Jeremy Hunt was left squirming over government plans to cut public sector pay in real terms while protecting pensioners.
The chancellor was put on the spot by Sophy Ridge on Sky News as he prepares to deliver his make-or-break autumn statement on Thursday.
Nurses are set to go on strike for the first time ever after their demands for an above-inflation wage rise was rejected.
Other public sector workers are also taking part in industrial action over their demands for pay rises that keep pace with inflation, which is currently at 10.1%.
On Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky News, Hunt was asked why the pensions triple lock - which guarantees the payments rise by inflation if it is higher than 2.5% or average wages - is being protected.
“Do nurses have broader shoulders than wealthy retirees spending time on the golf course?” Ridge asked.
Hunt, who is a former health secretary, replied: “These are the questions you should ask me after I announce what the decisions are next week.
″But I would say there is a lot of pensioner poverty.”
Ridge then pointed out that the triple lock is not means-tested, meaning the well-off get as much extra as those on lower incomes.
Hunt responded: “Very often pensioners need help and it’s not necessarily people on the very lowest incomes. But I think you need to wait for the decisions and then we’ll see.
“But I think what you’ll see overall is a broad approach that recognises that where we can, we need to prioritise the people on the lowest incomes.”
Hunt had earlier confirmed that everyone in the country will end up paying more tax as he tries to plug a £55 billion hole in the public finances.
The chancellor is expected to increase taxes by around £25 billion while also cutting public sector pay by £35 billion.
He said: “We’re all going to be paying a bit more tax, I’m afraid.”