Saving Cable Star Maddow: We liberals! We've been reciting, and believing, this particular piece of tribal "fiction" for a very long time.
For ourselves, we'd heard the claim a million times as of April 2012. The claim always struck us as highly implausible on its face, but we'd never fact-checked the claim.
And then it happened! Rachel Maddow appeared on Meet the Press and she gave voice to the tale! When she was challenged, she went to great lengths to pretend she's been right all along.
We'll assume that Maddow believed her claim was accurate when she appeared on Meet the Press. In her initial remark, she only said this. Her claim was still technically accurate:
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.That claim could still be defended as technically accurate. But when the claim was challenged by GOP strategist Alex Castellanos, Maddow revealed what she'd actually meant. What she said now was basically wrong, or at best grossly misleading:
CASTELLANOS (continuing directly from above): (Unintelligible interjection)"Don't tell me the reasons," Maddow comically said. But as she continued, the corporate star extended her claim:
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. CATHY RODGERS (R-WA): Not for the same work.
MADDOW: Wow! OK. Well, we're working from different facts!
Women make less than men "for doing the same work," she now said. Later, she said that women were "getting paid less for equal work."
Stripped of attempts at quantification, such statements may even be true. But as the debate rolled on, Maddow voiced the "77 cents on the dollar" framework again—and it almost seemed that Castellanos might be better informed on the topic than the former Rhodes scholar was:
CASTELLANOS (continuing directly): For example, men work, men work an average of 44 hours a week, women work 41 hours a week. Men go into professions like engineering, science and math that earn more. Women want more flexible professions.Concerning the possible size of the "gender pay gap," Castellanos had begun to introduce some relevant points. Maddow, claiming that math isn't hard, insisted on making her point, after introducing the 77 cents on the dollar framework again.
MADDOW: Listen, this is not a "math is hard" part of this conversation.
CASTELLANOS: No, no, no. Yes, it is, actually.
MADDOW: No, it isn't. No, listen—
DAVID GREGORY: All right. Let Rachel frame it, though, the way she laid it out.
MADDOW: Right now, women are making 77 cents on the dollar for what men are making. So—
CASTELLANOS: But that's not true.
GREGORY: All right. Let Rachel make her point.
Host David Gregory never brought clarity to this dispute. He did let Maddow make her point.
As she continued, she said it was weird that Castellanos was interrupting her—that he wasn't letting her make her point. She closed by saying this to Castellanos and Rodgers:
MADDOW: But it is important, I think, the interruption is important, I think, because now we know, at least from both of your perspectives, that women are not faring worse than men in the economy, that women aren't getting paid less for equal work. I think that's a serious basis—a difference in, a difference in factual understanding of the world.Maddow said the dispute had revealed "a difference in factual understanding of the world."
Plainly, that was an accurate statement. But according to future anthropologists, we humans had lost the ability to settle such disputes even as early as April 2012.
According to these despondent scholars, this was true to an even greater degree in the last few years before Mister Trump's Fiction-Fueled War.
Let's be fair! Maddow never explicitly said that women were paid 23 percent less for doing the same or equal work. Still, a sensible viewer of Meet the Press would have thought that she was making that claim—a claim our tribe had been making for years, even by that point.
This dispute on Meet the Press produced a bit of buzz. According to future anthropologists, the more interesting part of this dispute occurred the following night, on Monday, April 30.
On that fateful evening, Maddow went on the air for her regular Monday night TV show and hotly insisted that she had no earthly idea what Castellanos and Rodgers had been talking about.
She had tried to figure it out all day. But she still had no idea, she now said.
Good lord! On that Monday evening show, Maddow delivered a long opening harangue in which she plainly seemed to insist that she had been right all along.
Eventually, she presented an academic expert who reported that she had in fact been wrong. But this expert did so in such a skillful way that it sounded like this artful dodger was saying that Maddow had been right!
Maddow even played tape of a discussion Wolf Blitzer had conducted about her dispute with Castellanos. Sadly, though, she only played the part of the tape where Blitzer's guest said that women do earn, on average, smaller incomes overall.
She didn't play the part of the tape where the guest told Blitzer than the 23 percent figure was just massively wrong—that the gender pay gap isn't anywhere near that large for the same or equal work.
Maddow seemed to dissemble and cherry-pick in an astonishing way this night. At one point, she offered her ludicrous uber-claim:
MADDOW (4/30/12): I spent a long time going through the Republican side of this argument today just trying to understand how you could look at these very blunt numbers and come up with the opposite truth.It seemed to us that this was Maddow's most baldly ridiculous claim. Here's why it struck us that way:
We ourselves had fact-checked Maddow's familiar "23 cents on the dollar" claim right after the Meet the Press program ended. We'd hit upon the basic facts behind this dispute within maybe ten minutes of Googling.
We'd learned that the 23 percent income shortfall was not for the same or equal work. We'd learned that experts and specialists, including liberal experts and specialist, think the pay shortfall is much smaller than that for the same or equal work. We'd learned that some experts aren't sure there's an overall pay gap for the same or equal work at all.
We learned all this within maybe ten minutes, tops. Thirty-six hours later, Maddow went on the air and said she still had no freaking idea, though she'd been doing research all day.
We pretty much didn't believe what the corporate multimillionaire said. But then, we'd been reporting, for years, that Maddow was perhaps a tiny bit less than obsessively honest.
The basics here are simple! The claim about women being underpaid by something like 23 cents on the dollar is not a claim about how much men and women get paid for doing "the same or equal work."
No expert makes any such claim. We learned this fact in maybe ten minutes. Thirty-six hours later, Maddow was still pretending she had no idea.
She cherry-picked and dissembled that night, insisting that she had been right while The Others were crazily wrong. Her academic expert, Heidi Hartmann, actually told her that she had been wrong, but did so in such an artful that very few viewers would have understood.
In a brilliantly disguised way, Hartmann said the actual pay gap for the same or equal work was maybe 4.6 cents on the dollar. Maddow disappeared the part of the Blitzer tape where his expert offered a similar assessment.
In these ways, we liberals were kept from learning the basics that night. As a tribe, we enjoy our wildly embellished claim, and our "journalistic" and academic stars seem determined let us maintain it.
Rachel Maddow was busy that night Saving Cable Star Maddow. The actual facts about equal pay are very hard to establish. But we liberals were being dumbed way down that night by one of our tribe's major stars.
Below, we'll supply the links to the four reports we posted that week. According to despondent anthropologists, the moral to the story is this:
We posted those four reports in early May 2012. Seven years later, Candidate Harris is out on the trail "misspeaking" and committing "slips of the tongue" in these same familiar old ways.
She's actually building a White House campaign around these familiar misstatements! According to future scholars, this is what we humans actually were in the years before Mister Trump's War.
Darling Rachel conned us good! "This was the nature of the species," disconsolate experts now say.
Tomorrow: Saving Candidate Harris! These kid scribes today
Visit our incomparable archives: In real time, we posted four reports about Maddow's performance. According to leading anthropologists, we humans, being incurably tribal, weren't open to such reports.
You can check them out for yourself. The links go exactly like this:
Tuesday, May 1, 2012: We always wonder about this script. Clearly, Maddow doesn't!
Wednesday, May 2, 2012: Former Rhodes Scholar emotes! Reciting a well-known script.
Thursday, May 3, 2012: Maddow’s expert says she’s wrong! But Maddow just blunders ahead.
Friday, May 4, 2012: Do you believe what Maddow said? How we get dumb and dumber!