President Biden mistakenly referred to Vice President Kamala Harris as “first lady” during remarks on Equal Pay Day at the White House Tuesday, and he went on to joke about the gaffe.
“There’s been a little change in arrangement of who is on the stage because of the first lady’s husband contracting COVID,” Biden said, according to video of the remarks available on CSPAN.
Earlier on Tuesday, Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, tested positive for COVID-19. Harris tested negative.
A member of the audience appears to have mentioned the snafu to Biden, because the president went on to joke about it.
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“That’s right,” Biden said, gesturing to his wife, Jill Biden. “She’s fine, it’s me that’s not to get it.”
“And secondly, the first gentleman, how about that?” the president continued.
Biden began his remarks by introducing himself as the first lady’s husband.
“I’m Joe Biden. I’m Jill Biden’s husband and proud of it,” he said.
Biden’s remarks focused on the progress of women and called for equal pay, touting his administration’s efforts to close the “pay gap.” The president signed an executive order Tuesday to promote efforts to achieve pay equality, encouraging the government to consider banning federal contractors from seeking information about job applicants’ prior salary history.
Earlier in the day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., commented on new Department of Labor data Tuesday showing the wage gap.
In 2020, women earned 83 cents for every dollar earned by men. The gap is particularly stark for Hispanic women (57 cents) and Black women (64 cents) when comparing their wages to White, non-Hispanic men.
Critics have argued that the U.S. already bans sex discrimination in the workplace and that the pay gap is largely the result of individual choices, not discrimination. Men, on average, take more dangerous but better-paying jobs, while comparatively more women choose to devote their full time to motherhood.