A debate on the American minimum wage turned into a media sensation when CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, Peter Schiff, took to the stage to voice his concerns about enforcing the $7.25 per hour minimum. Autism Daily Newscast interviewed Mr Schiff exclusively to uncover the truth behind comments he allegedly made which have sparked a huge reaction in the press.
We reported the story on Febuary 1, and it was Mr Schiff himself who contacted us to set the record straight. The debate hosted by the Daily Show presenter Samantha Bee, between Mr Schiff and Mr Barry Ridholtz was meant to demonstrate two opposite sides of the raging minimum wage debate in the US. Since the show aired, Mr Schiff told us he’s been in receipt of hate mail, from what he claims to be misrepresentation.
“The problem with shows like the Daily Show is that they manufacture comments in such a way as to outrage their viewers. The topic of the intellectually disabled came up in only a small part of the interview. I had explained previously that the implementation of a minimum wage prevented many unskilled people from getting jobs. I used the example of a unskilled individual who might be able to get a job that paid $5 hour, being unemployed because no employers will willing to pay him $7.25. Being employed at $5 per hour is better than being unemployed at$7.25 per hour, especially when being employed will allow the employee to acquire the skills that will eventually enable him to earn much more.”
Mr Schiff explained that it was the interviewer Ms Bee , who asked if that meant it was O.K. for an employer to pay only $2 per hour, Mr. Schiff then told Ms. Bee that most people would not accept a job at such a low rate of pay. But when Ms. Bee asked him to describe a individual who would, Mr. Schiff offered two examples.
1. Unpaid interns currently working for free. (The Daily Show has employed unpaid interns) The minimum wage law prevents employers from paying interns $2 per hour, but they are allowed to work for 0 dollars per hour. So for those individuals, $2 per hour would represent an improvement.
2. The intellectually compromised, who are exempt from the minimum wage, many of whom are currently working for $2 per hour or less.
“Of course, I wouldn’t put a net worth on people as the Daily Show implied. I’m a business man. I have over 100 employees, I have to assess their pay on the productivity of their labour to my business – it has absolutely nothing to do with someone’s value as a human being, but their net contribution to the profitability for my business. So what they are worth to me as an employer has nothing to do with their value as human beings. I’m certainly not disrespectful of anyone with special needs. I’ve converted part of my house for my aunt who has ME, and my wife’s aunt has Down’s Syndrome.”
Mr Schiff explained that under the pressure of cameras he couldn’t think of the politically correct term for someone with special educational needs.
“I was really struggling and asked Ms Bee what the correct term was to use. She could have reminded me but chose not to. In fact, if anyone is offended by the term I used, blame the Daily Show, as they made the decision to air it. They did not care who they offended as long as they could make me look bad in the process.
“I specifically told Ms. Bee about my wife’s aunt with Downs who cannot work in a professional capacity; but the job she does is low skilled and gives her a sense of real self worth. If the minimum wage was to be implemented then she would lose that sense of independence she has from cashing in her pay cheque.”
Mr Schiff believes strongly that The Daily show took parts of his interview and edited them to sensationalise the interview.
“In that particular segment they combined parts of three different answers to create their own answer to a question unrelated to the one she asked on camera. No reporter or blogger who has since run the story has contacted me to see if there is any truth in what’s been said, or to set the record straight.”
We asked what steps he was taking to rectify the situation with The Daily Show and whether he was intending on chasing the legality of what the show had done. He said:
“Unfortunately I signed a release that said that they can use the interview in whichever means they deem appropriate. Law suits are expensive, mentally draining and time consuming.”
“If anyone is upset, hopefully they will see that these comments were edited very carefully to make me look bad. There are intellectually disabled people in America working very happily in low wage jobs, who would not be able to work at all if the minimum wage were applied to them. They are working because they enjoy the experience, and because it gives them a feeling of self worth and self respect. It would be wrong for the government to take that away in the name of political correctness.”
Mr Schiff has defended himself publicly on his facebook page and intends discussing the interview on his open radio show on February 3.