Chalk up another atrocity for the interrogatory headline: “Is the IRS scandal like Watergate?” That’s the title of a segment last night in which Fox News host Bill O’Reilly delved into the parallels — or absence thereof — between the ongoing IRS scandal and the historic Watergate scandal.
But why? As O’Reilly began his “Talking Points” monologue on the topic, after all, he seemed to distance himself from any comparison: “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.” He then addressed the topic of former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman’s visits to the White House.
Moments later, the host explained: “Again, I’m not saying the current IRS scandal is Watergate. But I am saying we should aggressively investigate the story and not come to the conclusion that the Tom Brokaw has.” (Brokaw dismissed any commonality between the IRS thing and Watergate). Bolded text added to highlight the only apparent parallel between IRS and Watergate that O’Reilly could drum up — namely, that both of them should be investigated. And that could be said of the IRS scandal, the war in Afghanistan, unemployment, mental health and on and on.
More: The Fox News site uses the following tagline to tout O’Reilly’s subsequent chat with famous Washington journalist Bob Woodward: “Woodward: IRS scandal ‘on the road to Watergate.‘”
Except Woodward didn’t say that. Here’s what he said:
WOODWARD: One of the things you learn doing this for 40 years is — and I agree this is not Watergate at all. But the road to Watergate is concealment, is not coming clean and just say “Oh well we won’t have to release that memo. We won’t have to let so and so testify. Let’s call executive privilege.”
WOODWARD: “Let’s stonewall.” And if they do that, they will dig themselves in a hole. And I think they have the moral and intellectual capacity to stop that.
Bolded text added to highlight an “if.”
On top of that, Woodward even complimented the White House for being “responsive” to requests for information. “As I’ve said, they are not yet in the bunker — that the answers are forthcoming. Sometimes it takes a long time,” he said. The sum total of Woodward’s comments is that the IRS scandal is not on the road to Watergate.
Whoever wrote up the web summary of Woodward’s remarks needs to take a refresher course in Woodward: Despite a misstep or two earlier this year, the guy is generally quite careful and methodical in what he says. He’s almost programmed not to make explosive statements on the television. There’s a reason why he speaks very slowly.