Last Friday afternoon, the Internal Revenue Service claimed that Lois Lerner, a former executive tasked with overseeing tax-exemption applications, lost thousands of emails after her computer crashed. Many of those emails, the tax collection agency claimed, could not be recovered.
This convenient excuse for failing to comply with a request from House investigators is not sitting well with some in the journalistic community.
“Do you believe in the Easter Bunny?” CNN’s John King asked his panel of political reporters on Monday. “Do you believe in Santa Claus? Do you believe that Lois Lerner’s emails suddenly went ‘poof?’”
King added that he agreed with Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) who said that it was “unacceptable” that this information was just coming to light now, over a year after the investigation into allegations that the IRS targeted conservative political groups with undue scrutiny began.
“Waiting a year to tell the Congress makes me suspicious,” King said.
“It’s hard to believe in this era, where you have servers, and backup servers, and all kinds of technology that can recover all kinds of emails, that these emails simply don’t exist,” Associated Press reporter Julie Pace agreed. “If that is true, and they don’t exist, why wasn’t that one of the first things that was told to Congress?”
“I’m not sure what’s with this administration and computer problems, but it seems to be happening time and again,” Politico’s Manu Raju concurred.
It seems that even those predisposed to extend federal officials the benefit of the doubt are not accepting the claim that Lerner’s emails simply disappeared into thin air at face value.
In a sardonic segment on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Monday, hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough ruthlessly mocked the notion that a hardware crash could eliminate files stored on remote servers.
“Mika, even you have to admit this is pretty ridiculous,” Scarborough probed.
“Pretty ridiculous,” Brzezinski replied. “Those emails exist.”
Perhaps made uncomfortable by the implications surrounding this admission, Brzezinski quickly changed topics. It would, however, be shameful if the American political press did the same. The concession from these prominent political reporters and commentators serves as a mandate to pursue the story surrounding the IRS scandal with renewed vigor.
And those who are scratching the surface of this story are unsettled by what they are finding. In March, as Townhall’s Guy Benson noted on Monday, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified before Congress that all the relevant email communications are “stored somewhere” on severs.
This development in a controversy which President Barack Obama called a “phony scandal” at an agency were he insisted there was “not even a smidgeon of corruption” provides reporters with the clearest indication yet that the president was either not being truthful or had been misled.
So, which is it?