Networks Dodge Huge IRS Scandal News as DOJ Attorney Says Lost Lerner E-Mails Do Exist

Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton appeared on the Fox News Channel (FNC) Monday afternoon and informed viewers that a Department of Justice (DOJ) attorney admitted to his organization on Friday that the e-mails belonging to former IRS official Lois Lerner that were thought to be lost likely still exist. He declared to FNC’s Shannon Bream that the story of Lerner’s hard drive being damaged and destroyed and thus her e-mails were permanently lost has “all been a pack of malarkey” and “a big lie.”

When it came to the major broadcast networks covering this huge story on their Monday evening newscasts, there was no coverage to be found as ABC, CBS, and NBC all carried out the latest censoring of news surrounding the IRS. [MP3 audio here; Video below]

Earlier in the day, Fitton informed Bream as she guest-hosted The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson that a DOJ attorney told Judicial Watch on Friday that the federal government does indeed back up all computer records in the event that something bad would occur in Washington and the continuity of government could be ensured. With this in mind, Fitton observed that:

So everything we’ve been hearing about scratched hard drives, about missing e-mails of Lois Lerner, other IRS officials, other officials in the Obama administration, it’s all been a pack of malarkey. They could get these records but they don’t want to and they haven’t told anyone about it, frankly, until we were able to get it out of them on Friday. And there’s no such thing as Lois Lerner’s missing e-mails. It’s all been a big lie. They’ve been lying to the courts, to the American people and to congress. It’s really outrageous.

FNC’s Special Report With Bret Baier aired a full report on the story from FNC correspondent Doug McKelway. In the two-minute-and-22-second report, McKelway stated that, along with Fitton’s admission today:  

Investigators have been deeply skeptical that Lois Lerner’s e-mails are truly gone. Law requires government e-mails to be backed up. Also, data from crashed hard drives can often be recovered and all e-mails have a recipient or a sender. 

A cybersecurity analyst interviewed for the story added that Lerner’s position at the IRS should have included “an executive assistant who has access to her e-mail just as though she did” and thus, “whatever e-mail goes into Lois Lerner's box goes into the administration box as well.”

On the program following Special Report, On the Record with Great Van Susteren, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) appeared to discuss another allegation in which a DOJ attorney, who represents the IRS, had previously been worked at the agency in its targeting of tea party groups. 

Of course, this was not the first time that the news media has censored key details in the IRS scandal since the scandal broke in May 2013. Developments in the last few months included Lois Lerner warning her colleagues about what they write in e-mails in case of government investigation, an IRS commissioner having donated in the past to Democratic candidates, and additional e-mails belonging to IRS employees being lost have all either been ignored or received scant coverage across the major broadcast networks and newspapers.

As opposed to reporting on this new development, the networks found plenty of topics to cover instead. ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer and NBC Nightly News had recaps of the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) from Sunday evening, with the correspondent for World News giving their picks for the best and worst dressed celebrities there. 

Over on the CBS Evening News, they joined with ABC and NBC in reporting on a shark being spotted off of a Massachusetts beach on Monday.


The complete transcript from the August 25 segment on the latest IRS development on FNC’s Special Report With Bret Baier is transcribed below. 

Fox News Channel’s Special Report With Bret Baier

August 25, 2014

6:06 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Retrievable?].

BRET BAIER: The Obama administration’s insistence that e-mails from former IRS bureaucrat Lois Lerner about the targeting of conservative groups are lost forever may not be true after all. Correspondent Doug McKelway has the fascinating details for us tonight in a story that broke just this afternoon. Good evening, Doug. 

DOUG MCKELWAY: Evening, Bret. Today, in a stunning revelation, Judicial Watch’s President Tom Fitton told Fox News that Justice Department attorneys representing the IRS admitted to him in a phone call last Friday that the federal government backs up all computer records to ensure the continuity of government in a catastrophe, but he said retrieving the Lois Lerner e-mails would be, quote, “too onerous,” a legal burden that can exempt the agency from complying with FOIA requests. 

TOM FITTON: So everything that we've been hearing about scratched hard drive, about missing emails of Lois Lerner, other IRS officials, other officials in the Obama administration, it's all been a pack of malarkey. They could get these records but they don't want to and they haven't told anyone about it until, frankly, we were able to get it out of them on Friday. 

MCKELWAY: Investigators have been deeply skeptical that Lois Lerner’s e-mails are truly gone. Law requires government e-mails to be backed up. Also, data from crashed hard drives can often be recovered and all e-mails have a recipient or a sender. 

MORGAN WRIGHT, CYBERSECURITY ANALYST: Somebody at Lois Lerner's position has an executive assistant who has access to her e-mail just as though she did. So, whatever e-mail goes into Lois Lerner's box goes into the administration box as well. 

MCKELWAY: Still, administration officials and IRS officials have repeatedly said that Lerner's e-mails no longer exist. 

IRS COMMISSIONER JOHN KOSKINEN: The actual hard drive, after it was determined that it was dysfunctional and, with experts, no e-mails could be retrieved, was recycled and destroyed in the normal process. This was –

CONGRESSMAN DAVE CAMP (R-MICH): So was it physically destroyed? 

KOSKINEN: That's my understanding. 

MCKELWAY: Neither the IRS nor a DOJ attorney representing the IRS in the Judicial Watch lawsuit responded to our request today for a comment. Separately now, Republicans on the House on the Oversight Committee are accusing a current DOJ attorney, who represents the IRS in litigation, of previously working for the IRS to target conservatives. DOJ, which is investigating the targeting, responded just moments ago, quote, “there remains no basis for requesting the integrity or independence of that investigation.” Bret? 

BAIER: We'll follow it. Thank you. 

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is a news analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division