A faux pas in front of a crowded room – even an off-the-record one – can be cruel.
At a black tie event over the weekend, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett mistook the vice chief of staff of the Army for a waiter and asked him to get her a drink. She was, sources said, mortified when she later realized her mistake.
Jarrett, a senior advisor and assistant to the president for public engagement and intergovernmental affairs, was attending the annual Alfalfa Club dinner and was seated at the head table with other luminaries such as White House chief of staff Bill Daley, Supreme Court justices John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy, former Vice President Dick Cheney, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, the German and British ambassadors and Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the vice chief of staff.
The Daily Caller’s Mike Riggs first reported that Jarrett had mistaken an unnamed general for a waiter.
Through the process of elimination – there were only four military officials at the head table – ABC News determined that the unnamed general was Chiarelli.
One attendee said that the head table was long with very little space behind those seated at it. Most of those bustling behind were waiters.
Cue Chiarelli, walking by in his dress uniform – with a chest full of medals and four stars on each sleeve.
Jarrett did not get a good look at him, not the least of reasons for which was she wasn’t wearing her glasses. She mistook him for wait staff.
“Could I please get another glass of wine?” she asked.
Chiarelli, who previously served as commander of the multi-national corps—Iraq, turned around.
Cue Jarrett, realizing her mistake: “Oh my God, I’m so sorry!”
“She was mortified,” said someone at the table.
But Chiarelli laughed about it and the tension was relieved, attendees said.
Chiarelli later brought her a glass of wine as a joke.
A source close to the general told us “Gen. Chiarelli is a gentleman, he is a gentleman.”
Chiarelli was commissioned a second lieutenant of armor in September 1972 and has commanded at every level from platoon to corps.
Jarrett later sent the general a handwritten note saying the next time they see each other she will serve him a drink.
Chiarelli invited her to dinner. They have a date set in March.
- Jake Tapper