FACT CHECK: Did Reagan Appoint The First Black National Security Advisor, Hispanic Cabinet Member?

Jacob Orgel | Contributor

Mark Weinberg, aide to former President Ronald Reagan, claimed Wednesday that his old boss appointed the first black national security advisor, as well as the first Hispanic cabinet member.

Verdict: True

Reagan appointed Colin Powell, the first black national security advisor, and later Lauro F. Cavazos, the first Hispanic cabinet member.

Fact Check:

Weinberg made the statement during an appearance on Fox News Wednesday in which he defended Reagan against recent comments by Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“A perfect example of how special interests and the powerful have pitted white working-class Americans against brown and black working-class Americans in order to just screw over all working-class Americans is Reaganism in the ’80s,” the freshman representative said at the South by Southwest Conference and Festivals.

Weinberg responded by saying that “it’s unfortunate that this representative of Congress is spending her time perpetuating old myths and telling lies instead of serving her constituents.”

He went on to support his argument by claiming that “Ronald Reagan was the first president to appoint an African-American national security advisor, the first president to appoint a Hispanic to the cabinet.”

In 1987, Reagan named Powell to the post of national security advisor, making him the first black American to hold the position. Powell later served as the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, and the first black secretary of state, appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001.

Reagan also nominated Cavazos, former president of Texas Tech University, to serve as the secretary of education in August 1988. The Senate confirmed Cavazos in a 94-0 vote the following month, making him the first Hispanic member of a cabinet.

While Reagan appointed a series of firsts in terms of diversity – he also fulfilled his campaign promise to seat the first woman to the Supreme Court – other, more recent presidents have put a larger emphasis on cabinet diversity.

Ninety percent of Reagan’s initial cabinet picks were white, according to an analysis by NPR. Since then, former President Barack Obama has picked the most racially diverse first cabinet, with 41 percent of positions going to non-white individuals.

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