Fox News has hyped interviews from the investigation into the IRS' improper scrutiny of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status that have been selectively released by GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, while ignoring calls to make the full transcripts public.
Fox has highlighted and mischaracterized Issa's leaked interview with IRS agent Holly Paz even as calls grow from Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Democrat on the Oversight Committee, for Issa to release the full transcripts of all the remaining IRS interviews. The Huffington Post noted that, because the interviews are being leaked slowly, “it's impossible to know if there is countervailing information in either the pages left out of the interviews not released or the interviews not released”:
The one item made public by Cummings' office included a statement from a self-described IRS office manager saying that the White House had no involvement in the enhanced scrutiny.
The slow release has also opened Issa up to criticism that he's trying to prolong the political bleeding for the Obama administration rather than pursue a sound and comprehensive investigation.
In a statement to Politico, Cummings noted that Issa was only releasing “cherry-picked excerpts that show no White House involvement whatsoever in the identification and screening of these cases”:
Cummings spent the past week battling committee Chairman Darrell Issa, accusing the California Republican of cherry picking bits and pieces of transcripts for release to support his argument.
Cummings is threatening to release the transcripts of other interviews conducted by the committee. He's especially eager to make public an interview with a self-identified conservative IRS manager in Cincinnati who said employees there began scrutinizing tea party tax-exempt applications.
Issa has warned Cummings that a broad release of interview transcripts has the potential to hobble the committee's probe, but Cummings contends that it's “more reckless to leak cherry-picked excerpts that omit key details and hide the full truth.”
After Issa released the transcript of an interview with Paz, several Fox News programs seized on the story in order to push the unsubstantiated claim that the IRS improperly targeted conservative groups under direct orders from Washington, D.C. America Live host Megyn Kelly hosted Guy Benson, political editor of the conservative website Townhall.com, to claim that Paz's interview supported claims that the agents were “following directions from Washington, DC.” Politico reported that the selectively leaked interview was also being used by Republicans on Issa's Oversight Committee to claim “that Washington orchestrated the conservative group targeting.”
Fox has previously ignored Issa's admission that the interview transcripts were “not definitive” in showing that Washington, D.C. was involved in the targeting. Fox has also attempted to suggest that visits by former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman show the White House was involved in the targeting, despite extensive reporting showing that Shulman was largely attending meetings on health care reform implementation.