- - Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Politicians and the media like slogans. They’re simple and don’t necessarily need to be true.

The past week, we got two whoppers, which are likely to set the tone of the 2014 campaign, that Republicans are sexist and racist.

No. 1: President Obama said, “Today, the average, full-time working woman earns just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. In 2014, that’s an embarrassment. It is wrong.”

No. 2: Baseball legend Hank Aaron “reportedly” compared Republicans who oppose Mr. Obama to the Ku Klux Klan.

Many news organizations bought Whopper No. 1 hook, line and sinker. Laura Bassett, a reporter for The Huffington Post, blasted the GOP for voting against the so-called “Paycheck Fairness Act.” The meme played out throughout the country, challenged only in some of the more perceptive media outlets.

In a column, Mark Perry and Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute take down the wage myth fact by fact. The headline notes: “Once education, marital status and occupations are considered, the ‘gender wage gap’ all but disappears.”

Some pertinent facts from the column:

Men are almost twice as likely as women to work more than 40 hours a week, and women are almost twice as likely to work only 35 to 39 hours per week. Once that is taken into consideration, the pay gap begins to shrink. Women who worked a 40-hour week made 88 percent of what men were paid.

The wages of single women who have never married jumped to 96 percent of men’s earnings. (See https://on.wsj.com/1qfBwix).

Even The Washington Post dismissed Mr. Obama’s claims in its “The Fact Checker” series, noting a number of incorrect statements on the wage differential. (See https://wapo.st/1g7u3yA).

As The Washington Post said, “The president must begin to acknowledge that ‘77 cents’ does not begin to capture what is actually happening in the workforce and society.”

The news organization gave the president two “Pinocchios” for misleading people on the issue. An outright lie earns four Pinocchios.

Whopper No. 2: Mr. Aaron did not compare the GOP with the KKK. Nevertheless, a number of news organizations decided to headline that obviously negative and ridiculous comparison.

Mr. Aaron hit more home runs than anyone else in U.S. baseball history except for Barry Bonds, who has been suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs. It was an amazing accomplishment, which occurred 40 years ago.

As part of the anniversary celebration, Mr. Aaron, who now serves as senior vice president of the Atlanta Braves, said this in an interview with USA Today: “President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all of the Republicans with the way he’s treated. We have moved in the right direction, and there have been improvements, but we still have a long ways to go in the country. The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”

It seems rather obvious that Mr. Aaron did not compare the GOP with the KKK — a point USA Today made after other news organizations misrepresented the quote. “Never in our 50-minute conversation did [Mr.] Aaron suggest anyone critical of President Obama is racist. Never did he compare the Republican Party to the Ku Klux Klan,” the newspaper noted.

I guess many journalists missed the math lesson on the wage differential; others failed to read the actual interview of Mr. Aaron. These erroneous claims about a sexist and racist GOP will come up again during the 2014 campaign. That’s why the media need to check the information before giving the sloganeers a free ride.

Christopher Harper is a professor at Temple University. He worked for more than 20 years at the Associated Press, Newsweek, ABC News and “20/20.” He can be contacted at [email protected] Twitter: @charper51.

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