Get PolitiFact in your inbox.

Samantha Putterman
By Samantha Putterman May 7, 2019

No, Valerie Jarrett never said she seeks to ‘change America to be a more Islamic country’

An old rumor targeting a former senior official from the Obama administration has reappeared on social media.

A post on Facebook claims that Valerie Jarrett, who served as the senior White House advisor to President Barack Obama, once made a statement about being "Iranian by birth" and declared that she seeks to "change America to be a more Islamic country." The claim asserts she said this during her time as an undergraduate student at Stanford University in the late 1970s.

The spurious quote, in full, reads:

"I am Iranian by birth and of my Islamic faith. I am also an American citizen and I seek to change America to be a more Islamic country … My faith guides me and I feel like it’s going well in transition of using freedom of religion in America against itself. - Valerie Jarrett Stanford University 1977."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

First, there is no record of Jarrett ever saying this, and no mention of the quote from any media organization over the last 40 years.The complete lack of scrutiny of such an inflammatory statement coming from someone who held a high-profile position in the White House for years suggests the quote is fabricated.

Next,  Jarrett was indeed born in Shiraz, Iran, in 1956. But she was born to American parents, Dr. James and Barbara Bowman. The family lived in the country for about six years because Jarrett’s father became chair of pathology at Nemazee Hospital. The family then moved to London for about a year before Bowman accepted a position at the University of Chicago in 1962, when Jarrett was five years old.

Featured Fact-check

Finally, we found no evidence that Jarrett is or has ever been Muslim. As well, the name "Valerie Jarrett" is misplaced, since Valerie Jarrett did not yet exist in 1977. At the time, she went by her maiden name, Bowman. She married William Jarrett in 1983.

Stanford University spokesperson Ernest Miranda also told PolitiFact the quote is fabricated.

"We reviewed both the 1977 and 1978 Quad yearbooks (Valerie Bowman is in the ’78 edition)," Miranda wrote in an email, "and neither contains any student quotes."

Our ruling

An old rumor claims former White House senior adviser to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, said in the ’70s that she is an "Iranian by birth" and seeks to "change America to be a more Islamic country."

No record or evidence can be found of Jarrett ever saying this and no media organization has ever reported on the brazen statement.

Also, Jarrett has never identified as Muslim in all her years in the public and private sphere. While she was born in Iran, her parents are American, and she has lived in the U.S. since she was five years old.

We rate this Pants on Fire!

Update, May 8, 2019: This story has been updated to include a statement from a Stanford University spokesperson verifying the absence of this quote in university yearbooks. The ruling is unchanged.

Share the Facts
PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
Pants on Fire
Quotes Valerie Jarrett as saying she is an "Iranian by birth" and seeks to "change America to be a more Islamic country"
Friday, May 3, 2019

Our Sources

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Samantha Putterman

No, Valerie Jarrett never said she seeks to ‘change America to be a more Islamic country’

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up