NYT's Peters 'Cleans Up' Jonathan Weisman's Original Report on Friday's IRS Scandal Hearing

May 18th, 2013 10:19 PM

Clearly, the New York Times couldn't run with Jonathan Weisman's headline or opening sentence in the report he filed shortly after Friday's portion of Friday's testimony at a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee in its Saturday print edition. And it didn't.

The original headline at Weisman's story, as seen here (HT Ann Althouse via Instapundit), was "Treasury Knew of I.R.S. Inquiry in 2012, Official Says." His opening sentence: "The Treasury Department’s inspector general told senior Treasury officials in June 2012 he was auditing the Internal Revenue Service’s screening of politically active organizations seeking tax exemptions, disclosing for the first time on Friday that Obama administration officials were aware of the matter during the presidential campaign year." Along came Jeremy Peters, who helped to "properly" frame these matters, turning it into yet another "Republicans attack our poor innocent administration" piece. That is what made it to today's paper -- on Page A12, naturally accompanied by a "better" headline. Meanwhile, except for excerpts captured at places like the indispensable FreeRepublic, Weisman's original has been flushed down the memory hole.

The jointly bylined piece the Weisman and Peters took 12 paragraphs to get to the story of the day with which Weisman originally led -- and when it did, it watered it down (bolds and numbered tags are mine):

Republicans Expand I.R.S. Inquiry, With Eye on White House

Congressional Republicans, not resting with the Internal Revenue Service scandal, are moving to broaden the matter to an array of tax malfeasances and “intimidation tactics” they hope will ensnare the White House. [1]

Republican charges range from clearly questionable actions to seemingly specious allegations, and they grow by the day. On Friday, lawmakers sought to tie the I.R.S. matter to the carrying out of President Obama’s health care law, which will rely heavily on the agency. Whether they succeed holds significant ramifications for Mr. Obama [2], who will soon know if he is dealing with a late spring thunderstorm that may soon blow over or a consuming squall that will leave lasting damage.

Representative Dave Camp, Republican of Michigan, the usually mild-mannered chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee [3], set the tone Friday at Congress’s first hearing on the targeting of conservative groups by the I.R.S., laying out details, from the alleged threatening of donors to conservative nonprofit groups to the leaking of confidential I.R.S. documents.

In that context, he said, the screening of Tea Party groups for special scrutiny was not the scandal itself but “just the latest example of a culture of cover-ups — and political intimidation — in this administration.”

“It seems like the truth is hidden from the American people just long enough to make it through an election,” Mr. Camp said.

... The Republicans also criticized the publication of donors to the National Organization for Marriage, a group opposed to same-sex marriage.  That donors list surfaced mysteriously in March 2012 from a whistle-blower whose identity is still unknown. The whistle-blower apparently obtained it by simply requesting it from the I.R.S. [4]

Linkage to the health care law came through Sarah Hall Ingram, a longtime I.R.S. official who has headed the agency’s program to carry out the Affordable Care Act since December 2010. Before that, she led the I.R.S.’s tax-exempt and government-entities division, which contained the political targeting effort.

... The inspector general gave Republicans some fodder Friday when he divulged that he informed the Treasury’s general counsel he was auditing the I.R.S.’s screening of politically active groups seeking tax exemptions on June 4, 2012. He told Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin “shortly after,” he said. That meant Obama administration officials were aware of the matter during the presidential campaign year.

The disclosure last summer came as part of a routine briefing of the investigations that the inspector general would be conducting in the coming year, and he did not tell the officials of his conclusions that the targeting had been improper, he said. [5]


[1] -- The best way to view these matters is that the IRS targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups is just an element of a larger scandal, namely the hijacking of the IRS to serve the Obama administration's political goals to harass and intimidate its perceived enemies.

[2] -- As noted in [1], if the IRS can be hijacked, why should the American people trust it to keep personal medical information confidential? The obvious answer is that they would foolish to do so.

[3] -- In the current press-assisted authoritarian environment, this is the Times telling Camp, "You'd better start behaving or we're coming after you."

[4] -- The Times seems to think that the IRS's release of donor info may not be scandalous, but merely accidental. Please.

[5] -- As phrased, this would indicate that the IG, J. Russell George (finally named in Paragraph 16 of the Times's print edition report, vs. Paragraph 2 in Weisman's original), already knew that the targeting had been improper in June 2012, but somehow didn't feel it was important to communicate the substance of what he had found. Of course, it also means that the two people he told weren't at all curious about what George had found. I'd say that congressional investigators need to demand evidence of these communications and get the two officials George told under oath to prove that they really didn't know. In any event, it's highly likely that the two people George told already knew damned well what the IRS had done, so whether George actually repeated the obvious is really a distinction without a difference.

Althouse aptly explained the motivation behind Peters' massaging of Weisman's original work. This is, the Times feels compelled to that:

It's all about the Republicans' political ambitions. That's the spin. That's what they have.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.