Gov. Phil Bryant, R-Miss., on Tuesday suggested that America's educational system started falling behind those of other nations when mothers started entering the workforce.
"I think both parents started working, and the mom is in the workplace," Bryant started to respond at a Washington event, when asked how America's education system became "so mediocre."
Bryant immediately recognized the offensive nature of his remarks and started to qualify his statement.
"It's not a bad thing -- I'm going to get in trouble, I can see the emails tomorrow," he said. "But now both parents are working, they're pursuing their careers, it's a great American story now that women are certainly in the workplace."
When asked whether he meant that mothers belonged at home, he said, "I think there was that loving, nurturing opportunity, that both parents had a little bit of time."
Bryant noted his father spent time reading with him. "But he had a little bit more time with me," he said. "In today's society parents are so challenged -- not just the mom, but the mom and the dad -- they're working overtime, they're trying to balance both of them in the workplace. That's just one of the small features that we see."
The governor, along with Govs. Jack Markell, D-Del., and Susana Martinez, R-N.M., was a participating in a panel discussion on childhood reading, co-sponsored by the Washington Post, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the GLR Campaign and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.
Mothers are the sole or primary source of income for a record 40 percent of American households with children under the age of 18, according to a recent Pew Reseach Center report. The report found that the vast majority of Americans -- 79 percent -- reject the idea that women should return to their traditional roles. At the same time, 51 percent say that children are better off if a mother is home and doesn't hold a job -- while just 8 percent say the same about a father.