By Justin Sink - 01/14/13 06:14 PM EST
President Obama on Monday defended his record on diversity after mounting criticism over his recent Cabinet-level appointments, and hinted that additional female appointments could be coming in his next round of nominees.
"I'm very proud that in the first four years, we had as diverse, if not a more diverse, a White House and a Cabinet than any in history," Obama said at a White House press conference. "And I intended to continue that, because it turns out when you look for the very best people, given the incredible diversity of this country, you're going to end up with a diverse staff and a diverse — a diverse team, and that very diversity helps to create more effective policy making, and better decision making for me, because it brings different perspectives to the table."
January has seen the departure of a number of high-profile female members of the president's team, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Deputy Chief of Staff Nancy-Ann DeParle. But so far, the president has only announced three Cabinet appointments, all white men: Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to be secretary of State, current White House chief of staff Jack Lew to head the Treasury Department, and former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) as secretary of Defense. National security adviser John Brennan was also nominated as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Criticism over Obama's picks was compounded by a photo released by the White House last week showing the president meeting with what appeared to be an all-male team of advisers (senior adviser Valerie Jarrett was obscured in the photo). The White House subsequently released a series of photos on its social media platforms showing the president conferring with top female advisers.
On Monday, Obama said detractors should look to his first-term record.
"If you think about my first four years, the person who probably had the most influence on my foreign policy was a woman," Obama sad. "The people who were in charge of moving forward my most important domestic initiative, healthcare, were women. The person in charge of our Homeland Security was a woman. My two appointments to the Supreme Court were women. And 50 percent of my White House staff were women."
Last week, White House press secretary Jay Carney also emphasized that critics should reserve judgment until the president had filled out his second-term Cabinet.
"I think it would be useful to wait and make judgments about this issue after the president has made the totality of appointments that he will make in the transition to a second term," Carney said.