Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the April issue of Townhall Magazine.
In May 2013, when the IRS’ Lois Lerner publicly admitted and apologized for inappropriately targeting conservative tea party groups, President Obama said, “If you’ve got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and nonpartisan way, then that is outrageous. It is contradictory to our traditions, and people have to be held accountable.”
He didn’t mean it, which is probably why he used the word “if.” Just a few months later in an interview with his
biggest fan, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Obama brushed off the scandal as faux outrage from conservative groups while advisers continue to declare the White House had no involvement in the targeting.
“They’ve got a list, and suddenly everybody’s outraged,” Obama said.
Today, IRS officials are still dragging their feet when it comes to getting tea party and other patriot groups their tax-exempt status. One of the largest tea party groups in the country, Tea Party Patriots, waited three years before finally receiving their tax-exempt status in February 2014. Conveniently, the IRS’ slow response to hundreds of groups waiting for an answer comes just before the 2014 midterm elections, when tea party groups could have a big impact.
But Obama’s squelching of free speech doesn’t only apply to purely political opponents, but to the press as well.
When my book about Operation Fast and Furious came out in April of 2012, the Soros funded non-profit group Media
Matters wrote a long hit piece in an attempt to discredit my work. When Free Beacon reporter C.J. Ciaramella asked Media Matters for comment about a specific issue in the book, he was referred to Justice Department Public Affairs staffer Katie Dixon for information.
DOJ had done something similar when former DOJ attorney and whistleblower J. Christian Adams wrote a book exposing Obama’s overtly racial Justice Department. Adams filed a Freedom of Information Request to find out if there had been any documented collusion between the folks at Media Matters and the DOJ Public Affairs Office. Information returned by the request showed Media Matters writer Matt Gertz working with former DOJ Spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler on attack pieces against journalists publishing stories embarrassing to the administration. I was one of them.
Two years later in the summer of 2013 news broke that DOJ attorneys were monitoring hundreds of phone lines and emails belonging to reporters at the Associated Press and other news outlets. Reporters and executives at Fox
News were also monitored, with the most egregious case being against Fox News Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen. Not only was Rosen monitored to the point DOJ knew where he was located throughout the day, but the phone records attached to lines running to his parents’ house on Staten Island were seized. In a DOJ affidavit to a judge, Rosen was classified as a criminal co-conspirator. Further, the Obama administration has prosecuted more people under the Espionage Act for leaking valuable, relevant information from inside the government than any other administration in history, combined.
At the end of 2013, we learned Center for American Progress founder and former-Clinton adviser John Podesta would be returning to the White House as an adviser for Obama. Podesta also happens to be a longtime advocate of the fairness doctrine. In 2007, his far-Left think tank published a report detailing how the FCC could be used to snuff out conservative voices on the radio while replacing them with liberal opinions. These are the same liberal opinions that have failed over and over again in the free market place of ideas due to a lack of listeners.
Fast-forward to a few months after Podesta is back in the White House, and we find out the FCC wants to conduct a “study” which would put government bureaucrats inside newsrooms to monitor how editors and reporters collect and choose stories for consumer consumption. The FCC argued the study was necessary to ensure Americans were receiving the “critical information” they need in today’s society.
The true goal of “studies” like this isn’t to get people “critical” information, but to stifle free speech and put a chilling effect on the newsgathering industry. Luckily, thanks to the work of Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who exposed the study from the inside out, it died (for now). I suggest Pai start preparing for his IRS tax audit now.
Some of the most important stories in America right now—Benghazi, Fast and Furious, the IRS scandal, the NSA, etc.—wouldn’t have been exposed without the alternative news outlets we have today. Allowing the government, with the president’s support, to dictate or intimidate what we say or when we say it, is unacceptable. •