Maria Bartiromo: “The president actually has a lot of women in his administration.”
Lara Trump: “Yes, the most of any president I believe, and, one of the, I think the first, to have a woman in charge of the campaign, so there you go.”
— exchange on Fox Business Network, March 8, 2018
“.@realDonaldTrump has appointed more women to senior-level positions than previous administrations.”
— Republican National Committee, in a tweet, March 3
During Women’s History Month, the Trump administration and its allies are claiming that he’s making history.
Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law, claimed on International Women’s Day that President Trump has appointed more women than any other president, in addition to having the first woman in charge of a campaign.
The RNC, meanwhile, in a tweet said Trump appointed more women “than previous administrations.” In a March 10 Instagram post, the RNC made a similar claim, and yet oddly included photographs of the first and second ladies, who obviously are not appointed (and so far, in U.S. history, are all female.)
We will set aside Lara Trump’s claim that Kellyanne Conway was the first woman in charge of a campaign. She actually was the third, after Susan Estrich (Mike Dukakis, 1988) and Donna Brazile (Al Gore, 2000), but she was the first to win.
So how is Trump doing on female hires?
First of all, we should note that the White House referred queries about Lara Trump to the Trump campaign. A request for comment was ignored.
An RNC official, meanwhile, said that the organization was not trying to imply that Trump had a better record than all previous administrations. “We purposely did not say ‘any other administration’ because we know that’s not true,” the official said.
We welcome the admission, though we think the tweet could have been worded better.
So what does the data say?
Interestingly, there is little consistent analysis across administrations. Here are the best numbers we found.
- Knight-Ridder News Services found in 1993 that 37 percent of the first 512 appointees in the Bill Clinton administration were women.
- The Brookings Institution determined that 26 percent of George W. Bush’s first 264 nominations were women.
- The New York Times found about 43 percent of Barack Obama’s appointments were women at the start of his second term. Some departments, such as Health and Human Services, Education, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development had 50 percent or more female appointments under Obama.
As for Trump, we have two measures, indicating a range of 22 percent to 27 percent for female appointments. But the trend line may be getting worse.
- A Bloomberg analysis, using data obtained by ProPublica, found 27 percent of administration hires through March of 2017 were female.
- The Washington Post appointment tracker, run with the Partnership for Public Service, shows that 22 percent of Trump’s Senate-confirmed nominees so far are women. The tracker was updated as of March 9, 2017.
Finally, let’s just look at Cabinet heads. For the Fact Checker, the Partnership for Public Service compiled data on the first appointments of Trump, Obama and George W. Bush.
- Bush had three women in his Cabinet (Agriculture, Labor and Interior), plus one other woman with Cabinet rank. Total: Four.
- Obama had four women in his Cabinet (State, Homeland Security, Labor, and Health and Human Services), plus four others with Cabinet rank. Total: Eight
- Trump had two women in his Cabinet (Education and Transportation), plus two others with Cabinet rank. Total: Four.
Trump, of course, replaced John Kelly at Homeland Security with Kirstjen Nielsen, so now he has a total of five women with Cabinet rank. That still lags both Obama and Bill Clinton (Seven with Cabinet rank in his first term) but Trump places third overall, ahead of any other president, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
But just because the person at the top is female, it may not mean the rest of the team is. The Washington Post appointment tracker shows only one Education appointee, Secretary Betsy DeVos, is female, while the nine other Senate nominees at Education are male. That’s 10 percent, vs. 50 percent female appointments at Education under Obama.
The Pinocchio Test
Under no metric has Trump appointed more women than any previous president. In fact, he currently lags behind Obama and Clinton and possibly George W. Bush in terms of the percentage of female appointments. As we noted, the RNC tweet could have been better worded, especially since RNC officials concede this point. Trump may be better than other presidents, but not recent presidents.
There’s no excusing Lara Trump’s claim. She earns four Pinocchios.
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