Washington (CNN)Incoming White House spokesman Sean Spicer defended President-elect Donald Trump’s commitment to diversity, saying that highlight the fact that the new Cabinet will be the first in 30 years without a Latino is “a very narrow way to look at it.”
“It is a priority but I think it is a very narrow way to look at it to say: ‘If you don’t appoint people to this particular position that’s a problem,’ ” Spicer said Thursday at a news conference. “The No. 1 thing that I think Americans should focus on is, ‘Is he hiring the best and the brightest? Is he hiring people that are committed to enacting real change?'”
Arturo Vargas, executive director of National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, a nonprofit of more than 6,000 Latino elected and appointed public officials, responded Thursday.
“The exclusion of a Latino voice in President-elect Trump’s cabinet has set back our nation. Latinos are the nation’s second largest population group, one of every four of America’s children, and the highest policy body of the country is void of its perspective,” Vargas said in a statement.” The onus now is on the President to bring in the voice and perspectives of Latinos into his decision making.'”
Trump kicked off his campaign by labeling undocumented Mexican immigrants criminals and “rapists” and vowed to deport all undocumented immigrants living in the US during his campaign.
Trump interviewed several Latinos for the two final Cabinet posts he sought to fill — leaders for the Departments of Agriculture and Veterans Affairs — but landed instead on white men for both posts.
Thirteen of Trump’s picks to form his official 16-member Cabinet are white men.
But Spicer said 5,000 appointed positions still needed to be filled and Americans could expect more diversity in those lower level appointments.
“I guarantee you that as we continue to announce this, that problem will be something people look at and respect the level of diversity throughout his entire administration,” he said.
Only two of Trump’s Cabinet appointees are ethnic minorities: Ben Carson, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development is black and his choice for transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, is Asian. Trump also tapped Nikki Haley, the Indian-American governor of South Carolina, to serve as UN ambassador, which is a Cabinet-rank post, but not an official member of the Cabinet.
Latinos have served in Cabinet positions in every presidential administration since 1988.
Rep. Tony Cárdenas said Trump does not like to work with people who do not look like him.
“It’s clear Donald Trump does not surround himself with people who do not look like or think like him. It’s also clear he doesn’t care to surround himself with Latinos or other diverse voices,” he told CNN in a statement. “As President, he has an obligation to represent all Americans, so it’s very concerning to me that Latinos are not at the table.”
Spicer said the Trump administration will be focused on multiple types of diversity.
“What you’re seeing and you’re going to continue to see not just through the Cabinet but through the entire thing is a diversity in gender, diversity in thinking diversity of ideology,” he said. “It’s not just about skin color or ethnic heritage, but you look at the totality of this Cabinet — an Indian-American, an African-American, an Asian-American, it’s about a lot of things.”