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'Fox & Friends' mistreats Elijah Cummings on IRS emails story

Morning show convicts congressman without evidence

April 18, 2014|By David Zurawik | The Baltimore Sun

Issa also had the emails to show that the IRS was investigating True The Vote six months before Cummings’ staff contacted it. Six months! What a convenient fact to overlook amid the “explosive new evidence.”

In a statement to The Baltimore Sun last week, Cummings said, “You know it’s bad when you cut off the microphone of a Member of Congress, but it’s worse when you publicly attack staffers for inappropriate activity with cherry-picked emails, especially when you have in your own files documents that show the exact opposite. I hope we can return to a level of civility on this committee.”

Cummings was referring to Issa’s accusations against him, which Fox essentially took from the news release and presented as fact. Cummings has since written and posted letters online addressing the accusations of “coordinating” and being the recipient of “funneled” taxpayer information from Lerner.

“It's rich to hear a Member, who has ignored the historical record to demagogue as 'McCarthyite' an essential investigation into wrongdoing at the IRS, talk about a return to civility,” Frederick Hill, spokesman for Issa’s committee, wrote in an email response to the statement from Cummings. “Evidence has shown that the rhetoric and political pressure on the IRS by elected Democrats contributed to IRS targeting.”

A spokeswoman for Fox News said “Fox & Friends” is “an opinion show and is not part of the hard-news lineup” at the channel.

She pointed to interviews that Megyn Kelly did on April 10 and 14 with the founder of and a lawyer for True The Vote, respectively, in which the prime-time show host told viewers that Cummings denies the accusations True The Vote was making in those interviews.

“He says his communications were all appropriate,” Kelly said in the April 14 interview, “but he has not elaborated on that and won’t come give us a full statement, which we would be happy to hear him out on.”

After just four days of reporting and fact-checking the story, I don’t pretend to know all the facts. Overall, I am in no position to say whether Cummings behaved ethically.

But I do know there is no evidence that has been produced at this point for the accusations leveled against him as fact on “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday morning. I also know there was evidence available to “Fox & Friends” that Cummings’ staff could not have flagged True The Vote for the IRS.

The IRS emails released by Issa himself further show Cummings’ staff asking only for “publicly available information,” and IRS officials double- and triple-checking to make sure only such information was released. Hardly “coordinating” to “crack down” on anyone. That’s what the emails not reported by “Fox & Friends” as part of its “explosive new evidence” show, anyway.

Maybe I don’t have as fine a moral compass as Steve Doocy. But given that evidence, leveling such a grave accusation against a member of Congress as conspiring with a federal agency to attack political opponents just seems wrong, doesn’t it?



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