White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

MEMORANDUM

FROM: The Erik Wemple Blog

TO: Copy desk, Washington Post editorial department

RE: IRS “scandal”

It has come to my attention that we should not refer to the difficulties at the IRS over the targeting of various groups for scrutiny as a “scandal.” In a recent interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, after all, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney termed the issue “inappropriate behavior” and made this argument:

MORGAN: Did you ever think you’d have to deal with three scandals like this at the same time?

CARNEY: Well, I — I dismiss the premise, the idea that these were scandals. One is a total concoction by Republicans on the first hand, you know, and the other, I mean, it depends on the IRS issue, absolutely. Inappropriate behavior, wrong activity by personnel by the IRS, and action needs to be taken, is being taken and will be taken.

We checked with Carney for clarification on these points: “I was trying to draw the distinction between the issues and reject the idea that they could be lumped together under any heading. The GOP-driven Benghazi talking points obsession is a political sideshow. The IRS is a real issue — which is why the President has reacted the way he has.”

No scandal, then? Carney: “Serious issue, wholly inappropriate, wrong — regardless of motivation. I’ll leave it to others to apply the labels.” Along those lines, here’s some guidance on wording that provides an alternative to “scandal.”

Should we decide to go with the Carney approach, here’s how we might consider changing headlines:

Instead of: “IRS scandal dogs White House”

Please try: “IRS inappropriate behavior dogs White House”

Instead of: “Congress probes IRS scandal”

Please try: “Congress probes IRS wrong activity”

Instead of: “White House denounces IRS scandalmongers”

Please try: “White House denounces IRS inappropriate-behaviormongers”

Thanks for your consideration.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.