Since radio talker/pundit Roland Martin wrote his column on what he saw as a lack of diversity in Barack Obama’s press office people have debated back and forth whether or not blacks and other minorities were being shut out. But many have murmured that a lot of this (including some Snob blog readers/posters who have relatives working in the press office) that this story is all kinds of bull.
Finally some reporters have done the research to back up the reality.
Yes, people, there are minorities in Obama’s press office.
There’s a factually inaccurate meme developing out there amongst some African-American commentators.
In Richard Prince’s Maynard Institute column, the commentator says: “There are no African Americans assigned so far to President Obama’s press office.”
Um … yes there are.
There’s deputy press secretary Bill Burton, for one.
Plus director of African American media Corey Ealons.
More widely, on the communications staff writ large, there’s director of message events Daniella Gibbs Leger, who is African-American. And on the regional communications desk, there’s Gannett Tseggai.
(Source: ABC News’ Political Punch)
Richard Prince also addresses the “not” controversy in his “Journal-isms” column, pointing out that many people didn’t realize that deputy press secretary Burton was biracial, adding to the confusion. Burton is part black, but doesn’t “look” obviously black or biracial (for whatever that’s worth).
When a list of members of the White House press office appeared to show that no African American professionals worked there, a press assistant fielded a call asking if that were indeed the case. She said yes, not realizing that one of her own bosses, White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton, has a black father and white mother.
“I am biracial, that’s right,” Burton, 31, told Journal-isms on Tuesday. “Though I find it interesting that you ask only if I ‘consider’ myself biracial and not if I am.”
Burton’s ethnicity, a surprise to many who have worked with or covered him through the long Obama campaign and into the White House, has surfaced only sporadically as a subject in a meteoric career that includes service as communications director for the 2004 presidential campaign of Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., for that of John Kerry, also in 2004, as national press secretary for Sen. Barack Obama, and now as deputy White House press secretary. His race is usually ignored.
“I had NO idea and I used to see him everyday,” one African American Obama campaign worker said. “I’m as good as any of us in ‘detecting’ the mixed among us and I had no clue. He looks totally white!”
The same White House press assistant assured a caller last week that Burton was not African American and said she was sure because she had known him for some time.
Burton’s ethnicity became a subject of more than idle curiosity after Press Secretary Robert Gibbs released a list last week of the press-office staff, as this column reported then.
If you haven’t seen Burton (and you probably have, I’ve seen him on TV quite a few times both before and after the election), here he is.
To be honest, I thought he was black when I first saw him during an episode of Hardball during the campaign where he was the national press secretary.
I may have wondered for a moment, but I’m pretty sure that by the end of the interview I’d assumed he was part black, but I’d forgotten about Burton completely until Martin wrote his story and people started pointing to Burton as being a minority. Either way, hopefully this will end the “no minorities in the press office” meme, if not because it seemed a little reactionary, perhaps because it is apparently inaccurate.
ABC News’ Jack Tapper summed up how I started to feel about the chatter at the end of his Political Punch post after he pointed out that Hispanics such as deputy director of message events Joelle Terry, director of Hispanic media Luis Miranda, deputy director of research Margaret Olmos and researcher David Gomez are also part of the press office, as well as some Asian-Americans, including special assistant to the press secretary Marissa Hopkins, press assistant Priya Singh, deputy director of communications Jason Djang, and director of specialty media Shin Inouye.
Tapper snarkily askes “Do they not count?”
I realize I’m Caucasian, and thus it’s sensitive for me to even address this, but let’s just say this meme has been noticed by those on the White House press and communications staff who aren’t white, and who think this charge is not just inaccurate, it’s insulting.
But what I’m really wondering is if the man who initially put this theory out to the blogsophere will have a response or is Roland Martin going to sit on his hands and not type any sort of clarification as to how he came to his erroneous conclusions? Did these minorities magically all appear after his column was penned? (I’m guessing no, especially in Burton’s case, but considering that many seemed unaware that Burton was part black, maybe Martin was just making the same wrong assumption as everyone else.)
I expect nothing, but, hey, Martin has rolled up to the Snob blog before to tell me what’s what. Perhaps he’ll elaborate on his Essence blog, in his column, on the radio or elsewhere.
If you see, read or hear anything, let a snob know!
(Thanks to reader, Fanita, for the tip!)