Networks Finally Notice IRS's 'Black Eye' Due to 'Lost' Lois Lerner E-Mails
The Big Three networks' Friday evening newscasts finally noticed the latest development in the IRS scandal (they omitted it on Thursday), after Rep. Paul Ryan grilled Commissioner John Koskinen earlier in the day. It was the first ABC, CBS or NBC evening newscast mention of the IRS since news of the missing e-mail broke a week earlier.
ABC's David Muir spotlighted "the outrage...involving the IRS claiming to have lost thousands of crucial documents – lawmakers asking, how can the tax man be let off the hook for losing documents, while ordinary taxpayers would never get away with that?"
NBC's Brian Williams noted how Koskinen claimed that the IRS "lost evidence in the investigation into how they handled conservative political groups...and given how long the IRS holds on to things like our tax returns, some members of Congress just aren't buying it." CBS's Nancy Cordes zeroed in on congressional Democrats' attack on their Republican colleagues over the scandal – something that ABC and NBC didn't do: [MP3 audio available here; video below]
NANCY CORDES: Republicans have long suggested Lerner was urged by the White House to hold up applications for tax-exempt status from conservative groups before the 2012 elections. Democrats, like Lloyd Doggett of Texas, mocked that as just another conspiracy theory.
On World News, ABC correspondent Jeff Zeleny led his report by noting that the IRS commission was "on the hot seat today, admitting his agency lost two years of e-mails from its biggest scandal in decades." Zeleny spent much of the one minute, 34 second segment playing soundbites of Republicans ripping Koskinen and his agency:
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R), HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS CMTE. (from congressional hearing): You asked taxpayers to hang on to seven years of their personal tax information, in case – in case they're ever audited. And you can't keep six months worth of employee e-mails?
ZELENY: Congress is demanding those e-mails to help explain why the IRS targeted Tea Party groups. But the commissioner says they're gone.
KOSKINEN: The actual hard drive, after it was determined it was dysfunctional, was recycled and destroyed in the normal process.
ZELENY: Congress today not buying it.
RYAN: This is being misleading again. I don't – I don't believe you.
KOSKINEN: That's the first time anybody has said they do not believe me. I'm actually-
RYAN: I don't believe you.
KOSKINEN: That's fine.
ZELENY: For the commissioner, it was a long day.
REP. TIM GRIFFIN, (R), ARKANSAS: It's all about trust, and nobody trusts the IRS right now.
REP. PAT TIBERI, (R), OHIO: This is amazingly awful.
REP. KEVIN BRADY, (R), TEXAS: This is the most corrupt and deceitful IRS in history.
The ABC correspondent also confronted the commissioner and asked, "If an American taxpayer used the excuse that – you know, my hard drive is lost; my receipts are gone; what would the IRS say?" Koskinen replied, "If the American taxpayer said, my hard drive is gone, but I can give you other information, the IRS would work with them." Zeleny concluded by asserting that the development was "yet another black eye for the IRS."
Williams set aside a minute and 13 seconds of air time on NBC Nightly News to the latest on the IRS scandal. The anchor hyped the "fireworks in Washington today, as this ongoing scandal at the IRS took a bizarre turn." Like Zeleny, he included a clip of Rep. Ryan saying "I don't believe you" to Koskinen. He also included a summary of the hearing earlier in the day:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Congressional Republicans are upset that the IRS failed to tell them until this week about computer hard drives that crashed in 2011, and are supposedly gone for good now. The IRS commissioner refused to apologize today, claiming the agency has turned over thousands of pages of documents and e-mails, and insists there has been no cover-up internally.
CBS Evening News aired a two minute and 4 second segment on Koskinen's testimony. Like Williams, fill-in anchor Sharyn Alfonsi spotlighted the "fireworks on Capitol Hill today, as House Republicans grilled IRS Commissioner John Koskinen about Lois Lerner's lost e-mails." Cordes played soundbites from the commissioner and Reps. Ryan, Doggett, and Dave Camp, and also highlighted that Koskinen "took over the IRS last December, and has worked for presidents from both parties:"
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R), WISCONSIN (from congressional hearing): I don't believe you. This is incredible.
NANCY CORDES (voice-over): Republicans, like Wisconsin's Paul Ryan, were not in the mood for explanations today.
JOHN KOSKINEN, IRS COMMISSIONER: I have a long career. That's the first time anybody has said that they do not believe me. I'm actually-
RYAN: I don't believe you.
KOSKINEN: That's fine. We can have a disagreement.
CORDES: John Koskinen took over the IRS last December, and has worked for presidents from both parties. He said Lois Lerner's hard drive crashed in mid-2011 – well before the investigation began – and read e-mails from I.T. staffers at the time to prove it.
KOSKINEN: 'Unfortunately, the news is not good. The sectors on the hard drive were bad, which made your data unrecoverable. I am very sorry. Everyone involved tried their best.'
CORDES: But committee chairman Dave Camp was not convinced.
REP. DAVE CAMP, (R), MICHIGAN: What I didn't hear in that was an apology to this committee.
KOSKINEN: I don't think an apology is owed.
CORDES: Republicans have long suggested Lerner was urged by the White House to hold up applications for tax-exempt status from conservative groups before the 2012 elections. Democrats, like Lloyd Doggett of Texas, mocked that as just another conspiracy theory.
REP. LLOYD DOGGETT, (D), TEXAS: How about Area 51 out in Roswell, New Mexico, where all those space aliens allegedly came? Have you ever had any responsibility for that?
CORDES (live): Koskinen noted that the IRS has been able to comb through other employees' e-mails and retrieve about 24,000 e-mails to and from Lerner from that questionable time period. Republicans argued Koskinen should have given them a heads-up when he first learned of the gap earlier in the spring.
— Matthew Balan is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matthew Balan on Twitter.