It's always Mom's fault.
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi on Tuesday attributed the origins of America's educational shortcomings to the entrance of mothers into the workforce. Then he tried to walk back his comments.
Speaking on a panel with two other governors in a Washington Post Live event, Bryant was asked how the country became "so mediocre" in reading proficiency rates and educational outcomes. The Mississippi governor--whose state has a lower student performance score than the national average, according the to National Center for Education Statistics--was the first to answer:
"I think both parents started working. The mom got in the workplace."
Recognizing almost immediately that his comment had touched on a sensitive issue, Bryant noted that his inbox would soon be flooded with angry emails. He then expanded on his hypothesis, saying that "both parents are so pressured" in families today--a point he later reiterated in a phone interview with the Associated Press.
"We're so busy in today's society," said Bryant on Tuesday to the AP. "Moms are working. Dads are working."
Bryant's wife, Deborah, has worked outside the home for more than 38 years, including when their children were growing up. His mother also occasionally worked as a grocery store cashier and in a bakery when his family needed money, Bryant told the AP.
"Anybody that thinks I would blame working mothers for failures in education is just ridiculous," he said.
The governor's remarks are the latest in a provocative national dialogue on women in the workplace. Just last week, a Pew Research study found that a record 40% of households were supported either primarily or completely by working mothers. Red State editor Erick Erickson responded to the study on Lou Dobbs Tonight by calling mom-breadwinners at odds with the "natural world."