NBC Painfully Faces an Inconvenient Truth: Men and Women are Different

Say it ain't so, Gloria Steinem.

NBC Nightly News sounded an almost apologetic tone this week as it aired a four-day series of short news pieces debunking one of the fundamental precepts of feminism, that men and women are essentially the same.

The series, “The Truth About Boys and Girls,” devolved in the last two days from an examination of scientific evidence to a recitation of feminist discrimination complaints. NBC continually chafed against the evidence, introducing ideological objections, but the network deserves credit for bringing long-overdue information to the public.

Tucked in at the end of the broadcasts on Monday, January 14 through Thursday, January 17, the four segments acknowledged differences in brain function, recognized that boys and girls learn differently and benefit from single-sex education, revealed that 57 percent of college undergraduates are women, and investigated the pay gap between men and women.

Anchor Brian Williams introduced the series Monday evening by warning viewers that NBC was “kicking off a unique series of reports tonight on what can be a controversial issue.  We are calling it 'The Truth About Boys and Girls.'”  Williams quickly gave a nod to liberal orthodoxy: “…there are obvious differences, but more similarities than a lot of people might think.”  

Unfortunately for Williams, none of the information presented by NBC chief science correspondent Robert Bazell backed him up.  During the brain function segment, Bazell said “When it comes to memory, there is a huge difference between females and males.” Bazell interviewed MIT researcher John Gabrieli, who explained that men store memories on the side of the brain that allows separation of emotions from facts, while women store memories on the other side of the brain, where emotions and facts are integrated.

Williams sounded quite skeptical as he introduced the second segment on Tuesday: “Tonight an idea that is gathering support and gathering fire. This idea of single-sex education. Separating boys and girls, so the theory is, they learn better.” 

Reporter Rehema Ellis persuasively established that the theory is well supported by fact, at least in Woodward Avenue Elementary School near Orlando:

Concerned about declining test scores especially among boys, Woodward began experimenting with single gender classes four years ago.  The results: Improvement across the board with boys benefiting the most. 85 percent of Woodward's fourth grade boys in single gender classes passed the state reading test compared with 55 percent of boys in mixed classes.

Separating the sexes, however, is anathema to the liberal mind, where ideology apparently can trump the welfare of real children.  NBC ran a clip of American University professor David Sadker, who thundered:

Our schools are already divided by race, by class, now we want to divide them by gender? We ought to invest our resources in training teachers, in working with curricula, in making our co-ed schools better schools.

The deterioration from science to politics accelerated in the third and fourth segments.  Part three acknowledged that 57 percent of American undergraduates are women, because girls tend to perform better in school than boys.  This numerical disparity would normally raise concerns about anti-male discrimination, but males cannot be victims in politically correct thinking.  NBC's Savannah Guthrie found a creative way to cast females as victims, reporting that women now face stiffer standards for admission than men because colleges, in the name of diversity, are lowering the bar for men.  Guthrie failed to explain why affirmative action is wrong for males, but right for other groups.

Williams appeared to be more comfortable introducing the fourth segment, which addressed the gender gap in wages. He affirmed vigorously that “Female workers still make less money than men for the same work.” NBC's Trish Regan cited an American Association of University Women study concluding that women continue to be paid less than men even after accounting for factors like “women with flex-time schedules and women who take time off for children.”  Regan ran a clip of a critic of the study, but never mentioned the exhaustive research done by people like Carrie Lukas of the Independent Women's Forum, who contend that the wage gap can almost completely be accounted for by differences in priorities between men and women.

Brian Fitzpatrick is senior editor at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.