President Obama's staff took on questions of possible hypocrisy Tuesday. Reporters asked about the difference between men's and women's pay in the White House.
The gender pay gap has been one of Obama's main talking points this year, included in his State of the Union address. He also spoke out about the issue during Equal Pay Day in April.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: "I've got two daughters, and I expect them to be treated just like anybody's sons."
In signing two executive orders to ensure equal pay for women, the president cited a stat — women make 77 cents on the dollar on average compared to men. (Via ABC)
Then came Tuesday's White House press briefing.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: "The metric that the White House cites for there being a gap nationwide is also there at the White House."
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: "The statistic that's cited about the country is about 77 cents on the dollar, and here at the White House, it's 88 cents on the dollar."
Oh, boy. For an administration championing the end of the gender pay gap, saying you're simply better than the rest of the country instead of fully equal is a surefire way to draw criticism.
This is where the questions came from. The White House released salary information Tuesday for all 456 staffers.
An analysis by The Washington Post's Zachary Goldfarb showed the average male employee at the White House earns about $88,000 compared to $78,000 for the average woman — a 13 percent difference. The pay gap when Obama took office five years ago? Thirteen percent.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: "If you look at the metrics, the White House performs significantly better than the private sector does."
WENDELL GOLER, FOX NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: "But it's not improving."
EARNEST: "Well, but it's already a lot better than the private sector."
To be fair, Earnest pointed out White House staffers who hold the same position level receive equal pay. It's just that there are more women holding lower-paying jobs and more men with annual salaries $100,000 or more. (Via CNN)
And here's where it gets tricky. The White House quickly caught criticism over the larger argument on how worthwhile these statistics are in the first place.
CBS points out while the U.S. Census Bureau cites women make 77 cents on the dollar, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says it's more like 88 cents.
When the White House tried to make a point about its own equal-work-equal-pay environment, it only drew more criticism. (Via The Washington Post)
Conservatives quickly pointed out you're minimizing the same variables you've used in the past when it was convenient for you.
It's the same argument one scholar brought up in April.
CHRISTINA HOFF SOMMERS, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE RESIDENT SCHOLAR: "Well, fine. That's right. But why does the president use the 77-cent figure, which is misleading in exactly the same way?"
Admittedly, the stats and the argument are complicated. Earnest told reporters the White House is waiting for Congress to pass a Paycheck Fairness Act.