Media trumpet Walpin claims without noting acting U.S. attorney's allegations
Research ››› ››› ANDREW WALZER
In reporting on Gerald Walpin's removal as inspector general and hosting Walpin to discuss his claims, Fox & Friends, Glenn Beck, and Laura Ingraham did not note a U.S. attorney's allegations against Walpin.
Since President Obama suspended Gerald Walpin from the office of inspector general at the Corporation for National and Community Service, Fox News' Glenn Beck, Gretchen Carlson, Steve Doocy, and Brian Kilmeade, and radio host Laura Ingraham have repeatedly reported on Walpin's removal without noting allegations issued by acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California Lawrence Brown in an April 29 letter that Walpin and his staff "did not include" or "disclose" relevant information regarding the case to Brown's office; that Walpin repeatedly discussed the case in the press after being advised "under no circumstance was he to communicate with the media about a matter under investigation"; and that Walpin's "actions were hindering our investigation and handling of this matter."
Media Matters for America reviewed Walpin's appearances and reports discussing his removal on the following shows:
- The June 15 edition of Glenn Beck.
- The June 15 edition of The Laura Ingraham Show.
- The June 16 edition of Fox & Friends.
- The June 17 edition of The Laura Ingraham Show.
- The June 17 edition of Glenn Beck.
- The June 18 edition of Fox & Friends.
In none of his appearances was Walpin asked to respond to Brown's letter; indeed, Brown's letter detailing his concerns with Walpin's conduct was not addressed at all when discussing the suspension.
From Brown's letter to Kenneth W. Kaiser, chairman of the Integrity Committee for the Department of Justice's Counsel of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency:
In our experience, the role of an Inspector General is to conduct an unbiased investigation, and then forward that investigation to my Office for a determination as to whether the facts warrant a criminal prosecution, civil suit or declination. Similarly, I understand that after conducting such an unbiased investigation, the Inspector General is not intended to act as an advocate for suspension or debarment. However, in this case Mr. Walpin viewed his role very differently. He sought to act as the investigator, advocate, judge, jury and town crier.
This matter was referred to our Office on August 7, 2008. However, even before our Office officially received this matter, we learned about it in April and June 2008 through articles in the Sacramento Bee newspaper, including comments from an IG spokesperson. Moreover, we considered the IG referral somewhat unusual in that it was accompanied by a letter from Mr. Walpin (enclosed) explaining that he viewed the conduct in this case as egregious and warranted our pursuing the matter criminally and civilly.
Within a few weeks thereafter, on August 25th, we met with Mr. Walpin and 2 investigators from his office. We expressed our concerns that the conclusions in their report seemed overstated and did not accurately reflect all of the information gathered in their investigation. We also highlighted numerous questions and further investigation they needed to conduct, including the fact that they had not done an audit to establish how much AmeriCorps money was actually misspent.
Despite our expressed concerns and the need for further analysis, the next we learned of this matter was again through the Sacramento Bee newspaper. First, on September 5, 2008, an IG spokesperson informed the newspaper that the matter had been referred to our Office, but also added that a "referral means that it's out opinion that there is some truth to the initial allegation..." Second, Mr. Walpin apparently advocated to have St. HOPE, Johnson and Gonzalez immediately placed on a list of parties suspended from receiving federal funds. We learned of that determination through Sacramento Bee articles quoting extensively from a press release issued by Mr. Walpin's office on September 25, 2008. Not only was it extremely questionable for Mr. Walpin to issue a press release, it contained statements such as: "[i]f we find really egregious stuff and we want to stop the bleeding, we seek immediate suspension..." Moreover, the IG publicly released the findings of his investigation.
In summary, the IG should be a fact-finding impartial investigative arm of the CNCS agency. Although I recognize that a strong IG is necessary to ensure that allegations of wrongdoing are investigated, I believe that Mr. Walpin overstepped his authority by electing to provide my Office with selective information and withholding other potentially significant information at the expense of determining the truth. I believe that rather than ensuring protection of a respected federal agency, he tarnished its reputation.
Beck further discussed Walpin's dismissal during the June 16 edition of his Fox News show without discussing Brown's letter. In addition, Carlson, Doocy, and Kilmeade ignored Brown's letter while discussing Walpin's dismissal with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) during the June 18 edition of Fox & Friends.
By contrast, the Associated Press reported in a June 12 article about the firing, "Walpin was criticized by the acting U.S. attorney in Sacramento for the way he handled the investigation of Johnson and St. HOPE Academy."
Further, as reported by ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper in a June 12 post on his blog, Political Punch, White House counsel Greg Craig "said that the White House was 'aware of the circumstances leading to that referral and of Mr. Walpin's conduct throughout his tenure and can assure you that that the president's decision was carefully considered.' " Tapper further reported, "[Craig] noted that Walpin's termination 'is fully supported by the Chair of the Corporation (a Democrat) and the Vice-Chair (a Republican).' "
From the AP article:
"It is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general," Obama said in the letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Vice President Joe Biden, who also serves as president of the Senate. "That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general."
The president didn't offer any more explanation, but White House Counsel Gregory Craig, in a letter late Thursday to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, cited the U.S. attorney's criticism of Walpin to an integrity committee for inspectors general.
"We are aware of the circumstances leading to that referral and of Mr. Walpin's conduct throughout his tenure and can assure you that the president's decision was carefully considered," Craig wrote.
In August 2008, Walpin referred the matter to the local U.S. attorney's office, which said the watchdog's conclusions seemed overstated and did not accurately reflect all the information gathered in the investigation.
"We also highlighted numerous questions and further investigation they needed to conduct, including the fact that they had not done an audit to establish how much AmeriCorps money was actually misspent," Acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown said in an April 29 letter to the federal counsel of inspectors general.
Walpin's office made repeated public comments just before the Sacramento mayoral election, prompting the U.S. attorney's office to inform the media that it did not intend to file any criminal charges.