MSNBC’s Sharpton Repeats False Gender Pay Stat; Quasi-Conservative Huntsman Doesn’t Push Back

Liberals just can’t seem to let go of the myth that women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man makes doing the same job. On Wednesday’s PoliticsNation on MSNBC, the Rev. Al Sharpton repeated that bogus claim, and his supposedly conservative guest, Abby Huntsman of The Cycle, failed to call him out on it.

Sharpton asked, “Abby, women make about 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for doing the same job. Don't Republican needs [sic] to be more sensitive to issues like that?”


Instead of pushing back against the 77-cents line, Huntsman criticized two Republican women whose quotes Sharpton had played a moment earlier: “You know, there’s no such thing as being too busy for equal pay. Maybe I'm misunderstanding something, but I’ve never heard that excuse before, or the idea that men are better negotiators than women.”

A real conservative would have pointed out that “women make about 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for doing the same job” is a false claim that has been refuted in a number of places. Even left-leaning website The Daily Beast ran an article that pointed out the distortion:
 

The 23-cent gender pay gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full-time. It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure, or hours worked per week. When all these relevant factors are taken into consideration, the wage gap narrows to about five cents.
 

When one of President Obama’s 2012 campaign ads trotted out the 77-cent statistic, PolitiFact rated the claim “mostly false.” They explained:

The 77-cent figure compares all male and female workers, regardless of their occupation. Whether due to a historical legacy of discrimination or because of personal choice, women and men are disproportionately represented in certain jobs. For instance, women dominate the ranks of receptionists, nurses, and elementary and middle-school teachers, among other fields. Men are disproportionately truck drivers, managers and computer software engineers.
 

Two scholars at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis went more in-depth on this topic in a 2011 research publication. They wrote:
 

Women are likely to work fewer hours than men, which would make a gap in weekly earnings between the two groups substantial even if their hourly wages are the same. For this reason, most economic studies of a gender gap, including all of the studies reviewed in this article, use hourly wages instead of weekly earnings as a measure. Second, many other factors (such as education and labor force attachment) could affect wages. Research suggests that the actual gender wage gap (when female workers are compared with male workers who have similar characteristics) is much lower than the raw wage gap.

 

Sadly, neither Sharpton nor Huntsman reported any of this information to put the gender pay gap in its proper perspective. Did Sharpton think we wouldn’t notice how he distorted an important statistic in order to push the Democrats’ “War on Women” talking point? As the Rev. is wont to say in a regular feature on his program, "Nice try -- but we gotcha!"

Below is a transcript of the segment:



AL SHARPTON: Joining me now are Jess McIntosh and Abby Huntsman. Thank you both for being here.

ABBY HUNTSMAN: I'm glad we found the time to be here. We’re not too busy to do your show, Rev.

JESS MCINTOSH, Emily’s List: I know, so busy.

SHARPTON: Both of you, so busy. I'm really happy you made it. Let me rush it because I know you have a lot to do.

MCINTOSH: I appreciate that.

SHARPTON: Abby, women make about 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for doing the same job. Don't Republican needs to be more sensitive to issues like that?

HUNTSMAN: You know, there’s no such thing as being too busy for equal pay. Maybe I'm misunderstanding something, but I’ve never heard that excuse before, or the idea that men are better negotiators than women. Maybe that’s the case. Regardless, though, that really had nothing to do with what she was asked. You could tell she was very thrown off. She didn't quite know how to answer that question. If I were her, I would have said, ‘Look, I'm for equality. There are measures in the Lilly Ledbetter Act that might put a burden on businesses.’ Why not answer this head-on? Why not be just honest about how you’re feeling? This is when Republicans get into real trouble –  when they don't answer things honestly. We see that time and time again.

SHARPTON: Well, and as I listen to it, I heard it earlier. It also was almost like she was blaming women, both of them. ‘If we negotiated better, we’d be doing better.’ ‘We’re too busy.’ It’s almost like they’re internalizing the fault for the inequality, Jess.



MCINTOSH: Yeah, I mean equal pay is women's number one workplace issue. That’s what we’ve seen at our polling at Emily’s List. That’s what we’ve been saying for at least the last year. It’s not like Republicans should have been blindsided by this issue.  Women care about it a great deal. You mentioned the 77 cents figure. That number is considerably lower for women of color. Texas has a huge Hispanic women population. So this is something that they’re paying a lot of attention to. And I can't really explain why Republican lawmakers have had such a hard time coming up with an answer for it. First they say it doesn't exist, then they blame the women, but women voters are paying attention very, very clearly.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.