IRS Conservative Targeting Scandal Overblown
The farce that is Rep. Darrell Issa continues. He put on an amazing spectacle shutting down the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, on Wednesday, repeatedly cutting off Cummings’s microphone and, finally, turning his back and walking away. I especially loved Issa’s little gesture pulling his finger across his throat like a knife, to cut the mic a second time. I called it “thuggish” on “Politics Nation” and folks on the right aren’t happy. That’s OK; it was thuggish. Issa had once again called former IRS supervisor Lois Lerner to testify before the committee, knowing she was going to again use her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Fox News host Gretchen Carlson tried to resurrect the debunked claim that President Obama played a role in the IRS' targeting of political groups. On the October 21 edition of Fox News' The Real Story With Gretchen Carlson, Carlson attempted to "put the president under the microscope" about what he knew and suggested that investigations into the matter "never really got to the bottom of it." Carlson invited regular Fox News guest Jay Sekulow, chief counsel with the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, which filed a lawsuit against the government over allegations about what the IRS did. Sekulow acknowledged that he has not added Obama's name to the lawsuit, but that did not stop him or Carlson from fueling speculation that Obama had prior knowledge of what happened:
That’s the conclusion of political scientist Brendan Nyhan’s look at the “scandal attention cycle.” There’s a surge in initial interest as reporters rush to embrace the scandal narrative, but the media quickly loses interest after the most sensational charges are not substantiated. The problem is that it often takes time for the full set of facts to come out. By that time, the story is old news and the more complex or ambiguous details that often emerge are buried or ignored.
The first few days of the IRS scandal that would consume Washington for weeks went like this: Conservatives were indignant, the media was outraged, the president had to respond, his allies turned on him … and only then, the Treasury Department’s inspector general released the actual report that had sparked the whole controversy — in that order. It’s a fitting microcosm of the entire saga, which has gone from legacy-tarnishing catastrophe to historical footnote in the intervening six weeks, and a textbook example of how the scandal narrative can dominate Washington and cable news even when there is no actual scandal.
Remember the Obama Scandals? That Used to Be a Thing.
The Internal Revenue Service targeted progressive groups applying for tax-exempt status in addition to conservative ones, according to IRS documents released by congressional Democrats on Monday.
It's not the president's fault. But the rest of us should still care.
The Internal Revenue Service has come in for widespread criticism after an internal probe revealed that the agency had been applying heavy scrutiny to conservative organizations and Tea Party groups that were applying for tax-exempt status.