Whitewash: CNN Moves On From IRS Scandal, Deflects Scrutiny From White House

Since new developments broke last week in the IRS scandal, CNN barely reported on it before dropping the story entirely. The network also deflected scrutiny away from the White House's possible role in the scandal.

After Thursday's congressional hearing on the IRS targeting Tea Party groups, CNN issued just one report on it on Thursday afternoon. Correspondent Dana Bash reported "no proof" that the White House was involved and whitewashed the controversy that Tea Party groups supposedly received more scrutiny than liberal groups.

One month ago, Bash was all over Democratic-friendly news that the IRS flagged both liberal and Tea Party groups for potential scrutiny. When the inspector general claimed that Tea Party groups were still referred to higher authorities for even more scrutiny, Bash was silent.

After Thursday's congressional hearing, Bash touted "no proof of White House involvement in IRS targeting," even though claims had indeed surfaced that IRS employees were ordered to hand over Tea Party tax-exempt applications to the Obama-appointed IRS chief counsel.

Bash pinned the hearing as a "partisan slug-fest." She mocked, "And it was really less about trying to get to the bottom of why some groups waited for about three years for IRS tax-exempt status and a lot more about a partisan slug fest."

"Democrats are hoping to finally debunk the notion that IRS targeting was politically motivated. They got an unexpected assist from the Republican relentlessly leading Congress' probe," Bash noted, boosting Democratic efforts to sweep the scandal under the rug.

She noted two IRS employees denying having seen political motives in the agency reviewing Tea Party applications, but she failed to report claims that employees had to send those applications to higher authorities for review. She also ended her report with an embarrassed House Oversight chairman Darrell Issa having to apologize for using the term "little boy whose hand's caught in the cookie jar" to refer to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Mary.).

And this watered-down report, almost a defense of Democratic assertions that the scandal is over, was all CNN had to say about the scandal since the morning of July 18.

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on July 18 on The Situation Room at 5:47 p.m. EDT:

WOLF BLITZER: There were also some fireworks up on Capitol Hill today. A daylong hearing about the IRS, what's the latest?

DANA BASH: It was a very long day. And it was really less about trying to get to the bottom of why some groups waited for about three years for IRS tax-exempt status and a lot more about a partisan slug fest. An investigation that, believe it or not, did start out bipartisan.

(Video Clip)

BASH (voice-over): The man who investigated Tea Party targeting under fire for missing some and leaving out other key information that progressive groups were targeted, too.

J. RUSSELL GEORGE, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration: Progress? I have no idea what that stands for, sir. Teddy Roosevelt ran for president under the Progressive Party banner.

BASH: Democrats are hoping to finally debunk the notion that IRS targeting was politically motivated. They got an unexpected assist from the Republican relentlessly leading Congress' probe.

Rep. DARRELL ISSA (R-Calif.), chairman, Oversight and Government Reform Committee: Do you know of anyone that you would say in your opinion had political motives in the role of treating of Tea Party groups?

ELIZABETH HOFACRE, IRS agent: No, I do not.

BASH: Two IRS employees gave the same answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir.

BASH: After some half a dozen IRS hearings and 16 transcribed interviews, Republicans have no proof of White House involvement in IRS targeting. Democrats were fed up and tensions high.

Rep. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-Mary.), Oversight and Government Reform Committee: The chairman's op-ed this morning in USA Today continues to raise questions about whether the White House, quote, "directed," end of quote, the targeting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would the gentleman yield?

CUMMINGS: Of course.

ISSA: I would hope that you are not linking the two. I have never said that it was the President.

BASH: Despite no evidence that the President was involved, Issa won't let him off the hook. Here with us last month.

(On camera): Do you think based on what you know now that the White House simply was not involved?

ISSA: For years the President bashed the Tea Party groups. He was very public against these groups and on his behalf, perhaps not on his request, on his behalf, the IRS executed a delaying tactic against the very groups that he talked about.

BASH (voice-over): At the hearing, acrimony between Issa and Democrat Elijah Cummings took an awkward turn.

ISSA: I'm always shocked when the ranking member seems to want to say like a little boy whose hand's caught in a cookie jar what hand, what cookie?

BASH: Later Issa apologized to his African-American colleague for using the term "boy."

ISSA: That is something that I grew up with. It is intended to be about a small child, and in no way the use of boy or little boy to be anything else.

CUMMINGS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I really do appreciate your words.

(End Video Clip)

BASH: And despite the tension and outright exasperation, the committee says that they are going to keep looking at this. The IRS investigation continues, this committee and others. And basically, Wolf, what this revealed was that there certainly is partisanship continuing to go on, but the IRS inspector general, who also took a lot of incoming in this hearing, for what Democrats say were – was really shoddy work in his investigation, he says more reports are going to come out that make the IRS look even worse than it does now.

BLITZER: All right, Dana. Dana is watching this up on Capitol Hill. Thank you.
 

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