Bill O’Reilly just keeps pimping those trips to the White House: Did former IRS head Douglas Shulman visit the White House 157 times?
That’s what the Daily Caller reported last Thursday. The site’s latest fraudulent report appeared beneath this summary:
“Publicly released records show that embattled former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House at least 157 times during the Obama administration, more recorded visits than even the most trusted members of the president’s Cabinet.”
Early in his hapless report, the Caller’s hapless Vince Coglianese asserted that “the scope of Shulman’s White House visits...strongly suggests coordination by White House officials in the campaign against the president’s political opponents.”
As you continue reading, it soon becomes clear that Coglianese doesn’t know how many times Shulman went to the White House. But so what? Last Thursday night, Fox News went wild with his thrilling new claim. At 8 PM, the channel’s prime-time program block began with this presentation:
O’REILLY (5/30/13): The former IRS Chief under President Bush says he did his job without White House interference.All night long, O’Reilly, Hannity and Van Susteren pounded away at this deeply troubling report. Commissioner Shulman visited the White House 157 times! It must have been about the way the IRS slimed the Tea Party!
But listen to this—the IRS Commissioner under President Obama visited the White House an astounding 157 times. Is this the smoking gun in the IRS scandal? We will have a special report.
The next day, the Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta largely debunked this thrilling report. Her piece appeared beneath these headlines:
"The Fake Story About the IRS Commissioner and the White House/White House records show Douglas Shulman signed in for 11 visits, not 157, between 2009 and 2012."
What made the Daily Caller story “fake?” Franke-Ruta detailed two groaning problems with the exciting new story.
For one thing, the vast majority of the meetings in question did not take place at the White House—at “the president’s home,” to quote the Caller. At least 115 of the meetings in question took place at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which isn’t part of the White House and isn’t “the president’s home.”
That said, Franke-Ruta described a much larger second problem. The Daily Caller presented no evidence that Shulman attended the meetings in question. In fact, the Caller had gone through lists of people who were cleared to attend certain meetings, not those who had actually appeared.
For many regular task force meetings, pro-forma lists of names are automatically cleared, whether the people in question plan to attend or not. After reviewing sign-in records, Franke-Ruta could only prove that Shulman had attended eleven of the meetings in question.
FRANKE-RUTA (5/31/13): [J]ust because a meeting was scheduled and Shulman was cleared to attend it does not mean that he actually went. Routine events like the biweekly health-care deputies meeting would have had a standing list of people cleared to attend, people whose White House appointments would have been logged and forwarded to the check-in gate. But there is no time of arrival information in the records to confirm that Shulman actually signed in and went to these standing meetings.Franke-Ruta doesn’t know how many meetings Shulman attended, though it could have been as few at eleven. But that’s the point—the Daily Caller and Bill O’Reilly don’t know either! Beyond that, the vast majority of the meetings in question weren’t held at the White House, which is “the president’s home.”
Indeed, of the 157 events Shulman was cleared to attend, White House records only provide time of arrival information—confirming that he actually went to them—for 11 events over the 2009-2012 period...That does not mean that he did not go to other meetings, only that the White House records do not show he went to the 157 meetings he was granted Secret Service clearance to attend.
Last Thursday night, O’Reilly, Hannity and Van Susteren pimped this bullshit all night. The very next day, Franke-Ruta blew their story apart.
But in this country, there are no facts. Beyond that, there are no ranking fact-checkers willing to stand up to Fox. Here’s the way Bill O’Reilly opened his program last night:
O’REILLY (6/3/13): Is the IRS scandal like Watergate? That is the subject of this evening's Talking Points Memo.O’Reilly went on to say, “We could be repeating history.” He then reviewed the basic history of the Watergate break-in.
First off, a clarification—Talking Points is not linking the IRS scandal to the White House. We are not implying, insinuating, hinting or doing anything else other than reporting the facts.
And so far we have been dead on. Last week we told you that former IRS Chief Douglas Shulman visited the White House 157 times, far more than any other department head. And it wasn't even close. Logically, we asked the White House to explain those meetings with whom did Mr. Shulman chat and what was the subject on all 157 occasions?
Any honest reporter would ask that question and the White House should provide the answer immediately. Incredibly before my analysis last Thursday there were no mentions last week of Mr. Shulman's abundant visits to the White House on CNN, on ABC, on CBS, or on NBC. None, nada, zip.
That is what's called a news blackout. Because everybody knows the IRS is under scrutiny for admitting it targeted conservative groups and individuals. So if the IRS boss visits the White House 157 times, that's a big story.
After that, O'Reilly brought out brought out the clueless, uncaring Bob Woodward. The sleuth embarrassed himself once again, this time saying this:
WOODWARD (6/3/13): Clearly in the pipeline lots of people knew some of this or should know it and I agree, this needs to be investigated. But you know who should lead the investigation? President Obama. And the White House put out his version of all of these things. I have found in recent weeks they still respond to questions. You say they aren't answering this question about the 157 visits by the IRS commissioner. They should. They should get on top of this story.Woodward didn’t seem to be familiar with Franke-Ruta’s report.
There are no facts in this country. Nor are there any major press organs devoted to defending the need for facts. The happy children at MSNBC have completely ignored this story—refusing to fight, as is their wont. Nor did the major Sunday programs attempt to clarify this matter.
On Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz offered a very murky, very fuzzy account of this problem. For unknown reasons, the Washington Post's Greg Sargent praised Kurtz and the Washington Post's Dana Milbank for their work on this matter, which was extremely bad. (We saw no sign that either fellow had read Franke-Ruta's report.)
There are no facts in this country! And by the way, Glenn Kessler will never discuss this latest con at his Washington Post Fact-Checker site. If things run true to form, neither will the likeable children at The One True Liberal Channel.
They are too busy letting us know about the legalization of marijuana—pot, grass. For unknown reasons, they don't seem to have a whole lot of fight.
On Fox, millions of voters were getting conned again last night. There are no facts, and no ranking defenders of fact, anywhere in this sad land.
Extra credit for children who finish early: Today's word problem:
How long will it be before Bob Woodward goes to work for Tucker Carlson? Use the metric system. Discuss.