Reciting a well-known script: Who the Sam or Joe Hill is Rachel Maddow?
NBC News has sold her to us in the liberal world as Our Own Rhodes Scholar. Of course, these are the same corporate hustlers who sold Tim Russert to the world as the working-class kid from Buffalo, even as he lolled around in his $7 million Nantucket cottage—the crib at which he summered.
Let’s ask a different question—how bright is Rachel Maddow? We’re routinely amazed by the boatloads of crap which roll down upon us as we watch her ballyhooed cable news program. But on this Sunday’s Meet the Press, we were struck by the way she repeated a familiar, unlikely old script (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/1/12):
MADDOW (4/29/12): The Romney campaign wants to talk about women and the economy. The— Women in this country still make 77 cents on the dollar for what men make.Stated that way, Maddow’s claim seems to be technically accurate—or at least it was as of 2010, according to the Census Bureau. As of 2010, women in this country earned 77 percent as much as men, if we simply look at total pay brought home.
That seems to be an accurate fact. The question is what that fact can be taken to mean. In particular, does it mean that women are discriminated against in their pay, by a factor of 23 cents on the dollar? That they get paid 23 percent less than men who do the same work?
On Meet the Press, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos quickly challenged Maddow’s statement. His critique was somewhat murky, but she was soon extending her claim:
CASTELLANOS (continuing directly from above): (Unintelligible interjection)“Don’t tell me the reasons,” Rachel said, helping define the brave new world of pseudo-liberal pseudo-journalism. That said:
MADDOW: Women don't make less than men?
CASTELLANOS: Actually, if you start looking at the numbers, Rachel, there are lots of reasons for that.
MADDOW: Wait, wait, no, don't tell me the reasons. Do women make less than men for doing the same work?
CASTELLANOS: Actually, no, because—
REP. RODGERS (R-WA): Not for the same work.
MADDOW: Wow! OK. Well, we're working from different facts!
In her response to Castellanos, Maddow extended her claim. She now said that women make less than men “for doing the same work.”
Later, Maddow repeated her claim in another way. Women are “paid less for equal work,” she said. Soon after, she returned to her second formulation: “Some of us believe that women are getting paid less than men for doing the same work.”
Listening to Maddow as she rattled her script, a viewer might think that women get paid 23 percent less than men for doing the same (or equal) work. And sure enough! That seems to be what Wolf Blitzer thought he heard Maddow saying.
Monday evening, on CNN, Blitzer asked the hapless Lisa Sylvester to fact-check the Maddow/Castellanos dispute. Here’s how he framed the question:
BLITZER (4/30/12): Here is a question: Do women in the United States make less money than men for doing the exact same work? On NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday, the Republican strategist and CNN contributor Alex Castellanos answered no. And that sparked a very passionate debate with Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.Sylvester, who used to perform such tasks for Lou Dobbs, told Wolf she had been checking.
We asked Lisa Sylvester to do a fact check for us. Lisa is here. Lisa, who’s right?
SYLVESTER: Well, this is a fascinating subject, Wolf, and we have been looking into this.
We’ll look at Sylvester’s fact-check tomorrow. For today, let’s note the question Blitzer thought was in dispute. According to Blitzer, Maddow and Castellanos had been debating the following claim: Women get paid less money than men “for doing the exact same work.”
(Just for the record: As Sylvester fashioned her fact-check, she returned to the figure Maddow used: 77 cents on the dollar.)
Is it true? Do women get paid less than men for doing “the exact same work?” In some cases, the answer is yes, or so juries have found. Consider the famous case of Lilly Ledbetter, who sued Goodyear in a complaint about unequal pay. The basic facts from Ledbetter’s original lawsuit were described in the Washington Post in 2007:
BARNES (2/20/07): There's no dispute that after nearly 20 years at the Goodyear plant in Gadsden, Ala., most of them in a salaried managerial position, Ledbetter, 68, was paid less than any of the men she worked with, even those with less seniority.In her original trial, the jury found that Ledbetter had received unequal pay because of her sex. Such conduct had been illegal since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Ledbetter had always thought that was the case—some of her bosses had even told her so. But it was spelled out clearly in an anonymous letter she received after she stopped working for Goodyear that contained the rankings and salaries of everyone she worked with.
Her lawyers showed it to the jury on a huge board.
But Goodyear contended that the salaries must be looked at with the rankings. The company said Ledbetter's lower pay was the result of a merit pay plan meant to even the field, and reward supervisors for good work rather than longevity.
Ledbetter was typically at the bottom of the rankings, the company argued, and even then she received raises, albeit smaller than those of the men ranked above her.
The jury sided with Ledbetter, saying it was "more likely than not" that she had been paid "an unequal salary because of her sex." Jurors awarded her $3,514,417.
Ledbetter’s award was later thrown out on a statute of limitations complaint. But this was precisely the type of case Blitzer thought was being discussed on Meet the Press. Ledbetter was paid substantially less than men who were doing the very same job. And please note: She had even been paid less than men with the same or less seniority.
Watching Maddow recite and emote, we liberals might think that this is the norm—that women typically get paid less for the same work, by a factor of 23 cents on the dollar
Almost surely, that’s untrue. Question: If Maddow is a former Rhodes Scholar, why can’t—or why won’t—she explain this?
Tomorrow: Sylvester’s report