Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is taking heat for allegedly telling staffers he would focus on “excellence” and finding the “best people” to work at the department, not “diversity.”
Zinke’s lack of concern over “diversity” at the Interior Department angered some staffers, who rushed to tell CNN. The news network on Monday ran with the chyron: “Zinke angers many by saying it’s more important to find best people; Dept denies.”
Each time Zinke was asked about diversity, he would respond, “what’s important is having the right person for the right job,” or “I care about excellence, and I’m going to get the best people, and you’ll find we have the most diverse group anyone’s ever had,” sources told CNN.
Zinke’s spokeswoman denied he made those comments, telling CNN “the anonymous claims made against the secretary are untrue.”
“As a woman who has worked for him for a number of years in senior positions, I say without a doubt this claim is untrue, and I am hopeful that they are a result of a misunderstanding and not a deliberate mistruth,” spokeswoman Heather Swift said.
Still, Zinke’s comments were derided in the media and also by some fellow Republicans. Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen attacked Zinek on Twitter.
— Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (@RosLehtinen) March 26, 2018
CNN pointed to a recent reorganization of 33 Interior Department employees, 15 of which were minorities, according to Katie Atkinson, an attorney for former department official Joel Clement.
Clement resigned after being reassigned and is suing President Donald Trump’s administration, alleging they moved him for political reasons. Ever since, his lawyer has been providing information to media outlets to use against the Interior Department.
CNN also dug up Interior Department employee statistics the White House Office of Personnel Management made available. The news network reported, “[o]nly 28% of the 235 senior leaders at Interior self-report as minorities, but more than 40% of the 33 people who were moved in June without warning were non-white, based on the numbers provided by Atkinson.”
Furthermore, “[s]even of the 12 divisions have no minority leaders at the senior executive staff level, according to the latest OPM data, made available in September,” CNN reported.
CNN’s statistics on minority leaders at the Interior is roughly in line with the make-up of the U.S. population, Census Bureau data shows.
Seventy-three percent of thoroughly 46 million Americans aged 25 and older with a bachelor’s degrees are white. Blacks, Asians and Hispanics made up nine percent, respectively, of bachelor’s degrees.
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