CNN Misleads on IRS Controversy, Takes 17 Hours to Report GOP Side

17 hours after CNN first reported that the IRS targeted liberal groups as well as conservative groups, it finally offered the Republican side of the story, that Tea Party groups received even more scrutiny than "progressive" and "Occupy" groups.

Correspondent Dana Bash first broke the story during Monday's 5 p.m. ET hour of The Situation Room that according to a document dump, the IRS included groups with the terms "progressive" and "Occupy" along with Tea Party groups in its "Be On the Lookout" watch list. What Bash failed to note is that, according to one 2010 list, information on Tea Party groups was still instructed to be sent to higher authorities in Washington D.C. for further scrutiny.

In fact, according to the USA Today, there was a 27-month span where no Tea Party groups were approved for tax-exempt status while "perhaps dozens" of liberal groups were approved in that time span.

From Bash's 5 p.m. Monday report until her acknowledgment on Tuesday morning that the Tea Party groups may have seen more attention from the IRS, CNN repeatedly relayed Democratic talking points. The network cited Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), the Democrat leader in the House Ways and Means Committee, four separate times without quoting a Republican member of Congress.

For example, Randi Kaye's news brief at the end of Monday's Anderson Cooper 360 was simply a repeat of Levin's talking points:

"Anderson, word tonight that the IRS targeted liberal groups as well as conservative groups seeking tax exempt status. That's according to Congressman Sander Levin who said the term "progressives" was included on IRS screening lists of tax exempt applicants made available to Congress today."

Bash began her Tuesday report with Democrats gloating: "There are a lot of Democrats saying I told you so here on Capitol Hill and probably over at the White House, as well."

Only after anchor Carol Costello expressed confusion as to why more liberal groups hadn't cried foul over IRS scrutiny did Bash acknowledge the Republican case:

"So Republicans are saying this is not case closed by any means because they argue if you look at these documents and you look at these – what they're effectively memos that went out internally, mostly back in 2010 at the IRS, the way that it went after or screened out Tea Party groups, those groups were found and then they were separated out, they say, and put in a separate pile, and actually maybe in some cases sent to Washington for real scrutiny and in some cases Tea Party groups say they felt harassed."

Bash even cited a Democratic source admitting the Tea Party groups received more attention. Yet she left this for the end of her report, which was 17 hours after she first touched the story:

 "And I have to tell you, I talked to a Democratic source familiar with this investigation who actually agreed that there is a difference. Although progressive groups clearly were screened that there does seem to be a difference at least in what they found so far about the treatment of these different groups."

Earlier in the morning, New Day co-host Kate Bolduan had used the IRS claim in her softball to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.):

"Let me ask you about the IRS. We're now learning that it's very likely, it appears that the IRS may have targeted for extra screening liberal groups, not only conservative groups, for extra scrutiny. You previously have said that any kind of extra screening like that is wrong, though not illegal. With this new information in light, what do you think should happen to the IRS?"

And Bolduan admitted that she had started overlooking the IRS scandal: "the IRS scandal, I started thinking that that was one scandal moving to the back burner of Washington scandals, but clearly not now."

Early Start co-host John Berman simply relayed the acting IRS head's narrative that the agency targeted many different groups:

"Danny Werfel telling reporters he found agents looking into applications for tax exempt status did not just give special scrutiny to Tea Party groups, but also inappropriately targeted a range of groups across the political spectrum."

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014