Accusations are flying over what Republican Senate nominee Linda McMahon meant when she said "we ought to look at those issues" in response to a question about reducing the minimum wage during a press conference last week. In an interview with CNN, Linda McMahon says she did not hear the question correctly. McMahon tells CNN, "I thought I was answering a question that I had heard that was about increasing the minimum wage - would I consider that. So let me just go on record and say this: I am not for decreasing the minimum wage. I did not say that and that is not something I would consider." When asked if she "misunderstood the question and misspoke" she replied, "yes."
This has become a point of contention between the campaigns of McMahon and Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. The Blumenthal campaign has seized on the comment, asserting in an ad launched late last week: "Now she's talking about lowering the minimum wage." McMahon fired back calling that a lie.
Read Jessica Yellin's Q & A with McMahon after the jump:
The truth? In the video which is posted online it's clear the former World Wrestling executive does not advocate lowering the minimum wage. But it's also clear when she was asked about reducing the minimum wage she replied in a way that suggested a willingness to have that discussion. That question comes after a series of inquiries – about whether she opposes increases in the minimum wage, whether she believes a minimum wage should exist at all. Then a male voice asks "Should it be reduced?" At that point several people are speaking at the same time so she turns to the questioner and says "I'm sorry?" The questioner, a male voice off camera, asks again "Should it be reduced now? Now that businesses are struggling as you all described, would you argue for reducing the minimum wage now?" Linda McMahon replies: "We've got minimum wages in states and we've got minimum wages in the government, and I think we ought to look at all of those issues in terms of what mandates are being placed on businesses and can they afford them." Blumenthal has seized on this language - "I think we ought to look at all of those issues" - to assert she'd consider lowering American's base pay.
JY: You were criticized last week for comments you made about the minimum wage. When the Blumenthal campaign said you were open to looking at reducing the minimum wage you said that was a lie. Why is that a lie?
LM: Because it was in the context of a conversation about increasing the minimum wage. And Mr. Blumenthal and I have exactly the same idea which is we would look at and consider an increase in the minimum wage if that were on the table.
JY: But in the video you were clearly – I wrote it down – you were explicitly asked "are you" - "would you argue for reducing the minimum wage now?" and you said "I think we ought to look at those issues in terms of what mandates are being placed on businesses and can they afford them." So you clearly said, when asked, "would you be open to reducing it," - "that's an issue we'd look at".
LM: Well there were conflicting questions that were going on in the room at that particular time. I was answering a question that I had heard that was about increasing the minimum wage, would I consider that. So let me just go on record and say this: I am not for decreasing the minimum wage. I did not say that and that is not something I woulud consider.
JY: So basically you misunderstood the question and misspoke?
The Blumenthal campaign insists McMahon is trying to spin her way out of an answer that got her into hot water. Does it matter? If she isn't for changing the minimum wage why all the fuss? Or, since McMahon has unabashedly slammed her opponent for misstatements of his own, are her intentions particularly relevant? The whole exchange is captured on video, but in this case it would seem going to the video doesn't yield all the answers.