At twin events in South Carolina on Wednesday, rivals Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina spoke about equal pay within hours of each other, each blaming the other’s party for not doing enough to fight for women’s rights in the workplace.
“I don’t think I’m letting you in on a secret when I say too many women still earn less than men on the job,” Clinton told a roomful of mostly South Carolina women. “We could fix this if Republicans would get on board.”
“Before the federal government or Hillary Clinton lecture others,” said Fiorina, “maybe they ought to look into their own offices or look into the seniority system and the federal government.”
Like doppelgangers parading on different sides of a funhouse mirror, Clinton and Fiorina echoed each other even in their opposition.
Clinton was speaking from inside the Columbia, S.C. Marriott hotel; Fiorina spoke from outside the same hotel a few hours earlier. Clinton gave a speech and took no questions; Fiorina bragged about how accessible a candidate she has been to the press compared with her Democratic counterpart. Clinton, a dominant frontrunner among the Democrats, never mentioned Fiorina; Fiorina’s event seemed planned specifically to antagonize the former secretary of state.
For Clinton, it was a chance to reconnect with South Carolina voters after badly losing the primary to Barack Obama in 2008. (During the last election, Bill Clinton appeared to write off Barack Obama’s victory in the state by comparing him with Jesse Jackson, another black candidate who never won.)
Fiorina, on the other hand, was shadowing Clinton, continuing her ceaseless criticism of the Democratic candidate in an effort to gain some much-needed attention in the press.
“Our events tomorrow are all open to the press,” Fiorina’s spokeswoman, Sarah Flores, wrote in an email to reporters Tuesday night, jabbing at the Clinton campaign. “And by ‘open press,’ we mean we’ll actually take questions.”
Clinton’s speech was one of the first true speeches of her campaign. She made a case for equal pay and forcefully criticized Republicans for not fully embracing an equal pay platform. She listed four specific measures to improve pay for women, including legislation that allows women to sue for wage discrimination, requiring pay transparency, and paid leave and flexible scheduling.
Clinton’s ideas aren’t new: she long advocated for equal pay legislation as senator of New York, and paid leave has become a fixture of liberal politicians’ platforms around the country. She repeated her claim that equal pay is “not a women’s issue, this is a family issue” and an American economic issue.
What is new to her candidacy, however, is Clinton’s sharp language for Republicans who she says are responsible for holding back similar legislation. Without mentioning any Republican presidential hopefuls by name, she mentioned Scott Walker’s comment that equal pay is a “bogus issue”—though she mistakenly called him a candidate, a declaration he has not yet made. Her other two jabs at Republicans were directed at Marco Rubio who said Congress was “wasting time worrying” about equal pay, and Rand Paul, who has said equal pay efforts remind him of the Soviet Union.
Fiorina said she “of course” supports equal pay for equal work, and said that a seniority system in the federal government “allows a man to watch pornography all day long in the federal government” and earn the same as “a woman sitting next to him trying to do a good job.”
Fiorina also claimed that Clinton does not pay women equally in her own office. The Clinton campaign has not yet released details about its expenditures and salaries. As a senator, Clinton paid women and men equally for the same jobs, according to figures released by her campaign and reviewed by PolitiFact.com.