Networks Don't Share Bill O'Reilly's Fury at IRS Boss Visiting White House 157 Times

On Thursday night’s O’Reilly Factor, the Fox News host opened the show by attacking former IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman for visiting the White House 157 times, almost four times as many appearances as Hillary Clinton. O’Reilly hinted this was a “smoking gun” of the White House running the IRS harassment campaign of the Tea Party.

But guess what: this fact of Shulman’s well-worn path to the White House gates has yet to be reported by ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS. O’Reilly can’t believe this number:

 

O’REILLY: But the major question remains unanswered. Did the campaign of intimidation come from the White House? Well, today, there is disturbing information. This man, former IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House, ready? -- 157 times. Incredible. By comparison, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to the White House 43 times. Then CIA director Leon Panetta 20 times. So what the heck was Mr. Shulman doing at the White House with that kind of frequency?

O’Reilly was angry that Shulman would wisecrack at Republicans that he was at the White House to attend the Easter Egg Roll with his children. “Well, Mr. Shulman, you know what you can do with your Easter egg,” he said.

He was angry that it looked like the government was persecuting its political opponents: “That’s what they do in China. That’s what they do in Cuba. We do not do that here.”

But the networks have not shared O’Reilly’s outrage. A Nexis database search for "Shulman" and "White House" turns up a zero on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as the PBS NewsHour.

NPR offered a brief snippet on the May 23 Morning Edition from reporter Peter Overby: “

OVERBY: Shulman defended his hands-off attitude toward the targeting problem and an audit by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration. He was questioned closely on the 118 times he visited the Obama White House as IRS commissioner. He said the most common topics were the budget, tax policy, the fiscal cliff, and the Affordable Care Act, which the IRS is helping to implement. Ohio Republican Jim Jordan drew a connection between implementing the ObamaCare law and going after groups that opposed it.

REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: You're at the White House 118 times talking about the Affordable Care Act, and you never had any conversations about the targeting that was going on of groups who opposed the Affordable Care Act. And the American people are supposed to believe that.

OVERBY: Shulman denied there was any connection.

The newspapers pretty much buried that original 118 number. USA Today never reported it. The New York Times included  it at the very end of one May 23 story by Jeremy Peters, who allowed Shulman to have the last word:

Later, Mr. Jordan pressed Mr. Shulman, the former I.R.S. commissioner, on whether he had visited the White House. When Mr. Shulman said he had, Mr. Jordan produced White House visitor records that he said indicated Mr. Shulman had been there at least 118 times. Was he sure, Mr. Jordan asked, that the I.R.S. targeting never came up?

''One hundred-eighteen visits and it didn't come up in casual conversation?'' Mr. Jordan said.

In follow-up questioning by Representative Gerald E. Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, Mr. Shulman offered what he said was one of the many plausible explanations why he would have visited the White House. ''The Easter Egg Roll with my kids,'' he said.


The Los Angeles Times also placed it late in a May 23 story:

Many of the exchanges were testy. Some Republicans, trying to build a trail to the White House, asked Shulman what he talked about during his frequent visits to the executive mansion.

One, he pointedly noted, was "the Easter Egg roll with [his] kids." But he said he steered clear of the subject: "It would not have been appropriate to have a conversation with anyone at the White House about the subject of discriminating against conservative groups in any part of our operations."

The Washington Post mentioned it in an Ed O’Keefe news story, and columnist Dana Milbank was a rare voice of disapproval for Shulman’s snark on May 23:

Shulman was dismissive of his questioners, and he often appeared not to be listening, responding with "Excuse me?" and "Repeat the question?" After lawmakers revealed that White House logs showed he had visited 118 times in 2010 and 2011, one committee member asked why.

"The Easter Egg Roll with my kids," Shulman replied. The closest he would come to culpability was to say that there was "a breakdown in this one unit . . . and I accept that this happened on my watch."

Neither the see-no-evil Shulman nor the speak-no-evil Lerner did President Obama any favors. Lerner's silence and Shulman's defensiveness only infuriated lawmakers on both sides and left the impression that the administration is hiding something.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis