Sean Hannity ignored new reports that Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (CA) directed the Treasury Department's inspector general (IG) to "narrowly focus" its audit of the IRS' assessment of tax-exempt status requests to focus on tea party organizations, falsely claiming that "new claims by progressive groups that they were targeted by the IRS are in fact, false."
On the June 26 edition of his Fox News show, host Sean Hannity attempted to resuscitate the dying right-wing media narrative that the improper IRS targeting of groups was directed by the White House in an effort to punish opponents, by citing an IG audit of the IRS which found that some conservative groups received improper scrutiny when seeking tax-exempt status. Hannity dismissed reports that progressive groups had received similar scrutiny and the IG's investigation had been directed by House Republicans, citing the IG report in an attempt -- as he put it -- to "correct the record" saying: "If you've been paying attention to this scandal you know that the inspector general report outlined very clearly the distinct ideological imbalance."
Hannity concluded by asking: "If progressives were unfairly targeted, why didn't anyone say so earlier?"
A June 25 Hill article answered Hannity's question. The Hill reported that a spokesman for the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, J. Russell George, said they were asked by Issa "to narrowly focus on Tea Party organizations":
The inspector general's audit found that groups seeking tax-exempt status with "Tea Party" and "patriots" in their name did receive extra attention from the IRS, with some facing years of delay and inappropriate questions from the agency.
But top congressional Democrats have wielded new information from the IRS this week that liberal groups were also flagged for extra attention on the sorts of "be on the lookout" lists (BOLOs) that also tripped up conservative groups.
The spokesman for the Treasury inspector general noted their audit acknowledged there were other watch lists. But the spokesman added: "We did not review the use, disposition, purpose or content of the other BOLOs. That was outside the scope of our audit."
Prior to this report, Issa had leaked incomplete transcripts that were used by right-wing media to suggest that the IRS' use of improper criteria for determining which groups requesting tax-exempt status required additional scrutiny was directed by officials in Washington D.C., and potentially by White House officials. Other transcripts released later debunked this claim.
Furthermore, as a June 26 Associated Press article reported, progressive groups have claimed that they received scrutiny from the IRS, resulting in long delays in their being granted tax-exempt status. James Salt, a spokesman for the progressive Catholics United went so far as to claim the IRS asked the organization nonsensical, "weird" questions. A June 25 Wall Street Journal article similarly reported delays in tax-exempt status assessment for progressive groups: "Maryann Martindale, executive director of Alliance for a Better Utah, said her "progressive" group has been waiting almost two years for IRS action on an application for tax exemption from one of its entities."
Prior to this revelation, a manager of the Cincinnati IRS office responsible for the assessment of tax-exempt status requests, and self-described "conservative Republican" John Shafer told congressional investigators that neither he nor his office "never discussed any political, personal aspirations whatsoever."
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, during the June 25 Hannity segment Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin went on to accuse the White House of orchestrating the IRS' targeting, saying: "All roads lead to Washington D.C. and all fingers, at some point, will lead straight to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."