NBC Touts White House 'Aggressively Responding' to Scandals, Dismissing Criticism as 'Offensive and Absurd'

On Sunday's NBC Nightly News, White House correspondent Peter Alexander led off with Obama team spin on the scandals rocking the administration: "...the White House is aggressively responding, calling accusations of mismanagement 'offensive and absurd.'" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

A sound bite played of Obama advisor Dan Pfeiffer ranting: "There is no question that we want to – that Republicans are trying to make political hay here....What they want to do when they're lacking a positive agenda is try to drag Washington into a swamp of partisan fishing expeditions, trumped-up hearings, and false allegations. We're not gonna let that happen."

Introducing sound bites from congressional Republicans, Alexander was dismissive: "President Obama's team promising accountability at the IRS, and a 30-day top-down review by the agency's new acting commissioner. Still, Republicans aren't satisfied."

After a clip played of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell denouncing "a culture of intimidation throughout the administration," Alexander quickly added: "But GOP leaders concede there's no evidence the White House ordered the targeting of conservatives."

Alexander also tried to downplay the political impact of the scandals, citing new polling data: "After what may have been among the toughest weeks of the Obama presidency, a just-released poll shows the President's approval rating largely unaffected."

He then acknowledged: "Still, a majority of Americans view all three issues as very important to the nation, despite White House claims that some congressional Republicans are overplaying their hand."

Wrapping up the report, Alexander forwarded a complaint from Obama: "At an event this afternoon, President Obama complained that partisan battles are keeping this country's economy from getting stronger."

Despite Alexander acting as a stenographer of White House talking points, on Monday's Today, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd reported details that further call into question Obama administration involvement in the IRS scandal:

You know, this issue of when did the White House get informed that the IRS had been audited by the Treasury Department and that this report about the targeting of conservative groups was completed and was out there. Now, last week, Jay Carney, the press secretary, admitted that the White House Counsel's Office had been informed of this investigation in late April. This morning we're learning that indeed it wasn't just the office, it was the counsel herself, Kathy Rumler, was informed.

The question is, why did she choose not to tell the President? Why did she – did she tell the White House chief of staff? All of these issues, what was the decision around not telling the President at the time? Of course the President himself has said he learned when we in the media reported this situation. So it goes to, at what point did the White House find out about this? And it is a difference of three weeks.


Here is a full transcript of Alexander's May 19 report:

6:38PM ET

LESTER HOLT: After a turbulent week for the Obama administration, the White House went on the defensive today. Though the President himself steered clear of the controversies. NBC's Peter Alexander has the latest.

CROWD: Obama! Obama! Obama!

PETER ALEXANDER: With the President addressing graduates at the historically black Morehouse College in Atlanta today, no mention of the convergence of controversies still brewing in Washington.

Still, the White House is aggressively responding, calling accusations of mismanagement "offensive and absurd." On the IRS issue...

DAN PFEIFFER [WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR]: There is no question that we want to – that Republicans are trying to make political hay here.

ALEXANDER: A senior advisor speaking out on all five Sunday morning talk shows.

PFEIFFER: What they want to do when they're lacking a positive agenda is try to drag Washington into a swamp of partisan fishing expeditions, trumped-up hearings, and false allegations. We're not gonna let that happen.

ALEXANDER: President Obama's team promising accountability at the IRS, and a 30-day top-down review by the agency's new acting commissioner.

Still, Republicans aren't satisfied.

MITCH MCCONNELL [SEN. R-KY]: There is a culture of intimidation throughout the administration. It's no wonder that the agents and the IRS sort of get the message. The President demonizes his opponents.

ALEXANDER: But GOP leaders concede there's no evidence the White House ordered the targeting of conservatives.

DAVE CAMP [REP. R-MI]: We don't have anything to say that the President knew about this.

MCCONNELL: The investigation has just begun, so I'm not going to reach a conclusion about what we may find.

ALEXANDER: After what may have been among the toughest weeks of the Obama presidency, a just-released poll shows the President's approval rating largely unaffected. Still, a majority of Americans view all three issues as very important to the nation, despite White House claims that some congressional Republicans are overplaying their hand.

BOB WOODWARD [WASHINGTON POST]: This is not Watergate, but there are some people in the administration who have acted as if they want to be Nixonian, and that's a very big problem.

RON FOURNIER [NATIONAL JOURNAL]: What unites all these things is it undermines the credibility of the administration and the President and the competence of government. And this is a time when we have a president who's really trying hard to prove that government can improve our lives.

ALEXANDER: At an event this afternoon, President Obama complained that partisan battles are keeping this country's economy from getting stronger. Lester, there are more battles on tap this week. Former IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman is scheduled to testify before Congress Wednesday.

HOLT: Alright, Peter, thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC