For a brief period on the morning of May 17, MSNBC was actually acting like a real news network. Starting at 9:00 a.m. Eastern on Friday, MSNBC carried live coverage of a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the Obama IRS scandal, but apparently actual news coverage can only last so long before the network breaks out in hives from objective journalism.
Following an hour of live coverage, MSNBC felt it necessary to cut from the hearing to interview Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) to dismiss the entire proceedings as political partisanship. MSNBC was the only cable news network to cut from the live coverage to conduct a meaningless interview with a Democrat to slam Republicans.
During the 10:00 hour, host Chris Jansing began her interview by asking the Congressman about Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) questioning, giving Crowley a platform from which to launch his attack:
I think I would more describe his questioning as badgering. I think what we really need to do Chris is to get the answers. And right now unfortunately what you are seeing is a break down on the process. It is about partisanship once again and trying to somehow link this to the White House. It's the same old same old exactly what people are really angry about what is happening in Washington today.
Jansing continued to ask leading questions aimed at questioning Republicans’ motives:
Do you believe that he [Dave Camp] and some of the other Republicans if not all of the other Republicans are more interested in going after the White House than they are in getting to the bottom of this?
This allowed Crowley to slam the validity of the entire hearing:
If I had the opportunity to go through my opening statement I was applauding chairman camp for his bipartisanship. And instead, his opening statement made me change my questioning because it clearly was a very partisan statement that he led with.
After Jansing spent several minutes allowing Crowley to slam the GOP, she finally got into substantive questions regarding the scandal itself, but made to allow Crowley to fire off a parting shot at the House GOP:
Well, I think at this point in time we should let Congress do its work right now. The one thing we haven't had is a Congress doing its job. We have been bogged down in partisanship.
MSNBC should have followed Fox News and CNN’s example by simply running uninterrupted coverage of the hearings rather than needing to cut out for periods of time to slam Republicans for supposed “partisanship.” Once again, MSNBC shows it is more a Democratic mouthpiece than an actual news network.
See relevant transcript below.
Jansing & Co.
May 17, 2013
10:08 a.m. Eastern
CHRIS JANSING: Good morning, I'm Chris Jansing. We are continuing to listen to the House Ways and Means Committee holding hearings on the IRS. And we have Congressman Joe Crowley, a member of that committee who just stepped out for us. It’s good to see you Congressman. Good morning.
JOE CROWLEY: Thanks Chris, great to be with you.
JANSING: I don’t know if you were able to here. Some pretty tough questioning from Paul Ryan, your colleague to Steve Miller, who of course was and is the acting IRS commissioner but has resigned in the wake of all of this. And clearly the implication was he lied to your committee. Do you believe he did?
CROWLEY: Well, you know lie is a pretty big word. And I think I would more describe his questioning as badgering. I think what we really need to do Chris is to get the answers. And right now unfortunately what you are seeing is a break down on the process. It is about partisanship once again and trying to somehow link this to the White House. It's the same old same old exactly what people are really angry about what is happening in Washington today. What really we should be all should be outraged by what took place. I am. No political entity ought to be investigated or gone after by the IRS regardless of their political believes. And what’s clear Chris is that both conservative and progressive groups were targeted. That's not very clear by the Republican questioning right now but we know that to be the case.
JANSING: Well, I heard your opening statement and I just wonder because you mention Chairman Camp and all of that. Do you believe that he and some of the other Republicans if not all of the other Republicans are more interested in going after the White House than they are in getting to the bottom of this?
CROWLEY: Up until this morning Chris I was under the impression that we were working in a bipartisan way leading up to my opening statement which I was not allowed to give. It went right to questioning. If I had the opportunity to go through my opening statement I was applauding chairman camp for his bipartisanship. And instead, his opening statement made me change my questioning because it clearly was a very partisan statement that he led with.
JANSING: Your Democratic colleague, Charlie Rangel I think sort of crystallized what a lot of people hope will come out of this hearing and the question he asked is how far did this cancer go and how quickly can we cut it out. What do you think the answer to those questions is and can you get to the bottom of it?
CROWLEY: Well, as the inspector general himself said in his report that it was wholly contained within the IRS. No outside entity was involved in this investigation or of this persecution as you may say. So clearly the White House was not involved. The inspector general, a Bush appointee, a Bush political appointee said that no white house influence was a part of what took place during a Bush appointees, Mr. Shulman’s time at the IRS.
JANSING: Obviously we have already seen two people, the acting commissioner himself and his number two who are gone. But do you think it is going to stop there? For example, a name that’s been brought up is Lois Lerner who of course was managing the IRS’ arm of exempt organizations at the time all this happened.
CROWLEY: I think if you’re Ms. Lerner right now you’re very worried. She came before our subcommittee on oversight last week. When I asked her the question whether or not the IRS was actually engaged in investigating political 501(c)4s she failed to answer that question. She then, two days later planted a question at a press event only to then use that opportunity to apologize what the IRS had been doing. And when asked why she hadn't come clean earlier she said no one ever asked. The truth was I had asked in congress at a committee hearing two days earlier. If you are Ms. Lerner I think you are a little worried about your career right now.
JANSING: To get to the heart of what really happened here, congressman, what are the key questions that you need to have answered today? How do we figure out, because you have to figure out what happened here before you decide how to fix it?
CROWLEY: Well, I think even the president and Secretary of the Treasury Lew have already said and we have already learned this morning quite frankly from the testimony of the inspector general that no one outside the IRS, we know it is contained in the IRS itself. And now we have to make sure that something this outrageous never happens again, that we put in place safe guards. That’s what American people want. They want to know that this entity that has so much information about our personal lives is actually doing its job and not going after Americans for what they believe. That's what I as a democrat want to see happen regardless as to what administration is in charge. And I even believe my Republican colleagues want to see that, as well. But we need to stop the political gainsmanship and ask the questions, get the answers and then fix the system.
JANSING: We have three congressional investigations that are under way to get to the bottom of this Congressman as you know. A Justice Department probe. The president has suggested with all of that going on there is no need for an independent council. But Mark Fabiani, former special council to Bill Clinton, told "The Wall Street Journal" that a probe run by the administration may not silence critics and that maybe a special council should be considered. What is your position on that?
CROWLEY: Well, I think at this point in time we should let Congress do its work right now. The one thing we haven't had is a Congress doing its job. We have been bogged down in partisanship. Let's see if the Congress can act like adults and actually ask the questions that need to be asked and get the answers. And if after all of that process you said there’s three, there may be more hearings scheduled in the future. As many hearings as possible I think to find the answers we need to do. And if that fails then we can look at other alternatives then.
JANSING: Congressman Joe Crowley, I know you want to get back into that hearing room. You are good to come out and talk to us about this. Thank you so much.
CROWLEY: Thank you Chris. Good to be with you.