This president has been at war with Fox News since the early days of his administration, and has called out Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity by name.
The best rebuttal to the First Lady nice-sounding but ludicrous claim actually came from Senator Mitch McConnell in a speech he made, last June.
Say what you will about Mitch McConnell - he is a longtime First Amendment hawk, and he didn't hold back in this AEI speech in which he called out in a very striking and memorable way, the tyrannical president and his willing accomplices for attempting to silence his critics. McConnell said, "this administration has institutionalized the practice of pitting bureaucrats against the very people they’re supposed to be serving, and it needs to stop."
Last June, I stood here and warned of a grave and growing threat to the First Amendment. That threat has not let up. Our ability to freely engage in civic life and to organize in defense of our beliefs is still under coordinated assault from groups on the Left that don’t like the idea of anyone criticizing their aims, and from a White House that appears determined to shut up anybody who challenges it.
On the outside, there’s a well-documented effort by a number of Left-wing groups like Media Matters to harass and intimidate conservatives with the goal of scaring them off the political playing field and off the airwaves.
An internal Media Matters memo from January 2010 showed the extent to which these tactics have been turned into a science. In it, we learned of the group’s plan to conduct opposition research into the lives of on-air news personalities and other key decision makers at Fox News, and to coordinate with 100 or so partner groups to pressure the network’s advertisers and shareholders, get this, “by the threat of actual boycotts, rallies, demonstrations, shame, embarrassment and other tactics on a variety of issues important to the progressive agenda.”
Its multiple databases could also be used, the memo said, to remove what it describes as “chronically problematic media figures,” or “to preempt programming” … altogether.
Then, of course, there’s the widespread effort to stifle speech from within the government itself, something the Obama Administration has been engaged in from its earliest days.
Some have traced this back even further, to the 2008 campaign. But my central point last June, and my central point today, is this: the attacks on speech that we’ve seen over the past several years were never limited to a few Left-wing pressure groups or the DISCLOSE Act, which I’ll turn to in a minute. They extend throughout the federal government, to places like the FEC, the FCC, HHS, the SEC, and as all Americans now know — even to the IRS. These assaults have often been aided and abetted by the administration’s allies in Congress. And they’re as virulent as ever.
As for the IRS, my own concerns trace back to a phone call I got from a constituent early last year, who said he’d been subjected to excessive questioning and unreasonable deadlines from the IRS. When similar complaints followed, I sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Shulman asking for assurances that there wasn’t any political targeting going on. I said public confidence in the IRS depended on it. Six weeks later I got a lengthy response from the Deputy Commissioner, Steven Miller, in which he basically told me “move along, nothing to see here.”
Well, now we know that wasn’t the case.
Now we know that the IRS was actually engaged in the targeted slow-walking of applications by conservatives, and others who were, get this, criticizing “how the country [was] being run.” It overwhelmed them with questions and paperwork, and in some cases initiated audits on folks that had never been audited before.
In one case, an IRS agent allegedly demanded that the board members of an Iowa pro-life group sign a declaration that they wouldn’t picket Planned Parenthood. Several pro-Israel groups have said that they were singled out by the IRS for audits after clashing with the administration over its policy on settlements.
Then there’s the story of Catherine Engelbrecht.
Catherine says that after applying for tax-exempt status for a voter-integrity group called True the Vote, she and her husband were visited by the FBI, the ATF, OSHA, and an affiliate of the EPA. When all was said and done, OSHA told the Engelbrecht’s they had to cough up $25,000 in fines. The EPA affiliate demanded they spend $42,000 on new sheds. And three years after applying for tax-exempt status, True the Vote is still awaiting approval.
The list of stories like these goes on and on. And so now we have an administration that’s desperately trying to prove that nobody at the top was involved in any of this stuff, even as they hope that the media loses interest in this scandal and moves on.
But we can’t move on.