President Obama’s second term cabinet became a bit more diverse Thursday afternoon as Vice President Joe Biden swore in former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx as Secretary of Transportation, but the cabinet still has a higher concentration of white men than it did in Obama’s first term.
The president has been criticized for a lack of diversity in his second term cabinet, caused by the departure of several prominent women and racial minorities. Gone are Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Trade Representative Ron Kirk, E.P.A. Administrator Lisa Jackson and Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
While the nominations of women like Penny Pritzker to lead the Commerce Department and Sylvia Burwell to run the Office of Management & Budget have helped add more female voices to his team, racial diversity still lags. Attorney General Eric Holder and Anthony Foxx are the only African-American members of the president’s cabinet. Asian-American Eric Shinseki still leads Veterans Affairs, but currently no Hispanics serve in the president’s cabinet.
Tom Perez, the assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights and former secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor, has been nominated to replace Solis at the Labor Department but is opposed by Republicans in the Senate and has yet to be confirmed by the full Senate after a party-line vote in Committee.
The decrease in diversity in the Obama’s second term cabinet has concerned some lawmakers, including Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge, who wrote to the president in March, urging him to fix the situation.
While Fudge told reporters just this week she was thankful for some of the more recent appointments, including Foxx’s and Rep. Mel Watt to run the Federal Housing Finance Agency, members of the Hispanic Caucus are apparently still less than pleased. The Hill reports that members criticized the president over his lack of Hispanic appointments during Wednesday’s closed door meeting with the Caucus.
And members of the LGBT community are disappointed that despite overseeing the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and becoming the first sitting president to endorse same-sex marriage, the president’s cabinet still lacks any openly gay members.
Even comedians have hit the president over the lack of diversity, most notably Conan O’Brien, who knocked Obama at the White House Correspondent’s dinner this past April.
“Mr. President, your hair is so white it could be a member of your Cabinet,” he joked–watch at 22:06–prompting “oohs” more than laughs from the audience.
But while his cabinet may not be quite as diverse as it once was, the White House recently pointed out Obama’s diverse judicial appointments, including the Supreme Court’s first Latina, to quell some concerns.