WASHINGTON — Michael Leach, the White House’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer, is leaving the administration, the White House confirmed Thursday.
Leach will leave the White House later this month, said a White House official, who added that the move had been in the works for a while. Leach is also a special assistant to the president.
The White House official described one of Leach’s most significant achievements as “helping staff up the most diverse administration in history.” The Biden administration wants to make sure Leach’s work continues and is searching for his replacement, the official said.
Leach led President Joe Biden’s diversity and inclusion efforts during his 2020 presidential campaign, according to his LinkedIn profile, and he has been with the administration since Biden entered the Oval Office. He called his job “the honor of a lifetime” in an interview with The Associated Press, which previously reported Leach’s planned departure.
“President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris have demonstrated their inspiring values through their actions time and time again, and I could not be more ready to serve with such a diverse and brilliant team as we continue the work of building our country back better,” Leach posted on LinkedIn three years ago, announcing his move to the administration.
The Biden administration filed a report in June showing it employed the most diverse White House staff in U.S. history, as NBC News has reported. As of the publication of that report, nearly half of the administration’s appointees identify as racially or ethnically diverse, and about 59% of White House staff members are women.
Biden has emphasized the importance of diversity throughout his term, as Republicans have railed against diversity and inclusion initiatives and teaching practices.
“We need to keep an open door of opportunities. We need to remember that diversity is our strength. We have to find a way forward,” Biden said last year remarks after the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action programs in college admissions cases.
The Supreme Court decision was largely celebrated by Republican politicians, who have argued the practice harms white and Asian applicants. Former President Donald Trump called it “a great day for America.”
Education curricula also have been a key battleground for those who disagree about how students should be taught about racism and history. Last year, Florida’s public schools adopted new standards saying that “slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed a bill last year to ban public colleges in his state from using state or federal funds on diversity, equity and inclusion programs.