The Biden administration is getting major flak from Democrats in the Asia American Pacific Islander community for not having any AAPI person as a cabinet department secretary, with Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) briefly threatening Biden nominees on Tuesday, with Duckworth saying she would block white, heterosexual nominees in protest of the lack of diversity in what the Biden administration brags is ‘the most diverse administration in history.’
“Until then, I am a no vote on the floor on all non-diversity nominees,” she said, including sub-Cabinet choices and judicial nominees. She said she would support racial minorities and LGBTQ nominees.
After informing the White House, Duckworth said: “They will get back to me.”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) March 23, 2021
While naming AAPI senior Biden appointees from a script at Wednesday’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki knowingly mispronounced the name of Kiran Ahuja, who was nominated by Biden to be director of the Office of Personnel Management. Psaki said, “…Just to to note obviously Katherine Tai who received a overwhelming support in the Senate in her approval uh to be confirmed for USTR. Uh, Julie Su at the Department of Labor. Uh, “Kirani Ahhoodah” I’m going to butcher that name and I apologize to Kiran, at OPM. Todd Kim, the assistant attorney general at DOJ…”
Psaki looked stressed while being pressed by reporters on diversity, biting her lower lip at one point and was not able to not conceal her nervousness, stammering numerous times while responding. To paraphrase Dandy Don Meredith, “If ums and uhs were candy and nuts wouldn’t it be a merry Christmas?”
Psaki was first pressed on the issue of representation by CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang, “Psaki tells @weijia that the new Asian American Pacific Islander liaison being added to White House will be a senior-level position with “an important role with a seat at the table,” though it’s unclear so far if the job will come with a policy portfolio.”
Psaki tells @weijia that the new Asian American Pacific Islander liaison being added to White House will be a senior-level position with “an important role with a seat at the table,” though it’s unclear so far if the job will come with a policy portfolio https://t.co/rPIwlA6x2D pic.twitter.com/bviKYptIZQ
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 24, 2021
Later, another reporter followed up and Psaki went into a lengthy defense of the administration, including reading a (brief) list of several senior AAPI Biden appointees.
Reporter: “Uh, two questions. Uh, following up on Weijia’s questions about representation. Um, the Biden administration is the first in twenty years to not have an Asian American lead one of the fifteen executive departments in the cabinet, so how does the White House square that fact with uh, the President’s pledges to make this the most representative, most diverse, uh, in history?
Psaki, “Well, I will just say the President remains committed to making sure this is the most diverse administration in history. That has always been, remains our goal. We’ve made a lot of progress, uh, we have the most diverse cabinet in history. Uh, we, but we will continue to make progress. We have AAPI staff at senior levels at all levels of the administration and we’ll continue to work to find ways to elevate AAPI voices uh, at the highest level of government. Uh, there are a number of um, uh, cabinet level, I know it’s not fifteen members. So, but just to, to note obviously Katherine Tai who received a overwhelming support in the Senate in her approval uh, to be confirmed for USTR. Uh, Julie Su at the Department of Labor. Uh, “Kirani Ahoodah”, I’m going to butcher that name and I apologize to Kiran, at OPM. Todd Kim, the assistant attorney general at DOJ. So, we will continue and obviously there are more positions and roles that uh, we need to fill. And I will say first and foremost the President’s view is that we need to listen and uh, that is an important component of how we’re communicating um, with members of Congress as concerns arise. Also with leaders in the community as he and the Vice President did last Friday. Uh, why it seems so important as we look to policy making to have senior members of our administration do listening sessions in the community to determine uh, how we can best address needs. Is it, there’s personnel of course and we will continue to work toward that. There’s policies uh, and that’s part of our objective and our focus at this point in time.”
Transcribed by TGP.
YouTube video cued to start of follow-up question:
Not a good look for the lily white Jen Psaki to not take the time to learn how to pronounce the names of senior Biden appointees who do not look like her. Seems kinda racist, yes?