On Fox News last night, Bill O’Reilly struggled with a question he apparently finds confusing: why aren’t major news organizations covering the IRS “scandal” to his satisfaction. Lois Lerner, the former head of the IRS’ tax exempt division, took the Fifth last week, but most of the media seemed indifferent.
O’Reilly thinks he knows why: journalists are covering for President Obama. In fact, he asked guest Bernie Goldberg, “He’s their guy because he’s a liberal, African-American, is that why he’s their guy?”
“Yeah,” Goldberg replied. “Again, I know these things sound simple – and to some people maybe too simple – but yes, that’s the reason. You know, when Barack Obama was elected there were stories before he came out in the first time he ran in 2008 that said if he doesn’t win, it’s because of racism in America. I mean, there were stories in legitimate publications about that. He is their guy. He’s young, he’s cool, he’s black, and he’s liberal. That’s it.”
That’s one possible explanation. But in the interest of giving O’Reilly and Goldberg something else to consider, there’s a more plausible, reality-based reason the media has lost interest in this scandal: there is no scandal.
As we’ve discussed on more than a few occasions, the story has already been debunked. Congress has looked into the allegations and found nothing. The FBI has looked into the allegations and found nothing. Investigative journalists have looked into the allegations and found nothing. The story was discredited months ago – which helps explain why coverage dried up.
But let’s not forget that there were a few weeks in May in which the media was obsessed with the IRS “scandal,” treating it not only a legitimate story, but also as a genuine crisis for the Obama White House. But when information came out that disproved the allegations, news outlets lost interest, and generally didn’t even bother to tell the public that the “controversy” was a mirage from the outset.
And this, in turn, raises a related question for O’Reilly and Goldberg.
Let’s say for the sake of conversation that the Fox News host and his guest are entirely right. Let’s say political journalists have decided, en masse, to stop taking the IRS story seriously because of a deliberate choice: media professionals want to cover for the president.
If that’s true, I’m curious how O’Reilly and Goldberg explain the feeding-frenzy coverage those same news outlets provided when covering this exact story 10 months ago. In other words, if the media wants to cover for the president by ignoring this “scandal,” how does Fox explain the coverage when the media wasn’t ignoring this “scandal”?
If O’Reilly is correct, we’d have to believe that major news organizations got together last May and collectively forgot that Obama is young, cool, black, and liberal. Then, coinciding with exculpatory information that discredited the entire controversy, political journalists – again, all at the same time – collectively remembered, “Hey wait, we have to stop covering this story because Obama is young, cool, black, and liberal!”
I’m sure there will be people who believe this. I’m less sure why.