White House Scandals: Republicans Use Manufactured Scandals to Smear Obama


On May 10, ABC News reporter, Jonathan Karl dropped a bombshell that sent the media on overdrive. Karl reported that ABC News "obtained" emails that purported to show that the White House sought to downplay the role that an Al-Qaeda affiliated group played in the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans, including the U.S ambassador, in Benghazi, Libya. He also reported that the White House tried to protect the State Department during the drafting of the talking points that was used to inform the public about what happened in Libya.

Benghazi is one of a trifecta of so-called scandals that completely consumed the media for many days. Shortly after Benghazi was deemed a major scandal by the mainstream media, two new controversies were quickly added to the list. In short order, the White House was under siege. After years of looking for a scandal that would severely damage the Obama administration, Republicans were gleeful; some conservatives even brought up impeachment. In less than a week, however, the evidence demonstrated that there was no impropriety on the part of anyone in the White House. Despite this evidence, Republicans still remain undeterred in their effort to paint Barack Obama as a corrupt tyrant.

The Benghazi tragedy has become a cause celebre among conservatives ever since the attack occurred. Shortly after the incident, failed 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney tried to score political points by using the attack against Obama. In the days and months following the violent attack, conservative media have been relentless in their pursuit of the story. But for months, the story failed to carry the same resonance in the mainstream media because there was no evidence behind the claims of conservatives that the Obama administration was trying to mislead the public about what really happened in Benghazi. But the ABC News report changed all that in a flash. In a span of a few days, the mainstream media's fixation on Benghazi managed to rival the obsession of the conservative press. The coverage also tended to reflect the conservative narrative that the Obama administration engaged in a cover-up in order to deceive the public about the true nature of the attack.

Unfortunately for the naysayers, it did not take long for the alleged cover-up by the administration to begin to unravel. Jake Tapper, a CNN reporter, was the first to question the story aired by ABC News. The White House, then, released 100 emails that shed more light on the process that led to the talking points that Susan Rice, the U.N. ambassador, used during her appearance on NBC's Meet the Press and other Sunday shows. As this article by the New York Times indicated, there was no nefarious attempt by the White House to dupe the public about the tragic event as Republican lawmakers have been claiming. In fact, it appears that the ABC News reporter was being manipulated by a Republican staffer who wanted to goad the mainstream press into following the lead of conservative media on Benghazi.

In the midst of the ginned up Benghazi controversy, the media has become fixated on another story. It was reported that some agents in the IRS Cincinnati bureau targeted some Tea Party groups for additional scrutiny when they sought to gain tax-exempt status. It is wrong for the agency to target those conservative groups. But they were by no means the only groups that were scrutinized by the agency. According to the New York Times, there were "at least two dozen" progressive organizations that faced similar scrutiny. Moreover, two-thirds of organizations that were closely evaluated by the IRS were non-Tea Party affiliated groups. The law mandates that tax-exempt groups function primarily as a social welfare organization. In order to make that assessment, the law requires that the IRS closely examines those groups when they apply for 501(c)4 status because they would not have to pay taxes nor would they be required to disclose the list of their donors. Although these conservative groups were scrutinized, they were still granted 501(c)4 status. In fact, the only group that was denied such status by the IRS was a progressive organization. Even more important, the report by the office of the Inspector General for Tax Administration found no evidence whatsoever that the White House was involved in crafting the criteria that were used to flag the Tea Party groups. This is, therefore, far from a White House scandal despite the repeated claims of many conservatives.

The last of the so-called scandal has to do with the investigation of some Associated Press reporters by the Justice Department. Last year, the Department of Justice launched an investigation in order to identify the individual who leaked a story to the AP regarding the CIA infiltration of a terrorist group in Yemen that was planning an attack on the anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden. In the course of that investigation, the phone records of many reporters were reviewed by the Department of Justice. There is no question that officials at the Justice Department have been pursuing their investigation aggressively. But they did not violate any laws. Hence, this is not a scandal, let alone a White House scandal as it has been portrayed by conservatives.

For years now, Republicans have been searching for a scandal that would cause political damage to the Obama administration. But the evidence is clear that no member of the White House has done anything improper. If conservatives were hoping that these manufactured scandals would tarnish the Obama administration, they are sorely mistaken. It is a given, however, that they will remain undeterred in their effort to smear President Obama because, after all, 49% of conservatives simply do not believe that Obama is a legitimate president.