Networks Barely Notice White House War on Women’s Pay

After puffing up Obama as equal pay champion, roughly 95 percent of stories on pay disparity mentioning Obama ignore White House wage gap.

Obama has been a champion of equal pay for women, at least according to his administration and the network news media.

The broadcast networks boosted his image on the subject throughout his presidency, from the first bill he signed into law in 2009 to a September 2014 speech mentioning “equal pay.” ABC said Obama waged an “assault” on the pay gap with an executive order over salary disclosures, while CBS said he “boosts equal pay for women.”

The networks credited Obama with signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which would allow women more time to sue employers for unfair compensation. Stories repeated his “new attack line” against Republicans over equal pay and praised other legislative efforts including his support for the Paycheck Fairness Act. Yet, the networks virtually ignored the hypocrisy when the White House was taken to task for its own gender wage gap.

Between Obama’s inauguration in January 2009 and early October 2014, ABC, CBS and NBC news programs aired 22 stories that mentioned equal pay or pay gap and the Obama administration in some way. Roughly 95 percent (21 of 22 stories) said nothing about a gender wage gap within the White House itself.

Even liberals and the media knew the entire pay gap construct was a charade, because the method of determining the gap the media and the left cite was an overly simplistic comparison of all women in all jobs to all men in all jobs. But Obama, the media, and many others continued to claim that women make only 77 or 78 cents to a man’s dollar.

Measuring by the same standard Obama has used to claim women are being discriminated against, there is also gender wage gap in the Obama White House. Annual staff salaries showed an 88 cents to $1 difference between women and men, American Enterprise Institute determined. AEI published its findings in multiple posts in September 2013 and December 2013. later reported those findings. The Daily Mail (UK) spoke up even sooner with its own calculation in April 2012 that there was an $11,000 difference between the median female and male salaries at the White House.

The hypocrisy on Obama’s part barely registered with the networks which only mentioned it in one story.

As Obama and Liberals Campaigned on ‘War on Women,’ Networks Ignored Pay Disparity for White House Women

Just a campaign season ago liberals blasted conservatives with so-called “war on women” rhetoric, and a few, like Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., were still using it this election cycle. One line of argument that the left used repeatedly was the issue of “equal pay.” Obama brought up gender pay gaps many times throughout his presidency often earning him network praise.

In 2012, Obama campaigned saying he wanted women to make “equal pay for equal work.” That year he also revived the “war on women” theme in attack ads against Mitt Romney’s pro-life stance, according to Politico.

CBS “This Morning” said nothing about the disparity between pay for men and women in the White House on June 23, 2014, when it reported on the White House Summit on Working Families where “issues like equal pay” were “on the agenda.” The story included an interview between Obama and CBS co-anchor Norah O’Donnell.

Obama told her, “[A]cross the board in the aggregate, women are making 77 cents for every dollar that a man’s making. Discrimination’s still taking place and so part of what we want to do is to lift up the possibilities of changes in federal policy, but we don’t want to restrict it to just federal laws.”

In that broadcast, O’Donnell failed to follow up by asking if the president knew there was a pay gap among his staff or what he intended to do about it.

NBC “Nightly News” brought on Maria Shriver to present her own report on the economic status of women. Shriver had also been invited to the White House to present her findings about the  between men and women. Unsurprisingly, on the Jan. 14, 2014, “Nightly News” she quoted Obama and praised him saying he “has pledged to fix the problem” Shriver called a “persistent wage gap.” Her story also cited the oft-repeated, but misleading statistic that women make 77 cents to every dollar a man makes.

Only the April 8, 2014, “World News with Diane Sawyer” mentioned criticism of the White House pay gap, burying it at the very end of its segment.

“The White House hopes highlighting the issue of fair pay will help Democrats at the polls in November. Though the Paycheck Fairness Act is set to be considered by the Senate soon, it is unlikely to get through the GOP-led House. The right calling it, quote ‘A bizarre obsession’ and pointing out that women in Obama’s own White House make 88 cents to men’s dollar. So Diane, both sides using this politically,” ABC correspondent Mara Schiavocampo said.

That same night CBS “Evening News” teased a story saying “the president boosts equal pay for women” but said nothing in its story about the Obama pay gap.

In contrast, both The New York Times and The Washington Post repeatedly exposed the White House pay gap. The gap “remains entrenched at White House,” the Post wrote on July 1, 2014. The next day the Post exposed the administration’s struggle to “explain how it is they can complain about the gender pay gap and then have one of their own.”

The Times pointed out on April 7, 2014, that Obama’s “Own Payroll Draws Scrutiny” and suggested gender issues including “pay equity” could be “critical” in midterm elections. That story repeated Carney’s claim that the White House gender gap of 88 cents to a dollar was “misleading” “because it aggregates the salaries of White House staff members at all levels, including the lowest levels, where women outnumber men.”

The Times then cited a Republican spokesman criticism and explained that the “77-cent statistic that Mr. Obama has often cited was misleading for the same reason.”

The Equal Pay Charade

Equal pay was easily the most misleading lefty argument in its farcical “war on women” claims. What many liberals, including Obama, didn’t want to admit was that the statistic they paraded out to incite feminine outrage was a useless measurement.

Comparing what all full-time females with what all full-time males make failed to take into consideration differences like the fact that men and women don’t all choose the same fields of employment, get the same levels of education, have the same amount of work experience or even work the same number of hours in a full-time work week. When many of those things were accounted for the gap narrowed significantly.

In fact, it was such an absurd comparison that one far-left writer at, Hanna Rosin, actually called it a “lie” and said it was time to stop repeating the 77 cents on the dollar nonsense.

“Barack Obama said it during his last campaign. Women’s groups say it ever April 9, which is Equal Pay Day,” Rosin wrote. “I’ve heard the line enough times that I feel the need to set the record straight: It’s not true.”

The problem, in her opinion, was that the statistic “gives the impression that a man and a woman standing next to each other doing the same job for the same number of hours get paid different salaries. That’s not at all the case.”

She said a closer to “apples-to-apples” comparison by two economists that was designed to account for education, experience, occupation and industry narrowed the gap to 91 cents. Rosin noted “women congregate in different professions than men do, and the largely male professions tend to be higher-paying.”

Obama and the media often portrayed any gender “pay gap” as the result of overt discrimination -- which is already illegal -- rather than the result of making different personal choices. No two individuals are the same as one other. The network news media often helped bolster claims of discrimination by repeating the statistics without explaining how misleading they really were.

Comedian Sarah Silverman cried discrimination in a recent, raunchy, promotional video complaining about the issue of equal pay and joked that she was going to get a sex change operation in order to make the same money as a man. But even without a sex change, she had a net worth of $10 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. That’s more than three times the net worth of comedian John Oliver who just got his own fake new show on HBO.

Pay discrimination is already illegal, and has been since President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Yet, year after year, election after election the left trotted out this statistic to argue for more government.

Obama’s administration wanted to have it both ways and the broadcast networks have mostly failed to take him to task for it, even when print media outlets did. The administration repeated the misleading statistic time and again, but insisted “women who do the same work as men” at the White House do get paid the same. reported in April 2014, that as Obama was on another equal pay kick, his press secretary Jay Carney was caught off guard by a reporter asking about White House pay disparity.

“What I can tell you is that we have, as an institution here, have aggressively addressed this challenge, and obviously, though, at the 88 cents that you cite, that is not a hundred, but it is better than the national average," Carney said.

He continued, "And when it comes to the bottom line that women who do the same work as men have to be paid the same, there is no question that that is happening here at the White House at every level."

Methodology: MRC Business examined all news segments on NBC, CBS and ABC mentioning “equal pay” or “pay gap” between Jan. 20, 2009, and Oct. 10, 2014, to see which ones mentioned the president, the White House or the Obama administration. The the stories were analyzed to see if they mentioned pay differences among male and female White House staff.

— Julia A. Seymour is Assistant Managing Editor for MRC Business at the Media Research Center. Follow Julia A. Seymour on Twitter.