Bill Burton On Diversity In The White House: "Barack Obama Is Black"


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN: President Obama's picks for his new cabinet members are raising some questions about diversity, actually a lot of questions about diversity. Where are the women, for example? Where are the people of color for example? Let's take a look at his four newest choices, one thing notice about all of them? Anybody want to jump in, what do you think? Ding, ding, ding!

[...] Bill, I'm going to give you this one.

BILL BURTON, Senior Strategist, Priorities USA Action & Former White House Deputy Press Secretary: That photo that's been so widely talked about, all of the folks in the White House, I mean, I don't know if you are allowed to say this on TV, but Barack Obama is black.

O'BRIEN: Yes, he is.

BURTON: And also, you know, that picture is not representative of the whole team.

O'BRIEN: He's also a man.

BURTON: The news there is that Dan Pfeiffer is hungry, apparently, in the oval office. But look, some of the president's top advisers are women, Valerie Jarrett (inaudible), half the White House staff is women. This has been a diverse cabinet. It's been a diverse White House staff and --

O'BRIEN: Not that diverse.

BURTON: It's pretty diverse.

HUNTSMAN: A double standard does exist. There's no way a Republican president would get away with this cabinet.

BURTON: Well, first of all this cabinet is a lot more diverse than President George W. Bush's was. He apparently got away with that. So you know, President Obama has been committed to diversity. But what I think we're experiencing now is a communications problem more than an actual diversity problem.

Because these last four picks happen to be white men. It shines the light on diversity in the White House. But the truth is the president has been committed to diversity and that's why so many people in his --

O'BRIEN: Let's look. Let's go back to the evidence, right? You have the picture and it's not just these guys.

BURTON: You have a picture, of thousands taken in the oval office.

O'BRIEN: Let's get someone in our office to pick the top 50 people in the White House. I'm going to assume that they don't represent what America looks like. I'm going to assume that 50 percent of those top people are not women.

I'm going to assume that 13 percent of them are not African-American. I'm going to assume that there is not a representation of Asian- Americans, Latinos. I feel fairly confident saying that.

BURTON: Would you be wrong to make that assumption. Actually, if you --

O'BRIEN: Want to wager?

BURTON: A $100 because if you take -- if you take the staff of the west wing, which I think you can fairly say --

O'BRIEN: Fifty most important positions --

BURTON: Fairly say is the people who were closest to the president --

O'BRIEN: No, 50 most --

BURTON: Work in the same house with he lives, 50 percent of those people are women.

O'BRIEN: No, 50 most important positions, OK, which is not who exactly is in that one space. It is the most important and relevant positions, we're going to crunch those numbers over the weekend.

BURTON: Let's do it.

O'BRIEN: We will see if it represents what the nation is. You cannot compare it to other administrations. I think everybody should stand on their own merits.

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