an argument, according to police.

According to charging documents, Barvetta Singletary sent her boyfriend a text on Friday, 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 pointed the gun in the victim's direction and fired one round into the sofa where the victim was sitting, police said.

Fearing for his life, the victim ran away from the home. The victim told police he saw Singletary wipe the gun down with a towel. He then called 911.

NBC Channel 4 waited until the 11th of 12 paragraphs to identify Singletary's position.

One more cover-up item: Note that the AP report above said the bullet "hit the floor." Well, sure — after it went through the sofa where the boyfriend was sitting.

The Hill is reporting that Singletary "is facing domestic violence charges."

If an incident such as this occurred in a Republican or conservative administration, reporters would be camped out at Singletary's home, the White House would be constantly peppered with questions about when they will fire her, and talking heads would be wondering if the affair is a symptom of larger management problems throughout the administration.

Instead, as National Journal's Ron Fournier tweeted (HT Twitchy):


Sadly, I'm not.

Cross-posted at