Fox's IRS Coverage: Stuck In The Echo Chamber
Fox News contributor Monica Crowley revived the smear that White House visitor records of IRS officials tie the Obama administration to the inappropriate targeting of conservative organizations, this time seizing on visitor logs for Jonathan M. Davis, the political aide to former IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman.
On June 21, Fox Nation posted a Washington Examiner article claiming Shulman's Chief of Staff Jonathan M. Davis worked “side-by-side with members of the Obama administration” and appeared to have visited the White House over 300 times. Fox's Monica Crowley used this report to claim on Fox News' Happening Now that the Obama administration gave directions to the IRS to target conservative groups. She asserted that the number of visits by the IRS commissioner and his top aide Davis is so self-evident that “it really doesn't take a rocket scientist to put all these pieces together ... Of course the direction came from the White House”:
Crowley's source of information on Davis' visits was the White House public visitor records, which have proven to be an unreliable source of information on the actual number of visits made to the White House by public officials. The Washington Post explained that the White House visitors' logs “only reflect the information the White House chooses to record” and “certainly doesn't show what regular guests some Cabinet secretaries are.” The Atlantic's Garance Franke-Ruta added that, in the case of Schulman, “This doesn't mean he actually went to meetings with all these folks, only that he was formally cleared for entry to meetings in which they were the point person organizing the gathering.”
In fact, Crowley's use of visitor records actually shows that most of the visits Davis made were related to his office being charged with new authority under heath care reform. Data.gov shows that over 200 of Davis's visits were to HHS official Liz Fowler (12 visits), White House adviser on health care Ezekiel Emanuel (21 visits), and Deputy Director of the White House Office of Health Reform Jeanne Lambrew (198 visits), who were coordinating with the IRS on implementation of the health care law.
The right-wing media has regularly attempted to use the number of IRS officials' visits to the White House to claim President Obama orchestrated the targeting of conservative groups. Crowley's latest attack comes as conservatives' attempt to connect the scandal to the White House is being undermined by the release of transcripts from interviews with IRS agents, including a self-described conservative Republican, who have denied having contact with senior IRS agents or the White House regarding the targeting.