How Right-Wing Media Attacks Against Celebrities Who Speak Out About The Gender Pay Gap

On Equal Pay Day, Media Matters looks back at how conservative media attacked female celebrities and athletes for speaking out about wage disparities in their industry and the need for a guarantee of equal pay for equal work. Right-wing media blamed wage inequality on women’s “self-esteem,” their willingness to sign and negotiate “bad” contracts, and so-called “fuzzy math” on the part of equal pay advocates; all while continuing to push the myth that the gender gap doesn’t exist.

Jennifer Lawrence

Patricia Arquette

U.S. Women's National Soccer Team

Jennifer Lawrence Spoke Out About Earning Less Than Her Male Co-Stars

Jennifer Lawrence Spoke Out About Receiving Less Pay Than Male Co-Workers. According to leaked documents revealed by the November 2014 Sony Pictures hack, actress Jennifer Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars for the critically acclaimed film American Hustle. In response to the revelation, Lawrence penned an essay to discuss the wage gap, saying that she was worried about coming off as “a brat” during contract negotiations -- a concern not shared by her male counterparts:

The actress Jennifer Lawrence spoke out against gender pay inequality in an essay on Tuesday, describing how she felt when leaked documents exposed by the Sony Pictures hack showed that she had been paid less than her male colleagues on the film “American Hustle.”

In the essay, published in Lena Dunham’s newsletter Lenny, Ms. Lawrence acknowledged that her experience was not exactly relatable -- she is the world’s highest-paid actress, according to Forbes-- but said that her decision to do nothing was at odds with negotiating tactics used by her male colleagues.

“When the Sony hack happened,” she wrote, “I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early.

“Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper all fought and succeeded in negotiating powerful deals for themselves,” she wrote of her co-stars. “If anything, I’m sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical, while I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and not getting my fair share.” [The New York Times, 10/13/15]

Conservative Media Dismissed Lawrence’s Claims As “Whin[ing]” And “Political Correctness”

Fox's Pete Hegseth Suggested “Political Correctness” Was Behind Lawrence's Claim, Because She “Made $52 Million Last Year.” On the October 19 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Pete Hegseth attributed Lawrence's comments to “political correctness,” jumping to point out that the actress was complaining about pay disparities despite making "$52 million last year." Contributor Meghan McCain added that while she was supportive of “women getting equal pay,” she also thought ”women have to fight” for it:

PETE HEGSETH: Speaking of political correctness, actor Bradley Cooper is teaming up now with female actresses, saying that they're not being paid the equivalent what he's being paid. Specifically, an actress -- Jennifer Lawrence -- who made $52 million last year. What's your take on pay inequality?

BRIAN KILMEADE: And he'll give some of his pay for her.

MEGHAN MCCAIN: I'm all for women getting equal pay for men, obviously. But I also think women, we have to fight for what we want. You have to fight for what you think your value is, and not all of us are going to have a Bradley Cooper here to bail us out and you know, come in and get paid as much as I'm going to get paid. So I think this is sort of like Hollywood fantasyland -- which is fantastic for Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. But for the average American woman, who is just working a normal job, you have to go in to your employers and fight for what you think your worth is, for better or for worse. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/19/15]

Fox's Ainsley Earhardt Dismissed Role Of Pay Inequality In Lawrence's Earnings. During the October 19 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends First, co-host Ainsley Earhardt claimed that “there might be a reason why” Lawrence made less than her male counterparts in films, highlighting a report claiming the actress “showed up late to filming and she worked fewer days than the other actors”:

HEATHER CHILDERS: Well, you know how Jennifer Lawrence, she has complained, we've heard her talking about earning less than her American Hustle co-stars?


AINSLEY EARHARDT: Turns out there might be a reason why. Deadline is reporting that she showed up late to filming, and she worked fewer days than the other actors. Lawrence says she didn't fight about her salary because she didn't want to come off as difficult or spoiled. [Fox News, Fox & Friends First, 10/19/15]

New York Post Dismissed Lawrence: She Used “Fuzzy Math When She Griped That She Was The Victim Of Sexism” And Pay Inequality. In an October 19 article, the New York Post's Page Six gossip section glossed over the role of the gender pay gap in Lawrence's career, instead attributing the discrepancy to “fuzzy math”:

Jennifer Lawrence, the world's highest-paid actress, used fuzzy math when she griped that she was the victim of sexism and didn't earn as much as her male co-stars in “American Hustle,” it was reported Sunday.

The 25-year-old Oscar winner came to the project late in the game and worked half as many days as co-stars Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper, according to the Web site Deadline.

Lawrence also failed to note the handsome windfall that followed the hit film, which snagged 10 Oscar nominations and increased her cachet with its success, the site said. She scored big time afterward, including netting $20 million for the sci-fi adventure “Passengers” out next year -- or an estimated $5 million to $7 million more than her male co-star, Chris Pratt. [New York Post, 10/19/15]

RedState: Lawrence's Discussion Of Pay Inequality Is “A Bratty Display” And An Example Of How “Claims Of Pay Inequality Are Oftentimes Not The Complete Story.” On October 17, the right-wing blog RedState dismissed the issue of pay inequality, arguing that Lawrence’s essay was a “bratty display from a wealthy youngster,” and claiming that because “it is illegal to pay a woman less than a man solely based on gender” other “factors” must have been responsible for the disparity:

The Patricia Arquettes, Jennifer Lawrences, and Gwyneth Paltrows of the world (who once said “I am who I am. I can't pretend to be somebody who makes $25,000 a year”), are not mouthpieces for regular women. What's more, they muddy the discussion by appealing only to emotion, not facts. It is illegal to pay a woman less than a man solely based on gender. (See The Equal Pay Act of 1963.) Factors such as education, experience, ability, skill, and availability will all impact someone's salary. In the case of comparing men vs. women in the real world, much of the pay inequality outcry looks at the life of a career, sees a woman makes less, and outrage ensues. Over the life of a career, though, a woman's time on the job may be much less, as family and maternity responsibilities call her away.


Not only is Jennifer Lawrence's complaint a bratty display from a wealthy youngster, but it highlights that claims of pay inequality are oftentimes not the complete story, and Hollywood is the least appropriate voice on the subject. [, 10/17/15]

Breitbart News' Ben Shapiro Lamented That Lawrence Is Being Hailed As “A Hero” When She Is “Whining About A Bad Contract.” In an October 14 tweet, former Breitbart News editor-at-large Ben Shapiro complained that Lawrence was being lauded as “a hero for whining about a bad contract”:

[, 10/14/15]

Dana Loesch: Jennifer Lawrence Dealt With A “Self Esteem Issue,” Not “Sexism.” In an October 14 tweet linking to Lawrence's article, The Blaze's Dana Loesch claimed the actress had a “self esteem issue” and wasn't dealing with “sexism”:

[, 10/14/15]

Patricia Arquette: “It’s Our Time To Have Wage Equality Once And For All”

Arquette Uses Oscars Speech To Call For Pay Equity, Gender Equality. While accepting the 2015 Academy Award for best supporting actress for her role in Boyhood, Patricia Arquette took a moment to call for “wage equality … and equal rights for women”:

Patricia Arquette seized her moment on the Oscar stage to deliver a powerful call for wage equality for women.

Arquette won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in the 12-years-in-the-making “Boyhood” and was in the midst of wrapping up a prepared speech when she segwayed into an undeniably feminist message.

“To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.,” Arquette said to rapturous applause from the Academy Award crowd.

Arquette’s remarks had added resonance because they came in the wake of hacked Sony Entertainment emails made public last year, which revealed what has long been suspected -- that female stars and executives are paid dramatically less than their male peers. [, 2/22/15]

Right-Wing Media Tells Arquette To “Check [Her] Privilege” After “Bogus” Call For Pay Equity

New York Post Calls Patricia Arquette’s Call For Equal Pay “Bogus.” In a February 26, 2015, article, the New York Post’s Andrea Peyser called Arquette both “delusional” and “self-absorbed” for demanding equal pay for equal work. Peyser went on to claim women choosing to “step off the fast lane” to raise families accounts for any wage disparity:

Patricia Arquette, shut up! The rich movie star is so delusional and self-absorbed, she claims that American women are victims of rampant gender discrimination -- a problem that she finds so pervasive, she turned up at Sunday’s Oscars ceremony in an unmoving hairdo that looked as if she’d stuck her finger in a light socket.

Most women are doing just fine, Patricia. It’s your sisters in the tone-deaf colony of Hollywood about whom I worry.


The old trope that females in this country make, on average, about 77 cents for every dollar earned by men has been debunked repeatedly, most recently in a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. It found that New York state’s female millennials -- those who became adults around the year 2000 -- earned $1.02 for every buck brought in by young men.

In the rest of the nation, the supposed pay gap about disappears when you compare people who do similar work, such as waiters to waitresses and corporate honchos to corporate honchos.

If a worker’s education level is factored in, and if you consider that some women simply choose to step off the fast lane in order to raise families, the difference in pay vanishes, studies have shown. [New York Post, 2/26/15]

Washington Examiner: “Check Your Privilege Award Goes To ….. Patricia Arquette.” In a February 23, 2015, article, the Washington Examiner’s Asche Schow wrote that Arquette needed to check her “privilege” when she called for wage equality during her Oscar acceptance speech. Schow concluded that the “gender wage gap” is a “false talking point,” and is based on the choices women make rather than discrimination:

Arquette, whose net worth is $24 million, claimed Sunday night that women still don’t have equal rights in the U.S.


What rights don’t American women have? We can vote, have a career, obtain an education, own property, run for and hold political office -- what is it that women can’t do, exactly?

And if Arquette is basing her claim on the gender wage gap, which shows that the average of all working women is less than the average of all working men (without controlling for occupation, education, experience or hours worked), then she’s perpetuating a false talking point.

The reason women on average earn less than men is not due to discrimination or a lack of equal rights, but because of the choices women make in what careers they take, what hours they work or whether they leave the workforce for children, among other things. [Washington Examiner, 2/23/15]

Fox’s Stacey Dash: “Patricia Arquette Needs To Do Her History” On Wage Gap. Fox contributor and former Clueless star Stacey Dash said she was “appalled” by Patricia Arquette's call for wage equality during her acceptance speech, suggesting Arquette “needs to do her history” on pay equity:

STACEY DASH: I was appalled. I could not believe it. I mean, first of all, Patricia Arquette needs to do her history. In 1963, Kennedy passed an equal pay law. It's still in effect. I didn't get the memo that I didn't have any rights. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/23/15]

Fox Host: Arquette Shouldn't Have Talked About Income Equality When Her “Dress Costs $3,000.” On the February 23 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, guest co-host Jesse Watters criticized Arquette for discussing income inequality when her “dress costs $3,000.” Co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle agreed, asserting that it was a “reckless, self-serving, irresponsible statement.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 2/23/15]

Dana Loesch Lampoons Arquette's Plea For Pay Equality. The Blaze's Dana Loesch responded sarcastically to Arquette's call for gender wage equality:

[, 2/22/15; 2/22/15]

Massive Pay Gap Discovered Between U.S. Men’s And Women’s National Soccer Teams After World Cup

ESPN: U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Paid Four Times Less Than Men During World Cup Despite Higher Revenue. After the U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) won the 2015 World Cup, five players filed a “wage-discrimination action against the U.S. Soccer Federation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.” The action cites figures that prove, despite generating nearly $20 million more revenue last year than the U.S. men's team and having more success in the World Cup, the women were paid four times less than the men (emphasis added):   

Five members of the U.S. women's national soccer team -- including stars Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan -- have filed a wage-discrimination action against the U.S. Soccer Federation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The filing, citing figures from the USSF's 2015 financial report, says that despite the women's team generating nearly $20 million more revenue last year than the U.S. men's team, the women are paid about a quarter of what the men earn.


The pay for playing in the World Cup is also greatly disparate, according to the figures. The U.S. women received a team total of $2 million when it won the World Cup last year in Canada. Yet when the U.S. men played in the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, the team earned a total of $9 million despite going just 1-2-1 and being knocked out in the round of 16.

“We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships, and the [men] get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships,” Solo said.

In a conference call with reporters, Kessler said, “The reality is that this team is more valuable to the USSF than the men's team has been. That's what the facts show. And they would be justified in asking for more than the men are receiving. But the first step that they are seeking is equal treatment. That should be an easy step for the USSF to take.”

Many players on the national team have become increasingly vocal about gender equity in the sport, something that came to light in advance of last year's World Cup in Canada. A group of players led by Abby Wambach filed a complaint in Canada about the artificial turf playing surface, noting the men's World Cup is played on natural grass. [, 4/1/16]

Conservative Media Blame Wage Disparity On A Lack Of “Sponsorship” Revenue And Fan Interest

Daily Caller: Men’s Team Earns More Because Men’s Sports “Are More Interesting.” An August 2, 2015, article by Daily Caller contributor John Steigerwald claimed the only way the U.S. women’s soccer team could earn equal pay with their male counterparts would be to pass international law “requiring people to watch the Women’s World Cup”:

What to do about the World Cup pay gap?

There was quite an outcry from feminists in and out of the media when it was learned that the U.S. Women’s Soccer team took home $2 million in prize money last month, while the German men’s team won $35 million in last year’s World Cup and the American team that didn’t make it out of the round of 16 made $8 million.


Anybody with a brain should know that the only way to get equal pay for the women would be to pass an international law requiring people to watch the Women’s World Cup.

The ratings for the U.S Women’s games in the USA were through the roof -- the highest metered record ever for a soccer game on a single network, but, world-wide, they were 1/10 of what the Men’s games drew.


With all due respect to Ms. Ferro, we haven’t been socialized to believe men’s sports are more interesting. They just are. Not always. But most of the time. Especially to men.

And instead of being offended by the long history of male dominance in sports, maybe women should take pride in the fact that, throughout the millennia, they have found better things to do with their time. [The Daily Caller, 8/2/15]

Fox & Friends Hosts Dismiss Pay Disparity As A Lack Of Sponsorship Interest. On the July 7 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friend, co-host Brian Kilmeade glossed over the pay disparity between men’s and women’s international soccer, chalking it up to a lack of sponsorship interest for the women’s game. Kilmeade said he didn’t believe there was a “sexist element” to it:

STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Men’s world cup, the German team back in 2014, they wound up with a collective $35 million for winning the World Cup. And yet the women’s winner just a couple of nights ago, they’re going to wind up with $2 million.


BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): It’s like this, the women deserve more, but the people that watch the World Cup have to watch them in the outdoor league. There’s been at least three women’s leagues since 1999, they’ve all collapsed. Not because people don’t like to watch women -- don’t want to see women to be successful. The sponsors and the viewership hasn’t been there. With the MLS, they were getting .1, that’s about 100,000 people watching. They had to pay their way on to ESPN. Now, all of a sudden, they are getting huge contracts. If the women can disperse these great players throughout the league and get the Doocy family, and anybody else to watch, non-soccer families to watch, the money will come cascading in. I don’t think there’s a sexist element to this. [Media Matters, 7/7/15]

National Review: Women’s Soccer Team Paid Less Because They Don’t “Bring In Much Revenue.” In a July 6 article, National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke dismissed the women’s national soccer team’s claims of unequal pay, claiming it was a result of them bringing in less revenue:

Gosh, why could that be? Perhaps it’s because there is an entrenched worldwide conspiracy to be mean to women. Or perhaps it’s because the women’s World Cup doesn’t bring in much revenue and the men’s World Cup does.


The actual figure was far below that, even after FIFA reduced the price of tickets to try to gin up interest. By contrast, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil attracted 3,429,873 people to the games, and 5,154,386 fans to all FIFA events. Likewise, according to the openly misogynistic New York Times, the Women’s World Cup of 2011 “brought in just $5.8 million, while the men’s cup in 2014 netted $1.4 billion.” Advertisers, the Times confirms, will pay 80 times as much to cover the men’s competition as the women’s.

The women are being stiffed. Stiffed, I tell you. [National Review, 7/6/15]