As Equal Pay Act Turns 50, Conservative Media Continue Crusade Against Gender Wage Gap

The Equal Pay Act was signed into law on June 10, 1963, by President Kennedy to prohibit wage discrimination based on sex. Fifty years later, as the issue of gender income inequality continues to affect America, conservative media figures have consistently tried to downplay and minimize these concerns.

Reality: Record Number Of Women Are Now The Economic Breadwinners In Their Families

Pew Research: Mothers Are The Primary Or Sole Breadwinner In 40 Percent Of All American Households With Children. Pew Research released a study on May 29 that found mothers are the primary or sole breadwinner in a record 40 percent of all American households with minor children. Pew's report considered both single mothers and married mothers who earned a higher income than their husbands. 


[Pew Research, 5/29/13]

Conservative Media Decry Rise In Female Breadwinners As A Sign Of Society's Downfall

Fox's Erick Erickson: Increase In Female Breadwinners Is “Tearing Us Apart.” Reacting to the Pew study, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson argued that the increase in female breadwinners defies natural order because “the male typically is the dominant role” in “the natural world.” He added that these changes showed that “we as people in a smart society have lost the ability to have complimentary relationships in nuclear families, and it's tearing us apart.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs, 5/29/13, via Media Matters]

  • Erickson: “Some Women Believe They Can Have It All, And That's The Crux Of The Problem.” During the May 30 edition of his radio show, Erickson doubled down on his comments, claiming that “some women believe they can have it all, and that's the crux of the problem.” [WSB, The Erick Erickson Show, 5/30/13]

Fox's Juan Williams: Increase In Female Breadwinners A Sign Of “Something Going Terribly Wrong In American Society.” On the May 29 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fox News contributor Juan Williams said that the record number of female breadwinners is a sign of “something going terribly wrong in American society, and it's hurting our children, and it's going to have impact for generations to come.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs, 5/29/13, via Media Matters]

Lou Dobbs: Increase In Female Breadwinners Is “Concerning And Troubling.” On the May 29 edition of his Fox Business show, Lou Dobbs described the Pew study as “showing that women have become the breadwinners in this country, and a lot of other concerning and troubling statistics.” Dobbs said the study was suggestive of “society dissolv[ing] around us.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs, 5/29/13, via Media Matters

Reality: Women Are Typically Paid Less Than Men

Women's Earnings Remain Far Below That Of Men. Although the wage gap has decreased since the 1963 passage of the Equal Pay Act, women's earnings remain far below that of men. A report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that “in 2011, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 77 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 23 percent.” According to the National Women's Law Center, the wage gap for minority women is even worse: African-American and Hispanic women make 64 and 55 cents for every dollar their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts earn. [Media Matters, 4/9/13]

From the AAUW report:



[AAUW, 2013]

Conservative Media Deny Gender Wage Gap Exists

Rush Limbaugh: Income Inequality Is A “Myth.” On the January 3, 2012, edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that there are “so many myths” circulating about income inequality, including the idea that “the income gap [is] getting wider -- it isn't [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 1/3/12]

Eric Bolling Denies Income Inequality Exists In America. On the February 8, 2012, edition of Fox's The Five, co-host Eric Bolling said “not in this country” in response to co-host Bob Beckel making note of growing concerns about income inequality. [Fox News, The Five, 2/8/12, via Media Matters]

Fox Reporter: Gender Income Equality Is “A Myth That Has Endured For Years.” On the October 17, 2012, edition of Happening Now, Fox News reporter Doug McKelway used a gender wage gap question from the second 2012 presidential debate to claim that women earning 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn is “a myth that has endured for years.” [Fox News, Happening Now, 10/17/12, via Media Matters]

Bill O'Reilly: “Income Inequality Is Bull.” During a discussion of income inequality on the May 14, 2012, edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly claimed that “income inequality is bull. Nobody gives you anything, you earn it.” [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 5/14/12]

Fox's Jim Angle: The Wage Gap Is Not A “National Problem.” On the September 26, 2012, edition of Happening Now, Fox News' chief national correspondent, Jim Angle, dismissed the fact that women are paid less than men as “not a national problem.” [Fox News, Happening Now, 9/26/12, via Media Matters]

Kansas City Star Columnist E. Thomas McClanahan Dismissed The Gender Wage Gap As “Grossly Misleading.” In his column for the Kansas City Star, E. Thomas McClanahan called Equal Pay Day an exaggeration of workplace discrimination and dismissed the percentage of what women earn compared to their male counterparts as “grossly misleading.” [Kansas City Star, 3/16/13, via Media Matters]

Reality: Paycheck Fairness Act Tries To Remedy Gender Wage Discrimination

Paycheck Fairness Act Would Help Fix Gender Wage Discrimination. If passed, the Paycheck Fairness Act would “provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, and for other purposes.” [, accessed 6/10/13]

Conservatives Dismiss The Paycheck Fairness Act As A “Distraction”

Dana Perino: Paycheck Fairness Act Is A “Distraction.” On the April 30, 2012, edition of Fox & Friends, Fox host Dana Perino attacked the Paycheck Fairness Act as “yet another distraction,” arguing the legislation “could actually hurt women.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/30/12, via Media Matters]

Fox Regular Kate Obenshain: Paycheck Fairness Act Is “A Real Joke.” On the May 25, 2012, edition of Fox News' Your World, Fox regular and conservative pundit Kate Obenshain described the Paycheck Fairness Act as “a real joke,” claiming that it “show[s] the left's complete assault on businesses and free markets.” [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 5/25/12, via Media Matters]

Reality: Personal Choice Is Not Responsible For The Gender Wage Gap

AAUW: Wage Gap Exists Even After Adjusting For Numerous Factors. In its 2013 Gender Pay Gap Report, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that women were paid 82% of what men were paid just one year out of college, and that lifetime gender wage disparities cannot be explained by personal choice:

Critics charge that pay differences between men and women are simply a matter of personal choices. AAUW addressed this argument in our 2012 report, Graduating to a Pay Gap: The Earnings of Women and Men One Year after College Graduation. Our analysis found that just one year after college graduation, women were paid just 82 percent of what their male counterparts were paid. An earlier report, Behind the Pay Gap (AAUW, 2007), found that 10 years after graduation, the pay gap widened, and women were paid only 69 percent of what men were paid.

In part, these pay gaps do reflect men's and women's choices, especially the choice of college major and the type of job pursued after graduation. For example, women are more likely than men to go into teaching, and this contributes to the pay gap because teachers tend to be paid less than other college graduates. This portion of the pay gap is considered to be explained, regardless of whether teachers' wages are considered fair.

Yet not all of the gap can be “explained away.” After accounting for college major, occupation, economic sector, hours worked, months unemployed since graduation, GPA, type of undergraduate institution, institution selectivity, age, geographical region, and marital status, Graduating to a Pay Gap found that a 7 percent difference in the earnings of male and female college graduates one year after graduation was still unexplained.

Similarly, Behind the Pay Gap found a 12 percent unexplained difference in earnings among full-time workers 10 years after college graduation. Other researchers have also found that the gender pay gap is not fully accounted for by women's and men's choices. [AAUW, 2013]

IWPR: “Women's Median Earnings Are Lower Than Men's In Nearly All Occupations.” According to an April 2012 fact sheet from the Institute for Women's Policy Research, “Women's median earnings are lower than men's in nearly all occupations, whether they work in occupations predominantly done by women, occupations predominantly done by men, or occupations with a more even mix of men and women.” [Institute for Women's Policy Research, April 2012]

Conservative Media Blame Personal Choice For Gender Wage Gap

Daily Caller Hyped Myth That Gender Pay Gap Is Result Of Personal Choice. The Daily Caller promoted a flawed study that claimed gender pay gaps were a result of women's preference for lower-paying jobs. [Media Matters, 5/31/13]

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed: “Women Earn Less Because They Work Fewer Hours.” An April 26, 2012, Wall Street Journal op-ed claimed that gender wage inequality is “to a considerable degree a gender-hours gap,” despite research that finds that pay inequality between men and women working full-time. [Media Matters, 4/9/13], NRO Hyped Video Claiming Gender Wage Gap Fails To Account For Women's Choices. In April, and National Review Online posted a video that claimed the gender wage gap is a myth, arguing that the gap fails to account for women's choices, which are primarily responsible for any discrepancies in salary. The video came from the conservative Independent Women's Forum, a group The New York Times described as “a right-wing public policy group that provides pseudofeminist support for extreme positions that are in fact dangerous to women.” [Media Matters, 4/9/13