Betsey Stevenson, economic adviser to the president, was in the middle of a press call promoting "Equal Pay Day" when a reporter pressed her and Stevenson unraveled the very myth she was there to promote.
The Obama administration has bullhorned the old idea that women make 79 or 77 cents for every dollar men make and has presented it as the result of discrimination. The actual explanation, that this is mostly because men and women work different jobs, act differently as employees and have different qualifications, is becoming more and more mainstream.
A reporter called her out on this explanation and Stevenson said:
If I said 77 cents was equal pay for equal work, then I completely misspoke... So let me just apologize and say that I certainly wouldn’t have meant to say that.
Case closed. A member of the Obama administration has admitted that the way people are interpreting this message is wrong. People who speak about this issue appear to be Michael Mooreing the Hell out of it - they make a statement that is technically true, but designed in a way to misinform the listener.
And of course, some of the speakers blatantly declare the false version to be true.
What's interesting here is that Stevenson did indeed say that the 77 cent figure is for equal work. Specifically she said:
They’re stuck at 77 cents on the dollar, and that gender wage gap is seen very persistently across the income distribution, within occupations, across occupations, and we see it when men and women are working side by side doing identical work.
Those two statements were from the same interview. The only way I can read that without seeing Stevenson as a liar is to say she meant there is some gender wage gap for identical work that persists when controlling for some factors and not others, such as not controlling for education, but that's being unreasonably generous it's still cutting it pretty close.
What's happening here is that Stevenson is trying to walk a fine line. She's been tasked with spreading a message that she knows isn't accurate, but she has to make supporting statements that won't get her called out. She fell off the tightrope, and climbing back on required her to admit the whole thing is a sham.