Wash. Post Debunks Fox's Claim Linking GOP Letter To Crashed Computer

The Washington Post debunked a right-wing conspiracy theory promoted by Fox News tying the crash of former IRS official Lois Lerner's computer to a letter the IRS received from the House Ways and Means committee 10 days earlier. The Post pointed out that the letter addressed a different subject than the controversy linked to Lerner.

Republicans Claim GOP Sent Letter To IRS 10 Days Before Lerner's Email Crashed

GOP Rep. Roskam: “Chairman Camp Sent A Letter On This Whole Issue. And Then 10 Days Later ... There Was A Crash.” A June 24 Washington Post article reported claims made by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) tying a letter to the IRS from House Ways and Means committee chairman Dave Camp to Lerner's computer crash:

The IRS is not a victim today. And here is fundamental problem. Chairman Camp sent a letter on this whole issue. And then 10 days later -- so think about the duration of 10 days. Ten days is the ability to panic at the IRS, reflect, plan, talk and execute. And there was a crash -- 10 days after the chairman's letter. [The Washington Post6/24/14]

Politico: Republicans Link Ways And Means Committee Letter To Lois Lerner Email Crash. On June 20, Politico reported that during a House committee hearing on Lois Lerner's missing emails, “several Republicans called the timing of her computer crash suspicious, coming 10 days after Camp's first letter about the treatment of political nonprofits went to the IRS back in 2011.” [Politico6/20/14]

Fox News Echoes Claims Tying Lerner's Computer Crash To Congressional Letter

Fox's Bolling: Lerner “Got The Letter Saying Show Us Your Emails, 10 Days Later Her Computer Crashes.” During the June 24 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Eric Bolling discussing House committee hearings on Lois Lerner's lost emails suspected an IRS conspiracy citing Camp's letter as evidence. Bolling asked co-host Bob Beckel about the alleged connection of the letter to the crashing of Lerner's computer:

You say that it's really harebrained to think there is a conspiracy. But do you know what the odds are that on June 3, 2011, Lois Lerner got the email, got the letter saying 'show us your emails,' 10 days later her computer crashes, the hard drive goes away, the backup archive company says we lost that period of time? I mean, what's far more unlikely is what they expect us to believe. [Fox News, The Five6/24/14]

Fox's Kelly: Lerner Lost Email 10 Days After Congressional Letter. On the June 23 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly tried to make a connection between Camp's letter to the IRS and Lerner's computer crash:

KELLY: On June 3rd, 2011, the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee sent a letter to the IRS over the apparent targeting of some conservative donors, June 3rd. Ten days later, Lois Lerner's computer crashes. Ten days. Erasing emails dating back more than two years. Here's the e-mails from Lerner's colleague on June 13th. She wrote, quote, “Lois' hard drive has crashed in her computer and will be without email.” [Fox News, The Kelly File6/23/14]

Fox's Wallace Asks About “Apparent Coincidence” Of Computer Crash After Letter. Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace draws into question the IRS' account of Lois Lerner's computer crash and resulting loss of emails:

Take a look at this timeline we've put together. June 3, 2011 -- 2011 -- Chairman Camp, House Ways and Means, asks the IRS about the targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. June 13, just 10 days later, Lerner reports that her hard drive has crashed. February 2013, IRS realizes that the emails are missing -- at least that's what they say. June 13, 2014, the IRS finally tells Congress. Julian, I guess two questions: how do you explain this four-month delay between when the IRS says they knew the emails were missing and when they finally told Congress, and how do you explain this apparent coincidence that it is 10 days after Congress starts asking about the emails that Lois Lerner says, 'Oop, the hard drive has crashed'? [Fox Broadcasting, Fox News Sunday6/22/14]

Fox's Watters Draws Line From Camp Letter To IRS Emails. On the June 20 episode of Fox News' The Five, co-host Jesse Watters outlined his claimed relationship between the Camp letter and Lerner's computer crash:

WATTERS: Bob [Beckel], you just besmirched all the conservative groups that were targeted. You say, 'Well, they were breaking the law so they should have been targeted anyway.' OK so if anybody's besmirching anybody, it's you. Also, let me put out what we learned today about the timeline, OK? In June 2011, OK, June 3rd, Congressman Camp wrote a letter to Lois Lerner alerting her that he knew what was going on, asking her questions about targeting, criteria, corresponding with the Treasury Department. Ten days later, you know what happens, it crashes. [Fox News, The Five6/20/14]

Wash. Post Calls Right-Wing Letter Conspiracy False

Wash. Post Fact-Check Gives The Letter Theory Three Pinnochios. On June 24, The Washington Post examined Roskam's claim, echoed by right-wing media, that Camp's letter was linked to Lerner's hard drive crash. It concluded that Camp's letter was in fact asking about a different issue -- donors' contributions being subject to gift taxes (emphasis added):

Recall that the issue involving Lois Lerner was the targeting of conservative advocacy groups applying for 501(c)(4) status. But this letter concerned something different -- the IRS's decision to send letters to the donors of such organizations that their contributions might be subject to gift taxes.


The timing may seem suspicious, and perhaps Roskam has every right to jump to conclusions. But in claiming that Camp “sent a letter on this whole issue,” he went too far in describing the contents of the letter. In fact, at least one person, Chris Wallace, was misled into thinking the letter concerned the applicants; there were probably many other listeners as well. We wavered between Two and Three Pinocchios on this. We can appreciate the argument that this was an important letter, but the causal connection to Lerner's hard drive appears far too tenuous for Roskam to make such claims, given that the letter does not mention conservative groups. [The Washington Post6/24/14]