The PJ Tatler

Carney Calls IRS Targeting 'Phony,' 'Pretend' Scandal

White House press secretary Jay Carney said this morning that President Obama’s pivot back to jobs means steering the focus away from “phony” scandals such as the IRS targeting of conservatives, the AP phone records seizure and Benghazi.

“It’s certainly not about poll numbers, except for when it comes to Americans’ frustration with what’s happening in Washington. If you look at where the president is versus where Republicans in Congress are, I think you have a very clear understanding of where that frustration is focused, one,” Carney said this morning on MSNBC.

He noted Obama’s trip today to Galesburg, Ill., “to deliver a speech about where we need to move the economy, what we should be focusing on here in Washington.”

“And it shouldn’t be on the skirmishes that caused grid lock. It shouldn’t be on the phony scandals that have consumed so much attention here, all to come to naught,” Carney added.

“It should be focused on what we can do to strengthen and grow the middle class because, when the middle class is thriving, when the middle class is growing, our economy is at its best. And that’s what we need to do as we move forward in the 21st century.”

When asked about what he labeled a “phony” scandal, Carney said “what we’ve seen is inappropriate activity that the president came out and forcefully said he would not tolerate and that he installed somebody at the IRS to take care of.”

“What we have seen from Republicans is cherry-picked information based on investigations that turns out to be only one side of the story,” the spokesman continued. “Again and again and again, if you look up on Capitol Hill when, you know, Chairman Issa and others have selectively released information and refused to release the full facts. The full facts show that the story is quite different. And I think you can — it’s demonstrated by the way that the press has, you know, gotten extremely excited about the potential for a scandal and basically dropped it when the facts have come out.”

“The president will not tolerate poor performance or inappropriate activity at any agency, and when he finds out about it, he acts on it. But he’s focused on the economy, Joe. He’s not focused on, you know, pretend scandals.”

When pressed by host Joe Scarborough “that it wasn’t a couple of crazy people in Cincinnati” behind the IRS targeting of tea party groups, Carney shot back, “I greatly appreciate that is the line that is being pushed by Republicans who want Washington to be focused on scandals instead of the economy.”

That sparked an on-air tussle between the two over talking points and who was playing games.

“There is no question that activity that occurred at the White House — at the IRS was inappropriate and the president made sure — made clear that he wanted to take care of it, and he appointed somebody who’s doing that,” Carney said. “…And the Republicans immediately said that it was about something much bigger than it turned out to be because they wanted it to be a scandal.”