Sharyl Attkisson Schools ABC, CBS, NBC on How to Cover the IRS Scandal

Unlike her colleagues at the Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) networks, investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, on Tuesday night, actually dug into the finer points behind the big bombshells revealed in the IRS scandal this week.

Invited on Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs Tonight to discuss the revelations of a Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyer confirming the existence of Lois Lerner’s “missing” e-mails and the IRS’s destruction of her Blackberry (stories the networks through Wednesday morning have yet to touch) Attkisson also did a great job of explaining the conflict of interest going on at the DOJ. (video after the jump)

Laying down the trail of bread crumbs for any network reporter to follow, Attkisson told Dobbs that at the same time the DOJ was “defending the IRS in court in the civil case with Judicial Watch” it was “also investigating the IRS. So at the same time it’s supposed to conduct a fair and impartial investigation on the one hand...it is defending the IRS in court on the other hand on the missing document cases. I think there is a potential appearance of a conflict of interest there.”

Not only have the networks not examined the conflict of interest case at the DOJ, they haven’t even bothered to report on the big revelations in the IRS scandal this week.

On Monday, Judicial Watch’s president Tom Fitton told FNC’s Shannon Bream that a Justice Department attorney told them the missing Lois Lerner e-mails do exist. On that same day it was also revealed that the IRS destroyed Lerner’s Blackberry after the congressional probe had begun.

Big Three network coverage of these stunning developments through Wednesday morning? 0 seconds.


The following is a transcript of Attkisson’s segment from the August 26 edition of FBN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight:

LOU DOBBS: The elusive Lois Lerner e-mails, not missing after all. Another critical piece of evidence, however, is. According to a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information request, Department of Justice attorneys for the Internal Revenue Service now claim that all government computer records are backed up, are backed up. Those same attorneys, however, now claim the back-up system is quote “too onerous” to search. A second document received by Judicial Watch show Lerner’s Blackberry was wiped clean, as they put it, wiped clean of any sensitive or propriety information and removed as scrap for disposal in June of 2012. By that time a  congressional investigation had been well underway. Joining us now is award-winning investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson. Great to have you with us Sharyl.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Thanks for having me.  

DOBBS: These latest revelations on the Internal Revenue Service, these are becoming now insulting to the intelligence of the Congress, the American people. How can it go on like this?

ATTKISSON: I think without the help of the court in this Judicial Watch case it might have gone on forever. But there is a chance that the judge will seriously make the federal government take a look at the answers its given and the evidence it’s provided and really hold their feet to the fire.

One thing you’ve mentioned that I really think is important here is the Department of Justice was representing the IRS in this phone call, basically defending the IRS in court in the civil case with Judicial Watch suing them. The Department of Justice is also investigating the IRS. So at the same time it’s supposed to conduct a fair and impartial investigation on the one hand, and it is saying that it can, it is defending the IRS in court on the other hand on the missing document cases. I think there is a potential appearance of a conflict of interest there.

DOBBS: And you point out in a recent, one of your op-eds that Andrew Strelka - speaking of conflict of interests - who used to work with Lois Lerner is now part of the Justice Department’s tax division, a key member of the Justice Department’s investigation. That has a certain  appearance too? Doesn’t it?

ATTKISSON: Yes, there are several players at the Justice Department who have alleged potential conflicts of interest in this investigation. In particular he, the man you mentioned, Strelka worked under Lois Lerner, maintained a relationship with her. There are e-mails produced by the House Oversight committee that show he thanked her for the help that he had given her in the time that he worked in her division and held her partly responsible for some of the success that he’s, he’d held. He also, according to documents, was part of a discussion about focusing on Tea Party cases. So there, there are some e-mail documents that lend to the idea that he could have been part of that scandal all together rather than somebody who should be part of the department investigating it. That’s the allegation from Republicans on House Oversight. They’ve once again asked Eric Holder of the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to get at this investigation rather than doing it himself to avoid this appearance of a conflict.



DOBBS: Sharyl let’s go to that issue of a special counselor investigator. I don’t know that  anyone would have much confidence in anyone appointed by this attorney general in the Obama Justice Department. I mean everywhere we turn there seems to be an Obama appointee who is effectively blocking the progress for the search for truth. Without Judicial Watch, without the Oversight committee in particular we wouldn’t know what the hell is going on in this government at all, would we?

ATTKISSON: Perhaps not. It’s hard to say how a special counsel would turn out. But to your point when the IRS commissioner [John] Koskinen was brought in to basically, we were told, to  get at the bottom of things and get at the truth. Based on his actions in his testimony to Congress it seems as though his edict, at least in the actions that he’s given, was more about protecting the IRS, not necessarily getting to the truth. He’s given testimony before Congress that has proven to be inaccurate on more than one occasion, including about these back-up tapes. It’s hard to know whether he simply doesn’t know the truth or hasn’t been fully briefed or something else. But I think that speaks to what you were saying.

DOBBS: Sharyl Attkisson we appreciate you being with us. Thanks so much.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.