Although President Obama's former IRS chief refused to answer questions about the IRS scandal she is at the center of, NBC's Brian Williams instead lamented the behavior of GOP congressman Darrell Issa at Wednesday's hearing.
"In Washington today, a public and startling example of the kind of behavior Congress has become known for and Congress has become gridlocked over," Williams began. NBC played a clip of the fiery exchange between Issa and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Mary.) where Cummings cried foul over the hearing followed by Issa cutting his microphone.
Williams clearly focused his umbrage on Issa: "But it is what happened after Lerner finished that is drawing attention. The top Democrat on the committee, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, was not allowed to speak. Then Issa hit the kill switch on Cummings' microphone."
However, Williams himself admitted that former IRS chief Lois Lerner, who retired while at the center of the agency's Tea Party targeting scandal, wouldn't answer questions and pled the Fifth " eleven separate times" in front of Issa.
At least NBC covered the hearing. Neither CBS nor ABC picked up on it on Wednesday evening. This blackout continues the networks' long-running whitewash of the scandal as the last mention came on February 3. For ABC, the last mention was almost 100 days ago in November.
Below is a transcript of the March 5 NBC Nightly News segment:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: In Washington today, a public and startling example of the kind of behavior Congress has become known for and Congress has become gridlocked over. It happened during a hearing about the politically charged issue of the IRS and accusations of targeting political conservative groups. Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the heart of the scandal, again refused to answer questions, citing her Fifth Amendment rights eleven separate times in response to questions from Republican chairman Darrell Issa. But it is what happened after Lerner finished that is drawing attention. The top Democrat on the committee, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, was not allowed to speak. Then Issa hit the kill switch on Cummings' microphone.
Rep. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-Mary.): And I want to ask a question. What are we hiding? What's the big deal? May I ask my question? May I state my statement?
Rep. DARRYL ISSA (R-Calif.): You're all free to leave, we've adjourned. But the gentleman may ask his question.
CUMMINGS: Thank you very much. Mr. Chairman, I have one procedural question and it goes to trying to help you get the information by the way that you just asked.
ISSA: What is your question?
CUMMINGS: No, let me say what I have to say. I have listened to you for the last 15 or 20 minutes, let me say what I have to say.
ISSA: Ms. Lerner, you're released. You may –
CUMMINGS: But first, I would like to use my time to make some brief points. For the past year, the central Republican accusation in this investigation –
ISSA: We're adjourned. Close it down. Thank you.
CUMMINGS: I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America! I am tired of this!
ISSA: Well –
CUMMINGS: We have members over here each who represent 700,000 people. You cannot just have a one-sided investigation. There is absolutely something wrong with that. And it is absolutely un-American.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Hear, hear.
(End Video Clip)
WILLIAMS: Both members of Congress later made their way to working microphones and journalists to explain what happened in that hearing room and why.