Despite previously applauding a Bush administration official who invoked the Fifth Amendment and declined to testify before a Congressional hearing, Rush Limbaugh is now criticizing IRS official Lois Lerner for doing the same.
On May 22, Lerner, who heads the IRS office for tax-exempt organizations, exercised her Fifth Amendment right during a congressional oversight committee hearing into the IRS' scrutiny of conservative groups. Lerner said she had done nothing wrong, but on the advice of her counsel and due to an ongoing criminal investigation, said she would not answer questions or testify before the committee.
Later that day, Limbaugh said Lerner was using the Fifth Amendment to get out of answering questions and that the Fifth Amendment wouldn't be used by someone who says they “haven't done anything wrong” :
LIMBAUGH: By the way, on this Lois Lerner business folks, about the Fifth Amendment -- the Fifth Amendment is not meant to be used as a way to get out of answering questions. The Fifth Amendment is clearly there to ensure that you don't have to testify against yourself.
The Fifth Amendment-- you're charging me? Then you prove it. I'm not going to incriminate myself. But it's not meant to be used as a way of getting out of answering questions. Particularly when you say first, “I haven't done anything wrong! I have not participated in any criminal activity, I haven't done anything wrong.” Well then why are you invoking the Fifth? Just so you don't have to answer questions? Sorry, it doesn't work that way.
Limbaugh's statements, however, contradict comments he made about the Fifth Amendment during the George W. Bush administration.
In 2007, the Bush White House came under fire for the allegedly politically-motivated firing of U.S. attorneys. The Department of Justice's White House Liaison, Monica Goodling, was called to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, but instead refused to answer questions after citing her Fifth Amendment right.
During a March 2007 broadcast, Limbaugh responded to a caller's question about Goodling invoking the Fifth by describing the hearing as a “perjury trap,” praised her attorney for being “wise to have her plead the fifth,” and even taking issue with those who assume that pleading the Fifth is an admission of guilt:
LIMBAUGH: It's a perjury trap. A lot of this stuff is just being set up for perjury traps. That's why they want Rove and Harriet Miers under oath on this whole issue. So, the lawyer says that the obvious lack of impartiality of the Senate and conclusions already reached make anybody, especially Monica Goodling's testimony, perilous here. He's wise to have her plead the Fifth. Now, what do you think about this, though, Matt? The Fifth Amendment is what it is. It's certainly a constitutional right. But most people think, “A-ha! A-ha! Fifth Amendment! A-ha, a-ha! Guilty! You're afraid to go up and show it. You're afraid to admit it.” You know that's how people react to people who take the fifth.