As NewsBusters reported Sunday, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and Republican strategist Alex Castellanos got into quite a heated debate about the gender wage gap on NBC's Meet the Press.
CNN's Situation Room decided to find out who was right about this controversial issue Monday, and despite going to great lengths to side with Maddow, correspondent Lisa Sylvester grudgingly admitted at the very end of the segment, "It's about 5 cents of a difference, but it still is there, it's still real, and the truth is, men make more than women" (video follows courtesy Mediaite with transcript and commentary):
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: So, here's a question: do women make less money than men for doing the exact same work?
On NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday, the Republican strategist and CNN contributor answered no, and that sparked a very passionate debate with Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.
We asked Lisa Sylvester to do a fact check for us. Lisa is here.
Lisa, who's right?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a fascinating subject, Wolf, and we have been looking into this. We reached out, by the way, to Alex Castellanos but he was not available for comment.
The question, is there an earnings gap between men and women? And the answer, according to the Census Bureau is yes.
Sylvester sought the opinion of - wait for it! - a women's rights activist that seeks equal pay for men and women.
Quite an impartial source, wouldn't you say? What do you think her view was on this issue?
LISA MAATZ, AAUW, DIR. OF PUBLIC POLICY AND GOVT. RELATIONS: There's definitely a gap between men and women. There's a gap who gets tenure and who doesn't, there's a gap between who gets promoted and who doesn't.
SYLVESTER: Now, Maatz is an advocate for paying men and women equal salaries. She works with the American Association for University Women. She says full-time working women make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. It's a common statistic, one now being charged by CNN contributor, Alex Castellanos, who got into a verbal with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.
A clip of the Maddow-Castellanos dustup was then played after which the women's rights activist got some more time to make her point:
SYLVESTER: Castellanos makes two points, that men make more because they work more and they go into professions that pay higher salaries.
But data directly from the Census Bureau shows there is a pay gap and it's real. Quote, "In 2010, the earnings of women who worked full-time year round were 77 percent of that for men working full-time year round, not statistically different from the 2009 ratio," end quote.
Lisa Maatz says the study takes into account factors like hours work.
MAATZ: The study we're talking about here control for those things. They do a very sophisticated regression analysis and they say, OK, let's control for those reasons, and then beyond that figure out what the gap is. So, the gap shrinks. It's not as high as 77 percent, that average median gap, but it's still there.
And that's the problem because it's unexplained. We can't say that it's because they work less hours, or it's because they supervise fewer people.
After the women's rights activist got 106 words to give her completely "impartial" side of this debate, the Manhattan Institute's Kay Hymowitz, who wrote a fabulous piece for the Wall Street Journal last Thursday on this very subject, was introduced by Sylvester:
KAY HYMOWITZ, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE SENIOR FELLOW: I'm not convinced --
SYLVESTER: Castellanos' arguments echoed comments made by Kay Hymowitz, a fellow with the Manhattan Institute. She wrote an op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" that women earn less because they work fewer hours. But Hymowitz argues one reason is that's because women are more likely to opt to work part-time, earning less than men who are less likely to agree to work part-time.
HYMOWITZ: It sounds like that everyone would want to work as much, you know, full-time and they don't necessarily. They feel equally tied -- many women do -- to their children, to their home and want more time there.
41 words from Hymowitz, meaning the women's rights activist had 2.5 times the air time to present her side.
That's what CNN calls "balance."
And what was the conclusion?
SYLVESTER: So the bottom line, is there a gender gap in payroll? The answer is yes, that 77 cents on a dollar difference between men and women's earnings, that comes directly from the Census Bureau. Now, it refers to full-time workers. But it is also true that many women choose to scale back hours more so than men, women choosing to work part-time and that's also reflected in the earnings, Wolf.
BLITZER: And so, the bottom line, though, with men and women have the exact same job, do women still only earn 77 cents on the dollar, if they're doing, working the same amount of hours, have the exact same job, in the exact same field.
SYLVESTER: They have -- there is definitely a gap. It is, if you're looking at. But there are all kinds of other control factors, you know, what college somebody went to, what region of the country. If you're talking salaried workers versus part-time workers, the average for full time workers, the difference is pay is 77 cents on the dollar.
Now, as you go along, as you control for other factors, even if you control for everything you could possibly imagine, all those things -- the college, the hours work, men still make more than women, that gap narrows, it's about 5 cents of a difference, but it still is there, it's still real, and the truth is, men make more than women.
"It's about 5 cents of a difference."
So what does that mean in terms of the Maddow-Castellanos debate?
Castellanos was high by five cents while Maddow was low by eighteen.
Therefore, who was actually more correct?
Neither Blitzer nor Sylvester could bring themselves to make such a conclusion on the air.
After all, "Women only make 95 cents on the dollar compared to what men make" would hardly be an effective feminist marching slogan.
And that's how "fact-checks" work on the supposedly "most trusted name in news."