MSNBC Cheers Obama's 'Triple Win' on Equal Pay, Downplays WH Hypocrisy as 'Inconvenient'

During live coverage of President Obama signing two executive orders on "equal pay" on Tuesday, MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell announced: "He is basically signing an executive order which will be a big deal for federal contractors – think about all the federal contracts in the defense and intelligence communities alone – but it's also a big political issue." [Listen to the audio]

Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus proclaimed: "It's a very big political issue and it is a winning political issue for President Obama and Democrats, and they know it....There is a gender gap that hugely favors Democrats....and single women are particularly responsive to Lilly-Ledbetter-type of arguments about unequal treatment....So it's a triple win for the President and Democrats."

Mitchell did at least mention the other side of the argument: "And the push-back from Republicans in one part in the last 24 hours has been from a conservative think tank, AEI, which said that in the White House and the executive branch women are only paid 88 cents to the dollar on men."

But she quickly returned to administration spin: "And the push-back again from the White House is that that is the aggregate number because you have more women employed in lower ranks. You have more men, chief of staff and others, who are paid at the highest ranks."

Marcus acknowledged:

Well, they're both exactly right. And it shows the difficulty with making the 'This is all about discrimination' argument....At the White House, I think it's fairly clear that women at the same level are paid the same as men. But there are more senior men than there are senior women. Until that changes, we are going to have some continuing pay gap, even at the White House. Inconvenient for them.

Mitchell rushed to the defense of the White House: "The other point is, that in the private sector, unlike the White House, which is more regulated in terms of what you're paid at the particular government level-" Marcus interjected: "And more transparent." Mitchell continued: "...in the private sector it's not transparent, number one, and it is much more common that women at the same job category are paid considerably less than their male counterparts..."

At one point in the exchange with Marcus, Mitchell highlighted one of her MSNBC colleagues attending the President's signing ceremony: "And we can see the President is now greeting Mika Brzezinski, of course, of Morning Joe....Mika has written several books on the subject of equal pay."

What Mitchell failed to mention was that Brzezinski nearly left the network in 2008 due to the pay disparity between her and her male co-workers.  

On Tuesday's CBS This Morning, White House correspondent Major Garrett seized on the White House hypocrisy used it to pick apart the "equal pay" rhetoric.

Here is a transcript of Mitchell's April 8 exchange with Marcus:

12:18 PM ET

ANDREA MITCHELL: And good day, I'm Andrea Mitchell in Washington. As you see, the President is now signing the executive orders on equal pay at the White House, affecting federal contractors.

Here now for our Daily Fix, Ruth Marcus, columnist for the Washington Post. You've written a lot on this, you are a lawyer. He is basically signing an executive order which will be a big deal for federal contractors – think about all the federal contracts in the defense and intelligence communities alone – but it's also a big political issue.

RUTH MARCUS [WASHINGTON POST]: It's a very big political issue and it is a winning political issue for President Obama and Democrats, and they know it. Which is why they're spending – in addition to the merits of it – why they're spending so much energy and attention on this issue.

Women are a majority of the voters. There is a gender gap that hugely favors Democrats. And in particular, single women. If you can get them motivated to go out to vote – and single women are particularly responsive to Lilly-Ledbetter-type of arguments about unequal treatment – if you can get them motivated to vote, they also break hugely Democratic. So it's a triple win for the President and Democrats.

MITCHELL: And the push-back from Republicans in one part in the last 24 hours has been from a conservative think tank, AEI, which said that in the White House and the executive branch women are only paid 88 cents to the dollar on men. And the push-back again from the White House is that that is the aggregate number because you have more women employed in lower ranks. You have more men, chief of staff and others, who are paid at the highest ranks.

MARCUS: Well, they're both exactly right. And it shows the difficulty with making the "This is all about discrimination" argument. There is definitely a wage gap, both in the economy at large and in white house, between women and men. That's because – it may be a lot of factors in the economy. At the White House, I think it's fairly clear that women at the same level are paid the same as men. But there are more senior men than there are senior women. Until that changes, we are going to have some continuing pay gap, even at the White House. Inconvenient for them.

MITCHELL: And we can see the President is now greeting Mika Brzezinski, of course, of Morning Joe, and a number of other prominent women are there. Mika has written several books on the subject of equal pay.

The other point is, that in the private sector, unlike the White House, which is more regulated in terms of what you're paid at the particular government level-  

MARCUS: And more transparent.

MITCHELL: In the private sector, the pay can be, as it was in the case of Lilly Ledbetter – who introduced the President and by the way is going to be appearing at 1:00 with Ronan Farrow today – in the private sector it's not transparent, number one, and it is much more common that women at the same job category are paid considerably less than their male counterparts, come in at a lower salary and that persists throughout their careers.

(...)

— Kyle Drennen is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.