Rex Tillerson
Rex Tillerson in 60 seconds
01:08 - Source: CNN

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Trump's cabinet picks for the most senior positions are all white males, a first since 1989

He has selected women and minorities for other positions

Washington CNN  — 

Donald Trump’s cabinet is attracting significant attention for lacking diversity reflective of the country he will preside over.

But his spokesman said to define the President-elect’s Cabinet will be the first in 30 years without a Latino is “a very narrow way to look at it.”

Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that 5,000 appointed positions still needed to be filled and Americans could expect more diversity in those lower level appointments.

“I guarantee you that as we continue to announce this, that problem will be something people look at and respect the level of diversity throughout his entire administration,” he said.

If confirmed, Trump’s four most influential departments will be led by white males - a first since the George H.W. Bush administration, from 1989 to 1993.

Latinos are the largest minority in the United States. And as of 2014, there are about 55 million Hispanic people in the United States - about 17% of the population.

Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who faces headwinds even among Senate Republicans, would be the nation’s top diplomat, while retired Marine Gen. James Mattis has been tapped to run the Defense Department, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is the pick for attorney general and ex-Goldman Sachs banker Steve Mnuchin will be nominated to run the Treasury Department.

All four are white. The first round of top appointees in the Obama administration included an African-American man – Attorney General Eric Holder – and a white woman – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Colin Powell, then a retired general, became the only person of color in former President George W. Bush’s top four when he was nominated and confirmed as the first African-American secretary of state.

Of Trump’s 18 highest profile choices to date – some Cabinet-level and others powerful but slightly lesser, and excluding his vice president and most senior White House staff – 14 are white, of which 12 are male. None are Latino. By comparison, 11 of the the corresponding positions in Obama’s first Cabinet were white – with seven men and four women – along with Latino labor and interior secretaries and three African-Americans, two of whom were women.

Trump’s lone African-American choice, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, will run the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which primarily deals with city planning. Of his four female appointees, the highest profile is billionaire Republican donor and “school choice” activist Betsy DeVos. Fast-food titan Andy Puzder will run the Labor Department and billionaire businessman Wilbur Ross is the choice for commerce secretary.

Trump has selected three women of color to top positions. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who is Indian-American, is the pick for US Ambassador to the United Nations. The Taiwan-born former Bush administration labor secretary, Elaine Chao, the first Asian-American woman to serve in a presidential Cabinet, has been tapped by Trump to head the Transportation Department. And Seema Verma, the daughter of Indian immigrants, has been selected to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – what should be a key role in the Obamacare repeal fight.

Top national security posts in the Trump administration will also be held exclusively by white men. In addition to Mattis, another retired Marine general, John Kelly, is slated to take over the Department of Homeland Security, while Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo has been nominated as the next CIA director. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a top Trump aide and senior staffer, will round out Trump’s senior security staff.

Former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon, another GOP billionaire donor, will take over as administrator of the Small Business Administration pending confirmation.

Correction: This post has been updated to reflect the head of the Small Business Administration requires Senate confirmation.