Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. (Manuel Balce Ceneta )
WASHINGTON — President Obama's top economic advisors pushed back hard Sunday against a charge by Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney that American women have suffered the brunt of the weak economy over the last three years.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner called Romney's claim that women have accounted for 92% of the jobs lost since Obama took office "ridiculous and very misleading."
The broadside came after a week in which the two campaigns had traded barbs over which candidate was more supportive of working women. Polls show a sizable gender gap among voters, with Obama far more popular among women than Romney, the presumed GOP nominee. Romney is more popular among men.
Politifact, a nonpartisan fact-checking organization, has rated Romney's claim that 92% of job losses have hit women as "mostly false."
"It's a meaningless way to look at the basic contours of the economy," Geithner told Bob Schieffer on CBS' "Face the Nation," referring to Romney's allegation.
He said male-dominated industries, such as construction and manufacturing, were drained of jobs when the recession began in 2008 under President Bush. Under Obama, teachers and other professions dominated by women also lost considerable ground.
Geithner described the quality of political debate on economic policy as "really terrible" this year. "It's not surprising given it's a campaign, but we have to govern in facts and you know, the debate we should be having is, again, [what are] the right policies to make the economy stronger."
Gene Sperling, director of the White House National Economic Council, said even though job creation numbers in March were lower than expected, the economy is adding jobs at a faster pace than it did last year, when 2.1 million private sector jobs were created.
"What you're really having is very solid private sector job creation," he told CNN's Fareed Zakaria. "The problem's obvious. We started in a very, very deep hole and when you are starting from a hole, from the worst recession since the Great Depression, you've got a long way back."
Republican leaders rejected that assessment, arguing that Obama has failed to do enough to rejuvenate the economy. They dismissed as a political stunt Obama's renewed calls for Congress to pass the so-called Buffett Rule, which would impose a minimum tax on people earning more than $1 million a year. The measure is unlikely to pass either the House or Senate.
"This is Obama's strategy: Look over here at this shiny object here," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told CNN's Candy Crowley. "Don't look at the big picture, an economy on the brink that I didn't do a thing about and made things worse. That's what this is about."
"No amount of spin by the Obama campaign can hide the enormous damage this president has done to American women," Andrea Saul, Romney's spokesperson, said in a statement. "If they move the starting point to the beginning of their so-called recovery, they will find women have benefited from less than one-eighth of the meager job creation. The president should stop making excuses for his failures — he is entitled to his own spin but not his own facts."