House Speaker Paul Ryan acknowledged Thursday that the Republican Party needs more women and minorities, and pointed to Utah Rep. Mia Love – the only black Republican woman in Congress – as evidence that the party was making progress.
The discussion, with CBS News host Gayle King, was prompted by President Donald Trump’s tweet of a photo from a dinner he hosted at the White House for members of Republican leadership.
In the photo, which was tweeted Wednesday night, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are surrounded by five members of congressional Republican leadership, including Ryan. All of the lawmakers included in that photo are white men.
“When I look at that picture, Mr. Speaker, I have to say, I don’t see anyone that looks like me in terms of color or gender,” CBS News host Gayle King told Ryan. “You were one of the main people who said you want to do more for the Republican Party to expand … Some say this President really doesn’t want to expand the base.”
“So when I look at that picture, I have to say, I don’t feel very celebratory, I feel very excluded,” added King, who is black.
“I don’t like the fact that you feel that way,” Ryan told King, adding that “we need more minorities, more women in our party and I’ve been focusing on that kind of recruitment.”
Ryan, who announced Wednesday that he would retire in January, then pointed to Love, who he has mentored, as an example.
“She’s somebody I recruited in a primary to come to Congress. There are a lot of candidates like Mia that we’re recruiting all around the country,” he added, saying that even though he is retiring from Congress he was going to “keep being involved and focusing on inclusive, aspirational politics.”
While Congress has undoubtedly grown more diverse, the ranks of leadership in the Republican Party have not. Every member of Republican leadership on both sides of the Rotunda is white. There is one woman, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, in House Republican leadership. There are none in Senate Republican leadership.