June 12, 2013
(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg) (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Like all news organizations, CNN craves impact. Its early coverage of the tea party movement appears to have achieved just that distinction, perhaps unintentionally. Have a look at the lead paragraphs from a USA Today story on the origins of IRS targeting of conservative political groups:

WASHINGTON — The first time Internal Revenue Service agent Gary Muthert took notice of the Tea Party was when he saw a story about anti-tax protests on CNN, and another agent mentioned he had seen an application for tax-exempt status from a Tea Party group.

“We would review CNN just to see what the news of the day was,” Muthert — a Cincinnati-based agent — told congressional investigators in a transcribed interview. “The Tea Party was in D.C. protesting, and that was like, OK, that’s unusual to have one of these cases in here.”

The USA Today story reaches this conclusion about how the scandal originated: “The records show that it was low-level employees in Cincinnati — where all tax-exempt applications are processed — who first flagged Tea Party cases for review, but they engaged their managers in Washington early on.”

And, presumably, stayed tuned to CNN.

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