The latest high-profile Black member of President Joe Biden‘s inner circle of close advisers began a new White House job this week without an actual office in the White House, and some of her new colleagues have reportedly found that to be disrespectful.
Keisha Lance Bottoms, the former mayor of Atlanta and an early supporter of Biden’s presidential campaign, started her tenure as the newest director of the White House Office of Public Engagement (OPE), a role that was vacated by former Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond before he left to work at the Democratic National Committee.
Bottoms announced earlier this month that she had been named to replace Richmond, bringing her association with Biden full circle after she had previously been considered for a vice-presidential candidacy and a cabinet position.
However, Richmond’s office was apparently given to senior adviser Anita Dunn — who recently returned to the White House after previously serving in a temporary role early in Biden’s presidency — effectively leaving Bottoms without an office of her own in the White House. Instead, Bottoms has been assigned to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB), which is located next to the White House.
According to POLITICO’s West Wing Playbook, “some White House officials felt that starting in the EEOB was insulting to Lance Bottoms.”
That response may be because of the extraordinary efforts POLITICO’s West Wing Playbook reports that the White House has gone to bring Bottoms on Biden’s team.
“This has been a nearly two-year recruitment effort,” said “a person familiar with the dynamic,” POLITICO reported.
POLITICO added: “Lance Bottoms is now one of the few Black senior White House officials. Biden’s Cabinet is the most diverse in history, but his inner circle is largely white, which has caused some internal tensions.”
Dunn, who also worked in President Barack Obama’s White House, is white. She also worked in the EEOB before transitioning into Richmond’s former office.
“Mayor Bottoms is in the process of moving to D.C. full time and will shortly move to an office in the West Wing,” the White House told POLITICO.
Bottoms is expected to use the same EEOB office that Dunn used, POLITICO reported.
Bottoms — who, for her part, hasn’t said anything publicly good or bad about her new office digs — became a close ally of Biden’s during his 2020 presidential campaign.
After his election, then-Mayor Bottoms turned down a cabinet position that was offered.
“Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was honored to have been offered a role in the Cabinet, which she respectfully declined,” adviser Rashad Taylor told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in December 2020.
Bottoms was prompted to issue that statement after Biden’s team denied the initial report she was offered a role in the president’s cabinet. While it was unclear which role Bottoms was offered, New Yorker reporter Charles Bethea tweeted at the time that “sources” told him she “was offered — and declined — the Ambassadorship to the Bahamas.” Bethea suggested that role was a far cry from the cabinet positions for which Bottoms was reportedly being considered, including the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
A little more than a year ago, Bottoms announced she would not be seeking re-election, ultimately paving the way for her to be able to become the director of an office that “is responsible for creating and coordinating direct dialogue between the Biden-Harris administration and the diverse American public,” according to OPE’s website.