ABC on Tuesday and Wednesday aggressively covered the growing IRS scandal involving the targeting of conservative groups, deeming it an "important" "firestorm." Yet, World News reporter Jon Karl also spun the Obama administration as a "White House that takes pride in being scandal-free." (Fast and Furious? Solyndra? Reverend Wright?) [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
To her credit, World News anchor Diane Sawyer opened the show by trumpeting: "We begin with a dramatic new turn in the firestorm surrounding the IRS. Last night, we asked if what they did was fair. Tonight, the FBI is asking, was it criminal?" Reporter Jon Karl did the work of putting the administration on record . He quizzed press secretary Jay Carney: "Can you say categorically that nobody at the White House and nobody on the President's political team had any knowledge or was involved in any way in the targeting of Tea Party groups by the IRS?" (Carney simply replied, "Yes.")
After mentioning the IRS scandal, as well as the AP controversy and the ongoing Benghazi investigation, Karl parroted, "All of this comes as a White House that takes pride in being scandal-free, has been hammered by a series of controversies."
An August 2012 report by the Media Research Center found numerous scandals that journalists ignored during Obama's first term.
On Wednesday's GMA, reporter Pierre Thomas wasn't as tough as Karl. He did not mention Obama or a possible White House connection at all. While Karl featured clips of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck denouncing the President, Thomas played a snippet of Attorney General Eric Holder promising to get to the bottom of the story.
He did allow one clip of Republican Congressman Charles Boustany railing against the "blatant abuse of power" by the IRS.
Thomas also declared that, now, the story was officially important: "And what began as a political scandal has taken a serious turn that could land IRS officials in jail for violating the civil rights of taxpayers."
A transcript of the May 14 World News segment is below:
DIANE SAWYER: Turning up the heat. The IRS now facing a criminal investigation, allegations they targeted the president's enemies.
SAWYER: We begin with a dramatic new turn in the firestorm surrounding the IRS. Last night, we asked if what they did was fair. Tonight, the FBI is asking, was it criminal? We're talking about the way they singled out conservative groups. And ABC's chief White House correspondent Jonathon Karl is tracking the fast-moving developments tonight.
JON KARL: It's no longer just a political scandal. The IRS's alleged targeting of conservative groups is now the subject of a criminal investigation.
ERIC HOLDER (U.S. Attorney General): The FBI is coordinating with the Justice Department to see if any laws were broken in connection with those matters related to the IRS.
KARL: A just-released investigative report by the IRS's own watchdog says that more than half of the conservative groups targeted were asked for irrelevant and unnecessary information, all part of an effort to single out Tea Party organizations that were applying for tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny. When the IRS first acknowledged and apologized for inappropriately targeting Tea Party groups, it said the actions were limited to officials in this Cincinnati field office. But ABC News has obtained documents showing other IRS offices around the country were involved, including two in California, and the headquarters in Washington, D.C. The White House insists it had no idea any of this was going on. [At White House news conference] Can you say categorically that nobody at the White House and nobody on the President's political team had any knowledge or was involved in any way in the targeting of Tea Party groups by the IRS?
JAY CARNEY: Yes.
KARL: Absolutely not?
CARNEY: I mean, we learned about everything we know about this from what we see in your reports.
KARL: Conservatives aren't buying.
RUSH LIMBAUGH: Obama's objective is to eliminate all of his opposition.
GLENN BECK: If this isn't a gathering of an enemies' list, I don't know what is.
KARL: All of this comes as a White House that takes pride in being scandal-free, has been hammered by a series of controversies.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: President Obama is fending off fire on several fronts.
WOLF BLITZER: What went wrong in Benghazi?
JON STEWART: This seems like a genuine scandal.
KARL: The latest? Revelation the Justice Department obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors at the Associated Press, as part of a leak investigation. According to the IRS watchdog, none of the officials who were doing the targeting, say they were ordered to do it by anybody outside of the IRS. But, Diane, now those who are responsible could face criminal charges. The most serious of those is allegedly conspiring to violate the constitutional rights of their political opponents. The maximum charge there? Ten years in prison.
SAWYER: As we said, Jon, a firestorm and moving even faster tonight.