Fairness & Accuracy

Stay-At-Home Moms And The Right Way to Correct a Mistake

Ann Romney stands next to her husband and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. i i

Ann Romney stands next to her husband and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Win McNamee/Getty hide caption

itoggle caption Win McNamee/Getty
Ann Romney stands next to her husband and presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Ann Romney stands next to her husband and presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Win McNamee/Getty

In a recent segment on Weekend Edition Sunday, national political correspondent Mara Liasson sought to explain presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's lack of strong female support. "He's trailing women by 20 points. His problem is not stay-at-home moms, it's with educated women. He's trailing with college-educated women by almost 30 points," she said.

Her statement rightfully left some listeners irritated.

"Surely she knows many educated women stay at home, even give up careers, because they want to raise their children themselves," wrote Loretta Hess of Normal, IL.

Liasson herself agrees with the listeners and said she misspoke. She and her editors quickly caught the mistake. They corrected the error in subsequent broadcasts that aired in later times that same morning. Weekend Edition Sunday went one step further and aired a formal clarification during the letters segment the following week.

Their reaction was a good example of how to correct an error that was offensive to many listeners. Rather than add to their work, I'll just repeat their clarification, which some listeners might have missed.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Time now for Your Letters. Last Sunday, I spoke with NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson about the week in politics, and part of our conversation focused on a political the war of words. It started when Democratic consultant Hilary Rosen said that Ann Romney, the wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, quote, "has never worked a day in her life." Many listeners took issue with Mara's analysis of the gender gap between Mitt Romney and President Obama.

Debora Hoard of Greenwood, Virginia, wrote: As I got ready to go to work this morning - work I do in part so I can have some flexibility to be home during the week - I heard Ms. Liasson say Romney's problem is not with stay-at-home moms, but with educated women. Ouch. She writes: Are these really separate categories?

And Allaire Diamond of Williston, Vermont, adds: These groups are not mutually exclusive. I proudly count myself among the large group of college-educated women who have chosen to dedicate ourselves, full- or part-time, for a year or a lifetime, to the work of raising our children. A woman's life and career, especially when children are involved, is extraordinarily complex and it's insulting to have it reduced to these rough categories, especially by someone that I normally hold in high regard.

We asked Mara about the point she was making and here's her response.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Our listeners are right. I misspoke and that's one reason why we corrected the interview for later feeds of the show. What I was trying to say was that while Romney has an overall deficit with women voters, his biggest disadvantage is with college educated women - wherever they work, at home, in an office, a store or a factory.

MARTIN: As Mara said, we re-recorded our interview for later feeds, and that is the interview of record at NPR.org.

A correction was posted on NPR.org that acknowledges the error and the modification. This is standard procedure for any correction. But NPR is at its heart a radio organization, which is why Weekend Edition Sunday was right to also transmit Liasson's clarification over the airwaves.

Please continue the discussion on Twitter @SchumacherMatos or at my Facebook page.

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