A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Clinton’s Equal Pay Claim


Hillary Clinton claims that Donald Trump said “women will start making equal pay as soon as we do as good a job as men.” But that’s not exactly what he said. Trump does not support equal pay legislation, but he has said that he believes in paying people based on performance, not gender.

Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, made her remarks in Ohio, in a speech critical of Trump’s economic policies.

Clinton, June 21: He says women will start making equal pay as soon as we do as good a job as men, as if we aren’t already.

Her campaign told us that Clinton was referring to a response that Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, gave at an Oct. 12, 2015, town hall event, where a young woman challenged him on equal pay and abortion. The woman said, “I want to get paid the same as a man,” and asked will “a woman make the same as a man” if he is president. Trump responded, “You’re going to make the same if you do as good a job.”

The Clinton campaign has made much of that quip, posting the quote on Twitter and on its website. But before and after that 13-word answer, Trump has given more expansive answers to questions about equal pay legislation that could best be described as a pro-business, free-market response favored by Republicans. Trump has said that he believes in paying people what they are worth, regardless of gender, without government involvement. 

“If they do the same job, they should get the same pay,” Trump said nearly two months earlier in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

On that show, Trump expressed skepticism that the government could construct a workable solution to pay inequity. According to the most recent Census Bureau data, a woman working full time, year-round, earned only 79 cents for every dollar earned by her male counterpart in 2014. (As we have pointed out before, that Census figure is the median for all women in all jobs, not for women doing the same job or even necessarily working the same number of hours.)

Trump, Aug. 20, 2015: When you have to categorize men and women into a particular group and a particular pay scale, it gets very — because people do different jobs. If they do the same job, they should get the same pay. But it’s very hard to say what is the same job. It’s a very, very tricky question. And I talked about competition with other places and other parts of the world, Mika. This is one of the things that we have to look at very strongly.

Nine days before the “Morning Joe” interview, on CNN’s “New Day,” Trump told host Chris Cuomo that the concept of equal pay legislation is “good,” but implementing it would be “very complicated.” Trump said, “I just don’t want it to be a negative where everybody ends up making the same pay. That’s not our system.”

Cuomo, Aug. 11, 2015: You said I’m going to be great for women. I will do the most that can be done for women. Will you pass an equal pay? You know the statistics. You know, they don’t get paid what men do?

Trump: I’m looking into that very strongly. I was asked that question yesterday. I’m looking into it very strongly. I will have a position on it in the not too distant future. One of the problems you have is you get to have an economy where it’s no longer free enterprise economy. You know, everybody gets the saying whether the — the concept of it is good. It’s a very complicated. The whole issue is a very complicated issue. … I’m looking at that very strongly. I feel strongly — the concept of it, I love. I just don’t want it to be a negative where everybody ends up making the same pay. That’s not our system.

It was after those two interviews that Trump had an exchange with a woman who challenged his positions on abortion and equal pay. By that point, it was clear that Trump was skeptical of equal pay legislation, if not outright opposed to it.

The exchange occurred Oct. 12, 2015, in New Hampshire. It began with the woman telling Trump, “I don’t think you’re a friend to women.”

Young woman, Oct. 12, 2015: I want to get paid the same as a man, and I think you understand that. So, if you become president, will a woman make the same as a man and do I get to choose what I do with my body?

Trump: You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job. You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job, and I happen to be pro-life. OK? I’m pro-life.

Two days later, Trump discussed his exchange with the woman and his views on equal pay with MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski on “Morning Joe.”

Brzezinski, Oct. 14, 2015: I just wanted to know how you would make sure that’s happening, because I understand equal work for equal pay.

Trump: Well, you know, the marketplace is going to make sure of it, because I see it more and more. Women are being hired. And in fact, in many cases are being hired for more money than men based on their competence. And that’s what I say. I mean, very I said it very clearly. If they do the job, I have women that make more than men executives. I have numerous women, many men — many men are unhappy because women in a similar position are making more than they are. And they work for me. They come to me and complain about it.

About a month later, Trump equated equal pay legislation to socialism, and repeated that pay should be based on performance, not gender.

Trump, Nov. 19, 2015: Here is the problem. If you start getting involved with government on “this one gets this pay and this one gets that pay,” and then you say — “Where does it all start?” Because you could have a woman that’s much better than a man, or you could have a woman that’s not as good as man, if you sorta say “everybody gets equal pay” you get away from the whole American Dream. You get away from capitalism in a sense.

I can tell you, that I have women, honestly that are just, in many cases, they’re better than men and I pay them more than men. And to a certain extent, people have to go out there, they have to fight for themselves. … I don’t know if people agree with me, once you get where everybody gets the same, I mean you’re into a socialistic society.

Trump does not support equal pay legislation, and that is a fair point of comparison for Clinton. But his position isn’t as simple as Clinton makes it out to be.

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