First lady courts businesswomen, concedes slip on clemency communication
September 10, 1999
Web posted at: 5:48 p.m. EDT (2148 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton wrapped up her latest Senate exploratory swing by appealing to one of her natural constituencies Friday -- minority, professional women.
Mrs. Clinton gave the keynote speech to the audience of 300 black, Hispanic and Asian-American businesswoman attending an annual leadership conference.
In her prepared remarks, Mrs. Clinton cast a spotlight on a key Democratic issue: the gap between what women earn on average compared to men.
But it was during the question and answer period that Mrs. Clinton was quickly brought back to the controversey over President Bill Clinton's grant of clemency to Puerto Rican nationalists, 11 of whom were released Friday.
"Who are your Hispanic advisers in New York and did you consult with any of them on the Puerto Rican political prisoner issue?" asked panelist Rossanna Rosado, a representative of "100 Hispanic Women."
"I have a number of Hispanic advisers ... I value very much their advice and their help," Mrs. Clinton said, without naming names. "I have to admit the consultation process was not what it should have been and that will never happen again."
Mrs. Clinton was warmly received by the audience, especially when she spoke of the wage gap.
"One of the unfinished pieces of business of the 20th century is ensuring women get equal pay for equal work. There is really no reason why on the eve of the 21st century that a woman makes 75-cents for every dollar earned by a man," Mrs. Clinton said.
She criticized the Republicans, whose Senate Web site describes the difference between male and female incomes as a myth.
"They claim that any wage gap that cannot be accounted for in differences in experience, education, and occupation, can be made up for (in) , and I quote -- this is amazing -- 'the nonmonetary benefits of female-dominated jobs including better supervisors, fewer risks, easier commutes, and more flexible hours," Mrs. Cliinton said.
She then ticked off differences in average incomes for various occupations, from women nurses earning $30 a week less than male counterparts to women lawyers making $300 less a week than men.
"It is a reality in workplaces all across America from college campuses to newsrooms from law firms to factory floors," Mrs. Clinton said.
The past few days saw Mrs. Clinton resume her summer "listening" to New Yorkers, who may have the opportunity to vote for her for the U.S. Senate next year. While Mrs. Clinton has not publicly committed to the race, she has been busy raising money for it, including two fundraisers Wednesday, and she and the president have chosen a house to buy in Westchester County, New York.
"If I am a candidate and am on the ballot in November of 2000, I would ask the people of New York not to vote for me or against my opponent, but to vote for themselves, to vote for their futures. Because ultimately that's what elections should be about," Mrs. Clinton said.
Earlier, in a crowd-pleasing moment, Mrs. Clinton had held up a mock "Daily News" front page that read "Women Leaders Take New York."
"How do you get headlines like this," she said. "I mean this is really an accomplishment -- 'Women Leaders Take New York.' I kind of like the sound of that."