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CNN's Banfield: 'Take Me Off the Ledge' and Tell Me IRS Audits Weren't Political

After Friday's IRS testimony before Congress, CNN's Ashleigh Banfield begged CNN host Candy Crowley to "take me off the ledge" and explain that the agency was simply doing its job looking for "sleazeballs that are trying to get special status."

Crowley shot down Banfield's astoundingly ignorant plea. "And the only sleazeballs have 'Tea Party' in their name or 'patriot'? What about 'progressive'?" Crowley asked of the agency's double standard in investigating Tea Party groups while approving liberal groups more quickly.

[Video below. Audio here.]

Banfield had just made a plea to Crowley:

"Candy, please, take me off the ledge here. Isn't this exactly what they're supposed to do is find the political names and weed out the sleazeballs that are trying to get special status and not disclose who their donors are?"

Yet after Crowley's explanation, Banfield's ignorance surfaced again. "Didn't they also do that, and I'm just curious because I do not know the numbers. Didn't they also do that with other names that sounded progressive? I think I've heard three groups already say they suffered the same consequences," she claimed of the IRS also investigating liberal groups.

Banfield ignored the following accusations of IRS corruption. A front-page USA Today report showed that liberal groups clearly "got a pass" while Tea Party groups were being held up in their applications to become non-profits.

One conservative group, held up for months by an IRS investigation, applied again with an "innocuous" name and was quickly approved by the IRS. The Barack H. Obama Foundation was speedily approved as tax-exempt while Tea Party groups were being obstructed by the IRS.

Banfield offered one final excuse for the IRS as the segment ended, that agency employees weren't being political but rather stupid. "And it might just be extraordinarily stupid, too. I think we definitely think stupid is part of all of this," Banfield claimed.

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on CNN Newsroom on May 17 at 3:34 p.m. EDT:

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD: So we're talking what's legal, and we're also talking what's political. Can we separate the two for a moment and have you weigh in on both of these issues, legal and political?

CANDY CROWLEY: I think you're better qualified to weigh in on the legal, and we'll see what the Justice Department has to say and what was actually done. But politically, this is tough. You sit there and you listen to them, and both these gentlemen – and certainly the former acting director says well no, it wasn't political, it was just a way of sorting it out. This is a really tough sell. This just – the idea that you would say, okay, anybody that has "Tea Party" or "Patriot" in their name, pull them out, we'll give them extra scrutiny before we give them their tax-exempt status. Then sit before a committee and say no, it really wasn't political. It might – maybe there's some way to explain that, but they've got a lot more explaining to do. It's just not going to pass muster.

BANFIELD: I think if I heard correctly, Mr. Miller saying this was triage at the beginning. And then as it settled through the process, things became more intricate in terms of how they analyzed the applications. Candy, please, take me off the ledge here. Isn't this exactly what they're supposed to do is find the political names and weed out the sleazeballs that are trying to get special status and not disclose who their donors are?

CROWLEY: And the only sleazeballs have "Tea Party" in their name or "patriot"? What about "progressive"?

BANFIELD: That's the wrong part. Didn't they also do that, and I'm just curious because I do not know the numbers. Didn't they also do that with other names that sounded progressive? I think I've heard three groups already say they suffered the same consequences.
 
CROWLEY: Apparently not in this targeted way. Now again, you and I know we're both kind of at the beginning of this. These sorts of stories are pulling a string on a sweater. We are barely at the waistband here. It's going to take a while. So I don't know. But apparently it was not as focused as this was. And it was a very small number that might have come up, you know, because something else flagged in the -- they had various hot spots in these applications. And so the progressive group may have shown up hot in something that took more examination, but not because progressive was in the name. So it's just a hard sell. They may be able to sell it. I'm just saying they didn't do it today.

BANFIELD: Yeah, well, I think you're right. And it might just be extraordinarily stupid, too. I think we definitely think stupid is part of all of this.

CROWLEY: Well I think they actually pretty much have admitted to that.

-- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center