When White House Director of Communications Jennifer Palmieri light-heartedly mocked news organizations for sending mostly men to ask about “gender pay inequity,” Fox News reporter Ed Henry responded with a tweet so sarcastic it’s making headlines.

“Love all these guys, but 6 of 7 news orgs in front row sent men to ask [White House Press Secretary Jay Carney] abt the problem of gender pay inequity,” Palmieri tweeted on Tuesday.

Henry’s response: “[White House] sent man to podium right?”

Though Henry was clearly joking, Palmieri responded by defending Carney’s credentials on the issue.

In a concerted election-year push to draw attention to women’s wages, President Barack Obama signed directives Tuesday that he says would make it easier for workers of federal contractors to get information about workplace compensation. He seasoned his move with a sharp rebuke of Republicans whom he accused of “gumming up the works” on workplace fairness.

However, even CNN called out the Obama administration for reportedly paying women less than men. Citing a study, CNN reported that women in the White House reportedly make “88 cents to every man’s dollar.”

Jay Carney apparently did not deny the findings of the study when asked about it.

Obama made a clear partisan appeal to women as he issued an executive order that prohibits federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their pay. He also directed the Labor Department to write rules requiring federal contractors to provide aggregate compensation data by race and gender.

“This is about Republicans seemingly opposing any efforts to even the playing field for working families,” Obama said at a White House signing ceremony, surrounded by women advocates and accompanied by Lilly Ledbetter, a woman whose namesake legislation on pay equity was the first bill Obama signed into law in 2009.

Obama’s executive order and directive to the Labor Department dovetailed with the start of Senate debate on broader legislation that would make it easier for workers to sue companies for paying women less because of their gender. That legislation is expected to fail, as it has in the past, due to Republican opposition.

While the president’s actions affect only federal contractors, those directives can have a wide and direct impact. Federal contracting covers nearly one-quarter of the U.S. workforce and includes companies ranging from Boeing to small parts suppliers and service providers. Such actions also can be largely symbolic, designed to spur action in the broader economy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story has been updated with video.

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