NBC Takes 'Wage Gap' Activism to White House, Brags of Obama's Support

NBC News special anchor Maria Shriver played both roles of journalist and activist on Tuesday's Nightly News, as she promoted her own report on closing the gender "wage gap" while touting President Obama's support for her cause.

"NBC's Maria Shriver was invited to the White House to present her report to President Obama late today," reported anchor Brian Williams, unconcerned about the conflict of interest of a reporter going to the White House to drum up support for her own work.

Shriver gave Obama free publicity as being "sympathetic" to working single mothers:

"As the son of a single mother, President Obama said he is very sympathetic to these issues that one in three women is living on the brink of poverty in the United States of America. And one of the main reasons is the persistent wage gap that exists between men and women."

She also pitted a supportive Obama against a Congress that is supposedly dragging its feet on the matter: "While President Obama has pledged to fix the problem, Congress has been slow to respond."

And after her report, Shriver enjoyed one last brag about the President getting behind her cause: "President Obama told me that he would like the issues that are in this report to inform a summit that he wants to hold here at the White House in the spring on working families."

One problem with Shriver's segment is that there is another side to the issue, but as an activist she was only willing to plug her own report. For instance, the Heritage Foundation called her main statistic "misleading" and noted that multiple variables factor into the "wage gap," like choices of occupations and child care. However, no expert taking issue with Shriver's report was interviewed.

Below is a transcript of the segment:

NBC
NBC NIGHTLY NEWS
1/14/14
[7:14 p.m. EST]

BRIAN WILLIAMS: All this week across NBC News, we have special coverage of the economic status of women in this country and the pay gap that exists between the genders. A new bound document called the Shriver Report is getting a lot of attention, including as we mentioned a minute ago from Beyonce, who is among many interviewed in the report and calls gender equality a myth. She says, quote, "Men have to demand that their wives, daughters, mothers and sisters earn more." NBC's Maria Shriver was invited to the White House to present her report to President Obama late today. She's been able to join us from there tonight. Hey, Maria, good evening.

MARIA SHRIVER, NBC News special anchor: Good evening, Brian. As the son of a single mother, President Obama said he is very sympathetic to these issues that one in three women is living on the brink of poverty in the United States of America. And one of the main reasons is the persistent wage gap that exists between men and women.

(Video Clip)

EILEEN RIZZO, math teacher, Fresno County Office of Education: Can you count them?

SHRIVER: (Voice over) Eileen Rizzo is a math consultant. She helps teachers teach math for the Fresno County Office of Education.

(On camera) You are in a fight for equality?

RIZZO: Yes.

SHRIVER: If someone had told you years ago you would be doing this, what would you have said?
 
RIZZO: I wouldn't have believed it. I really wouldn't.

SHRIVER: (voice over) Rizzo, a mother of two, is the first in her family to go to college, and has two masters degrees. But one day a new male colleague revealed that his starting salary was nearly $12,000 more than she was making. After four years in the same position.

RIZZO: My heart dropped. I was – my mind was just whirling and thinking, well how did this happen?

SHRIVER: When she complained to her bosses, she was told that starting salary was based on someone's previous pay. Outraged, Rizzo joined the advocacy group, the American Association of University Women, to help her fight.

RIZZO: The thought is that I'll never catch up.

SHRIVER: On average women make 77 cents to every man's dollar. The Shriver Report finds that closing the wage gap would cut the poverty rate for working women in half, adding close to a half a trillion dollars to the economy.

SHRIVER: (on camera) Why do you think the wage gap still exists today?

KATHARINE LUSK, advisor to the mayor, city of Boston.: Unconscious bias is a huge part of it.

SHRIVER: (voice over) Katherine Lusk is a policy adviser for the city of Boston, which intends to be the first city in America to pay women and men equally.

LUSK: Women are penalized when they try to negotiate for pay. They're less likely to be considered for jobs that have historically been held by men. All of those things hold women back.

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: It's time to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act so that women will have more tools to fight pay discrimination.

SHRIvER: While President Obama has pledged to fix the problem, Congress has been slow to respond. And Eileen Rizzo feels she has no choice but to take her fight to the courts. Recently she won the right to sue her employer. The Fresno County Office of Education declined to comment to NBC News, but in a letter they sent to Rizzo, they said that their hiring formula had not resulted in a disproportionate impact on gender. Undeterred, Rizzo says her fight is about the future for her daughters.

SHRIVER: (on camera) Are you proud of your mom?

DAUGHTER OF EILEEN RIZZO: Yeah.

RIZZO: I'm passionate about what I do and I love it. And at the same time, I had to decide that I wanted to see it through, because I wanted the world to be different for my daughters.

(End Video Clip)

SHRIVER: Brian, President Obama told me that he would like the issues that are in this report to inform a summit that he wants to hold here at the White House in the spring on working families.

WILLIAMS: Maria Shriver, having presented her namesake findings to the President at the White House late today. Maria, thanks for being with us tonight.


 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014