Dept. of Profoundly Dumb PR Moves: IRS Edition

Apparently the Lerner response on Friday (to a question, not in her prepared remarks) on Tea Party targeting was planned.  {Update: It’s even worse than we thought: the question was planted too}

Look: the IRS should have revealed its targeting of Tea Party groups much sooner, and it should not have had officials fail to report it (or perhaps even lie about it) when asked by Members of Congress.

But simply as a matter of PR, if the IRS decided it needed to get out in front of the damning upcoming TIGTA report, this was not the way to do it.  It should have issued a press release later that day on Friday, ahead of the weekend.  But it did it this way, in an offhanded, almost cavalier way (look at the exact text of what Lerner said: “So I guess my bottom line here is that we at the IRS should apologize for that, it was not intentional, and as soon as we found out what was going on, we took steps to make it better and I don’t expect that to reoccur.”) as part of the answer at a tax meeting where word was sure to leak out; it then was unprepared for questions at the press call afterwards (including the Lerner line that she was not good at math—true she’s a lawyer, not an accountant, but the optics) and then no formal response for a few days, and then apparently posting further private information about who was approved and put through this process on its website.

The bumbling nature of this seems to demonstrate that Lerner and others did not realize, at all, the extent to which this was politically radioactive and damaging.  The IRS probably isn’t an agency used to interacting often with the national press, and it shows, very starkly, in this incident.

More about today’s hearings later.

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