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The White House is pushing back on reports of an exodus of Black staffers among its ranks, saying the turnover is like that of any working environment — and that the Biden administration continues to tout the most diverse staff "in history."
On Tuesday, Politico published a report detailing how "at least 21 Black staffers have left the White House since late last year or are planning to leave soon." The outlet cites three current White House staffers who, speaking anonymously, describe a work environment that they say offers little opportunity for promotion or advancement.
The departures even have a nickname, Politico reports, citing the staffers: "Blaxit."
The White House has disputed those claims, however. In response to questions about the article, the White House supplied PEOPLE with statements from 10 current and former staffers (all of which, they said, had been supplied to Politico earlier). In the statements, the staffers described a "great culture," with some saying they left only due to other professional opportunities or to spend more time with family.
In a statement sent to PEOPLE, Erica Loewe, the White House director of African American media, says: "Even though far more current and former staff told Politico about their positive experiences, Politico refused to communicate those findings to readers and instead devoted most of this article to comments that reinforce their narrative and present a disingenuous picture of the most diverse White House in history."
The statement continues: "Instead of including their on-the-record sentiments, Politico singled out Black staff who left at a normal time for general turnover and then intentionally kept their own perspectives about their stories in the dark."
Upon entering office in 2021, President Joe Biden pledged to build an administration that "would look like America looks." Speaking on background, a White House official tells PEOPLE diversity continues to be a focus at the White House, noting that approximately 14% of current White House staffers are Black, which is in line with the U.S. Census national population.
The official added that approximately 15% of Black staffers at the White House had been promoted into more senior open roles in the last year, and that 33% had advanced to new roles at agencies within the federal government.
In April, the Biden administration released action plans aimed at advancing equity and racial justice across the federal government. A White House fact sheet describes the plan as containing "innovative new strategies to embed equity, racial justice, and gender equality in day-to-day governing."
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Politico's report on staff turnover comes in the midst of a number of high-profile recent exits from the vice president's team. Those exits — including of Harris' communications chief, Ashley Etienne, and her chief spokesperson, Symone Sanders — have come in the wake of reports of staff infighting and alleged dysfunction between Harris' team and the West Wing (claims the vice president has denied).
CNN cited sources who spoke of a "rocky relationship with some parts of the White House" and Harris feeling "constrained in what she's able to do politically" — though as the network noted, many vice presidents, by dent of their No. 2 positions, have been subject to chatter they don't do enough or don't fit in with the presidents' teams.
Speaking on Good Morning America that same month, the vice president downplayed the speculation.
"We're getting things done and we're doing it together," she said of her relationship with President Biden.