You can take the flack out of the DNC but you can't take the DNC out of the flack, especially it's MSNBC regular and newly-minted weekend host Karen Finney, who today said that Mitt Romney should have made a bigger deal out of the IRS scandal on the campaign trail. The only problem, of course, is that no one knew about the IRS's malfeasance until well after the election.
On Wednesday's Now with Alex Wagner, Ms. Finney claimed that, "Everybody knew about this investigation long before the election. So, if they were that freaked out, why didn't Romney make more of a big deal of it during the election?" Fortunately for viewers at home, former AP reporter Ron Fournier, now with National Journal, corrected Finney's ridiculous speculation. [See video after jump. MP3 audio here.]
Fournier pointed out that "it wasn’t confirmed that it had happened until they admitted to it. This is a big deal. Period." For her part, however, Finney shamelessly refused to stop playing the role of DNC hack, doubling down on her assertions by claiming that:
That has never stopped anybody from doing anything. I mean, each of these Republican members has said well we don't know what we don't know that’s why we have to keep investigating. I mean, my point is, you know, there was an opportunity to talk about this before the election, so this whole like they were trying to cover it up until after the election, I take issue with that.
Indeed, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and several members of Congress were notified of a potential investigation last year, but there was no certainty of the facts during the 2012 election, let alone any reason to assume "everybody knew about this investigation." For Ms. Finney to assume that somehow Mitt Romney would know of the IRS investigation when President Obama claimed he learned about the investigation just two weeks ago is indeed patently absurd.
Ms. Finney’s embarrassing lack of knowledge surrounding the IRS scandal is a likely preview for what MSNBC viewers should expect from her as a cable host.
See relevant transcript below.
Now w/ Alex Wagner
May 22, 2013
ALEX WAGNER: Let's talk about sort of the optics here and you had a piece that was much circulated yesterday by some of our friends in Republican circles. And it said, the title is why you can’t trust the White House even if nobody’s lying. And you wrote, in politics as in life, when you constantly change your story even on small matters, you sow doubt about your credibility and competence. I agree with that.
RON FOURNIER: You actually agree with something…
WAGNER: I agree with many things you write. As Ezra [Klein] points out, we don't actually know what happens, right? But certainly the going back and forth on the details is not really helping the White House argument that they haven't done anything wrong. It's not to say that they did something wrong action but in terms of credibility, I do feel like there has been some love lost.
FOURNIER: First, Darrell Issa is saying that he's nonpartisan or bipartisan is like saying the rain is not wet so let’s just set that aside. It’s a credibility problem. Both parties, the whole town right now has a severe credibility problem, the whole institution does. And certainly the White House has been ill serving the President of the United States by on all of these controversies in one way or another, letting information dribble out, letting it leak out, letting it be wrong, then having to correct the record. And then when you put on top of that, yes, she has the right, and should invoke the right to 5th Amendment if her lawyer tells her too, but you can't get around the fact that it looks fishy to most Americans when somebody does that. They assume somebody is guilty when they plead the 5th. And we don't know what she doesn't want us to know. Is it nothing? Is it she knows she’s done something wrong that only affects the IRS? Or is it she knows there's something wrong that goes above her and maybe into the campaign or the White House? We don't know and until we do know, there’s going to be a cloud over the presidency.
WAGNER: Ben, do you think this story has national implications? Charlie Cook writes in The National Journal the simple fact is that although the republican sharks are circling, at least so far, there isn't a trace of blood in the water. One wonders how long Republicans are going to bark up this tree, perhaps the wrong tree, while they ignore their own party's problems, which were shown to be profound in the most recent elections.
BENJAMIN WALLACE-WELLS: I think there are real implications, but I think that one thing we have seen over the last couple days is the degree to which the white house seems to have internalized the narrative that the Republicans are out on a witch-hunt, and the degree to which they think they can sell that. So Dan Pfeiffer comes out there on Sunday and give this extremely aggressive account…this extremely aggressive--
WAGNER: Partisan fishing expedition.
WALLACE-WELLS: Just really vigorous, and then the next day we hear, okay, Dennis McDonough was briefed on this, we now have a leak this morning that links the same White House counsel—
WAGNER: Kathy Ruemmler.
WALLACE-WELLS: Right, who was involved in this to interfering with -- in Benghazi, and to suggesting that, you know, the white house should not publish a timeline. There's a narrative that I then is emerging, where as Ron said, the white house is not serving the president so well, where they may have over-bet on this aggressive pushback on this idea that there is a Republican witch hunt.
WAGNER: Karen is expressing dismay.
KAREN FINNEY: Well, I mean there's two sides of this, having been through the wars with Howard and done some very aggressive pushback. No look, on the one hand, I think just sort of crisis communication 101, you're killed by what you don't know. And part of the problem I think when you're the press person is you're trying to figure out -- trying to get your arms around everything, and it's the worse when someone says oh I forgot to tell you this other part and you’ve already gone out and said one thing. I agree, Ron, with your piece in that that's what kills you. Whether or not there was wrongdoing or laws broken, it just doesn't look good. At the same time, though, this is a massive overreach. I mean, there's something about this I find stunning that we're talking about this now. Everybody knew about this investigation long before the election. So, if they were that freaked out, why didn't Romney make more of a big deal of it during the election?
FOURNIER: Well, it wasn’t confirmed that it had happened until they admitted to it. This is a big deal. Period.
FINNEY: C'mon, that doesn't stop -- that has never stopped anybody from doing anything. I mean, each of these Republican members has said well we don't know what we don't know that’s why we have to keep investigating. I mean, my point is, you know, there was an opportunity to talk about this before the election, so this whole like they were trying to cover it up until after the election, I take issue with that. You know, it bothered me this weekend to hear Republicans talking about-- frankly because it was something that we came up with, a culture of corruption, and cronyism and cover-up, when the reason we talked about that in '05 and '06 was lying about getting us into the war, outing a CIA agent in a time of war, Bob Ney, Tom DeLay went to jail, you know we were talking about very serious things, pay to play, which meant that the people's business wasn't getting done. We weren't talking about bureaucrats making really stupid decision.