Fox News cited dubious evidence in an attempt to tie the Obama administration to the IRS' targeting of conservative groups, claiming that inaccurate White House visitor logs revealed collusion between the White House and former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman.
Following reports that the IRS inappropriately targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, Fox has attempted to link the Obama administration to the scandal, baselessly accusing the administration of continuing to use improper screening to scrutinize nonprofit groups and ignoring Obama's condemnation of the IRS' actions to justify calls for a special prosecutor to investigate the case.
Fox & Friends furthered these efforts by airing a graphic based on data from the Daily Caller that purported to compare the number of times Shulman visited the White House as IRS commissioner to other top administration officials. Co-host Brian Kilmeade questioned why Shulman had visited the White House more than others, implying Shulman was hiding the purpose of his visits, while co-host Steve Doocy cited "critics" who claim the data showed Shulman must have been coordinating with administration officials on the IRS' targeting of conservative groups:
However, the Daily Caller article Fox cited for the graphic debunked its own data, noting that White House visitor logs "do not give a complete picture of White House access." High-level officials with clearance often do not have to sign in during visits, and scheduled meetings are often not included. The Daily Caller concluded, "it is probable that the vast majority of visits by major cabinet members do not end up in the public record." For example, one of the officials compared to Shulman was Jack Lew, who worked as White House chief of staff from January 2012 to Januay 2013, and thus would have been present at the White House on many more occasions than the data revealed.
Furthermore, during the segment, on-screen text also falsely claimed Shulman had "amnesia" because he "could only recall 1 [White House] visit," while Doocy claimed Shulman needed to answer investigators' questions "fully" in order to establish that he was not coordinating with the administration on the targeting of conservative groups:
But Shulman already answered those questions during his official congressional testimony. On May 22 at a House Oversight Committee hearing, Shulman described multiple visits to the White House, including one to work with the Department of Education on streamlining financial aid applications and others to discuss agency administrative and budgeting decisions. Shulman also made clear that he felt it would not have been "appropriate" to speak with administration officials about the IRS' targeting of conservative groups. From Nexis:
CONNOLLY: There might be many reasons you would be at the White House. What would be some of the reasons you might be at the White House?
SHULMAN: The Easter egg roll with my kids.
SHULMAN: Questions about the administrability of tax policy.
CONNOLLY: All right.
SHULMAN: They were thinking of our budget -- us helping the Department of Education streamline application processes for financial aid...
CONNOLLY: I just want to be clear. You're very aware of the fact that you're under oath today?
SHULMAN: Yeah, very aware of that.
CONNOLLY: And your testimony, to be very clear, in response to Mr. Jordan's question, is that you've -- you've never had any conversation with respect to this subject, the subject of this hearing, with anybody at the White House, though you were at the White House 118 times? Now, that -
SHULMAN: Yeah, I mean, just so I'm -- just so I'm clear, I have no memory. Wouldn't have been appropriate. Would not have been appropriate to have a conversation with the White -- with anyone at the White House about the subject of discriminating against conservative groups in any part of our operation.
The Inspector General's report found no evidence that anyone at the White House or in the administration was involved in the targeting of conservative groups, stating that according to officials, the inappropriate criteria used to identify groups for additional scrutiny "were not influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS."