Anatomy of a Media Attack: ABC News, Fox News, and CNN on White House and Equal Pay

FILED TO: Politics

On this Equal Pay Day, it is instructive to see how the mainstream media constructs an attack on the White House and disguises it as good old-fashioned adversarial journalism. One clip you’ve probably seen all day today is of cable news hosts debating the talking point about a supposed gender pay gap among the White House staff, which conservatives raise annually in an attempt to undermine the President’s commitment to pay equity, and the notion of pay equity itself. The figure that The American Enterprise Institute is using this year, 88 cents on every dollar, comes from comparing the median annual salary of women who work in the White House, to the median annual salary of their male colleagues.

The AEI report deliberately ignores whether the men and women at the White House are being paid the same amount for the same jobs, because they’re trying to critique President Obama’s use of a similar statistic in his speeches about equal pay. Whether you agree with the critique or not, it is a mildly clever one, and well within the bounds of a partisan think tank. Besides, when two different reporters tag-teamed White House Press Secretary Jay Carney about it on Monday, Carney explained, clear as a bell, that women in the White House get paid exactly the same as men for the same jobs. Clear as a bell. Jon Karl brought up the AEI study, and Carney explained the gap as a function of looking at the aggregate of all staffers, including the most junior, but that “men and women in equivalent roles here earn equivalent salaries. For example, we have two deputy chiefs of staff, one man and one woman, and they earn the same salary. We have 16 department heads, over half of them are women, all of whom make the same salary as their male counterparts.”

Fox News’ Ed Henry followed up, shortly thereafter, by summarizing that “you’re basically saying that women at the senior levels here make equal or more than men, but if you’re at the lower level and you’re a woman on the White House staff, you don’t make as much?”

“No, that would be a misreading and misinterpretation of what I said,” Carney replied, clear as a bell. “Everybody at every level here at the White House is paid the same for the same work, male or female.”

Apparently, not clearly enough for Ed, who asked “So how do we get to the 88 cents?”

“Well, I think I just explained that, but I’ll do it for you as well, and that is that when you look at the aggregate — and this includes everybody from the most senior levels to the lowest levels — you’re averaging all salaries together, which means including the lowest-level salaries, which may or may not be, depending on the institution, filled by more women than men,” Carney said again, adding “But at every level here at the White House you’re paid the same for the work that you do regardless of your gender.”


So, with all of that tape of Jay Carney saying, over and over again, how men and women at the White House get paid the same amount for the same work, here’s how it got reported on CNN this morning, by John King:


Is it fair to point out that the President is using a raw figure to represent the wage gap, one that doesn’t compare women and men in the exact same jobs? Yes, although it’s also fair for him to use it, because that 77 cent figure takes into account a range of factors beyond here-and-now, direct wage discrimination. Those women who hold junior positions now will hold the senior positions of tomorrow.

What isn’t fair is for ostensibly objective news organizations to present a Republican talking point, then only play part of the White House’s response. Later in that segment, Bloomberg’s Margaret Talev briefly tried to explain the rest of Carney’s answer, but as CNN presented it, Carney was copping to a gender pay gap that doesn’t exist.


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  • Lodge

    Are THESE supposed to be the so-called “liberal media” the cons are constantly breaking our nuts about?

  • Olwe

    Well, in all my jobs I have seen notices on the bulletin boards stating about the Federal Equal pay Law. This had been a law for decades. This appears to be one of those fake issues to stir up people, to think there is an issue. For many years, the women I worked with, during the same job, were paid the same as I was, even if they took time off to have a baby. They had to take FMLA but when they came back, they still got the same pay and seniority. This fake announcement is merely a distraction.

  • notoriousbob

    Carney does a great job, but I don’t have any idea why he would have replied with the ‘88% is better than the national avg’ line. The whole argument is completely moot, as he describes, but by replying in that manner I think he gave their argument credibility, or at least opened the door. His last point about this being a political stunt was great.

  • mustang3

    Wow! The Daily Banter saying that what was reported on a new’s site isn’t right? Complaining that the people at home will just believe what is being reported and not have all the facts! Welcome to a conservative’s world “Daily Caller” CNN, ABC,MSNBC, NBC and CBS have not been reporting all “the facts” since 2008 only what they want their viewers to hear and believe. This article is so hypocritical.

  • Tom Blue

    John King? He’s still around? I had no idea! Good thing nobody saw that segment.

    I actually thought that Jay Carney got the best of these front row knuckleheads today. Embarrassed the hell out of Reuters, too. It was a pretty entertaining sequence, especially if you already accept that there are four reporters sitting there in the front row doing battle for the GOP — Ed Henry, Major Garrett, Jon Karl and (this time) CNN’s Jim Acosta.

    They ended up looking pretty silly and vacuous today, for sure.

    Thanks for keeping tabs on these vacuous knuckleheads, Mr. Christopher. I’m enjoying your work, so far.

    • swift_4

      They may have looked silly to an intelligent person watching the full press briefing. But for the people who only see the sound bite on the news, they will believe the opposite.

  • Badgerite

    My question is why do they pay these brilliant pundits any money at all?

  • Rollo Tamasi

    “The AEI report deliberately ignores whether the men and women at the White House are being paid the same amount for the same jobs”

    Tommy C is the first journalist that I’ve seen all day that has pointed this out.

  • Steven Skelton

    I’m glad that the “78 cents on the dollar” horseshit has been exposed. The statistic is without context and without meaning.

    • JozefAL

      And, Steven, it has NOT been “exposed” as “horseshit.” THAT is entirely your MISinterpretation, as is evidenced by your own lies about your “libertarianism.” Since you believe the RIGHT-WING CONSERVATIVE American Enterprise Institute’s “horseshit” as having any validity, you prove that your “libertarianism” is nothing more than closeted right-wing conservativism.

      Own up to it.

    • swift_4

      It is not horseshit. It is one method of looking at gender inequality. Why, on average, do women make less? There are reasons, and they matter, and they need to be discussed. But they won’t be as long as people spend their time twisting facts around or shrugging them off.

      • Olwe

        There is no inequality. We are all different. Some people work harder than others, some people don’t. If you have alot of money, I want some of it because of fiscal inequality. Pay up your fair share.

  • mrbrink

    This administration doesn’t have an honest leg to stand on. A national day of eye-rolling is in order, so says the googly-eyed enablers of bug fucks in the bizarro Muppet media. Women making equal pay for equal work, more people with health insurance, taxing millionaires more, investing in green technology, fighting for a higher minimum wage, warning against the Supreme Court’s view of money in politics, withdrawing troops from inherited war zones, cutting the deficit, expanding protections for same sex marriage, and more legal weed being bought and sold in America than at any point in our lifetimes– this administration is taking the country for a ride! It’s called the Get-Shit-Fixed Express. Media’s in the front car taking a break from a coordinated bullshit-offensive to poke their heads out from behind the curtain to relay their bullshit findings to the coach class. Tommy Christopher then pokes his head out from behind the curtain to say, “everything these assholes are saying is bullshit.” Love it.

  • judi

    “WE already have our slant on this in mind……can you please give us a confirmation of OUR FACTS so we can spread this shiat to our viewers ???????,

  • Draxiar

    The “Liberal Media Bias” at work, right? “Hey lets fuck up the information so we have a genuinely good positive story hay to spin into negative story ratings gold!”


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