Earlier this week, I brought you a neat dissection of how the mainstream news media constructs an attack on the White House in the guise of objective journalism. Reporters from Fox News and ABC News double-teamed Press Secretary Jay Carney using a right-wing study of an apparent White House gender pay gap, and CNN stuck the dismount by carving out the section of Carney’s answer that seemed to validate that talking point. On Saturday morning’s Melissa Harris-Perry show, host Melissa Harris-Perry demonstrated how the same tactic can be used from the left by accusing Jay Carney of “mansplaining” the gap, and similarly clipping his response to suit her narrative.
In the setup to her first panel, Harris-Perry was trying to illustrate that the 77 cents on the dollar figure that proponents of the Paycheck Fairness Act use is a raw figure that isn’t entirely due to wage discrimination. To illustrate the complexity of the problem, she brought up the American Enterprise Institute study that shows women in the White House make 88 cents for every dollar a man makes, then played a clip of Carney explaining, for a few seconds, 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.”
“Probably not a great idea to engage in mansplaining, there,” MHP said following the clip.
According to the internet, “mansplaining” is “when a man speaks to a woman with the assumption that the she knows less than he does about a given topic, even when it’s painfully obvious that she knows more.”
Since Carney was responding to a question from Ed Henry, though, who had just finished Foxsplaining Carney’s earlier answer, and had painfully misread it, it’s not really fair to call this “mansplaining.” The response was part of a long exchange in which Carney acknowledged the need for improvement in the raw wage gap (which was the only part of his answer that made it to CNN), but drew a clear distinction between equal pay for equal work and other contributors to the overall wage gap. Here’s video of that full exchange:
Carney was also asked, later in that same briefing, if the 88 cent figure was good enough. “Is there still work to be done in this regard?” asked The Wall Street Journal’s Carol Lee.
Carney responded “I think there’s work — there’s work to be done across the country, and we need to engage in that,” and reiterating that “I think that on the fundamental issue of do employers pay women equally for the same work, the White House record is crystal clear, and the answer is yes.”
Carney also said that “the broader issue is one that we all as a nation have to address, and that’s why the President is committed to it. The focus, obviously, of the Paycheck Fairness Act and the equal pay-related executive actions that the President wants to take is to ensure that women are not being paid less for the work that they do — the same work that men do.”
It’s legitimate to say that Carney might have been able to handle the manquiries of Ed Henry and Jon Karl with a more deft touch, or a more complete answer that wasn’t so laser-focused on defending the White House’s record, but he wasn’t “mansplaining,” he was un-Foxing a Foxsplanation.