Senate Republicans have frequently tried to paint President Biden’s Cabinet nominees of color as “radical” — but use softer language for Biden’s white Cabinet nominees, even if they are opposing them

Accountable Senate War Room: “The word ‘radical’ has a deeply racist history behind it, and it’s not a coincidence that this term is only being used to attack President Biden’s nominees of color” 

Washington, D.C. – Today, Accountable Senate War Room released an analysis of the language used to describe Biden’s nominees and found that Senate Republicans use harsher attacks for President Biden’s Cabinet nominees of color at a higher rate — frequently referring to them as “radical”— than the language they use to discuss white nominees. The analysis found that when opposing Biden’s white nominees, many Senate Republicans use softer and usually policy-focused language. This week, criticism of senators’ treatment of nominees of color bubbled over as opposition grew noisier around many of Biden’s qualified nominees of color, including Neera Tanden, Xavier Becerra, and Congresswoman Deb Haaland, all three of whom were depicted as “radical” by Senate Republicans and are facing a challenging confirmation process in the Senate. 

“The word ‘radical’ has a deeply racist history behind it, and it’s not a coincidence that this term is only being used to attack President Biden’s nominees of color,” said Mairead Lynn, spokesperson for Accountable Senate War Room. “This slate of experienced nominees have faced unfair smears by Senate Republicans with an underlying agenda, and we can’t ignore the obvious differences in treatment that President Biden’s nominees of color have endured compared to his white nominees.”   

The list of Biden’s highly qualified Cabinet nominees who have been described as “radical” by senate Republicans includes Neera Tanden, Xavier Becerra, Deb Haaland, Alejandro Mayorkas, Vanita Gupta, and Kristen Clarke, all people of color. Meanwhile, GOP senators have praised the credentials of and supported Biden’s white nominees, and even when they opposed white nominees have tended to use softer language focused on substantive policy disagreements. Senator Steve Daines’ (R-MT) “radical” attack against Congresswoman Deb Haaland was recently deemed a racist, sexist “dogwhistle” by the Billings Gazette Editorial Board.

While many of Biden’s nominees of color have been unfairly targeted or attacked by Senate Republicans, the three nominees hit the hardest have been Neera Tanden, President Biden’s pick to run the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Xavier Becerra as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Congresswoman Deb Haaland as Interior secretary. All three are people of color, and their confirmations would all make history: Tanden as the first Asian American and woman to run OMB; Becerra as the first Latino to run HHS; and Haaland, the first Native person to serve in a presidential Cabinet. Instead of recognizing their qualifications and celebrating the historic nature of their nominations, Senate Republicans have targeted them with false and misleading attacks.

Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) called Becerra “radical” and “underqualified” for the role of HHS secretary, but expressed his plan to support Merrick Garland for attorney general with no objection. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) has been in staunch opposition to Xavier Becerra’s nomination to lead HHS, going as far as launching his own attack ads against the nominee. However, while Cotton opposed Antony Blinken’s confirmation for Secretary of State, he largely avoided ad hominem attacks and instead pointed to his belief that Blinken “deserved his share of the blame for President Biden’s diplomatic errors.” Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) called Neera Tanden a “radical liberal,” but during the confirmation hearing for Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Scott was able to keep his criticisms relevant to the nominee’s qualifications instead of resorting to name-calling. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) used his time during Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland’s hearing to attack Justice Department nominees Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke, labeling their positions as “dangerous” and “radical.” However, when opposing Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s nomination, Lee’s office put out a fairly milquetoast statement, claiming Yellen does not “view debt or deficit reduction as a priority of hers.” 

Here’s an overview of the differences between how Biden’s Cabinet nominees of color have been described versus their white counterparts:

Read full analysis.

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