Fox News Revives Anti-Gay Group’s IRS Conspiracy Theory
June 16, 2014 11:48 am ET by Luke Brinker
Fox News provided the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) a forum to peddle its baseless theory that the IRS intentionally leaked its donor list - ignoring that a Reagan-appointed federal judge has dismissed that theory as having "no evidence."
In 2012, a low-level IRS official inadvertently leaked an unredacted list of NOM's donors in response to a public records request. When the list ended up in the hands of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a pro-marriage equality group, NOM alleged that the Obama administration had colluded with the HRC to embarrass NOM and its donors. Investigations by the acting commissioner of the IRS and Treasury Department Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George turned up no evidence that that was the case, and even NOM co-founder Maggie Gallagher conceded that the leak was the mistake of a "low-level employee."
Still, NOM sued the IRS for punitive damages. On June 3, Reagan-appointed U.S. District Court Judge James C. Cacheris smacked down NOM's conspiracy theory, calling it "unconvincing" and "unpersuasive," and writing that NOM had "failed to produce a shred of proof." However, Cacheris allowed NOM's claim for legal fees and any proven damages from the unintentional leak to proceed - which was enough for NOM to claim victory despite the humiliating blow Cacheris dealt to its central claims.
On the June 15 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ, host Shannon Bream interviewed NOM chairman John Eastman about the group's effort to win those damages. Bizarrely, neither Bream nor Eastman noted Cacheris' ruling, without which NOM's claim wouldn't be proceeding. But Bream did allow Eastman to inveigh against the IRS for leaking NOM's tax documents "to a gay and lesbian activist" - making no mention of the fact that that leak has repeatedly been found to have been unintentional:
Rather than holding Eastman accountable for his group’s sensationalist claims, Bream gave him a forum to push NOM’s IRS horror stories and asked him to weigh in on the unrelated inquiry into the IRS’ scrutiny of political nonprofits’ tax-exempt status. The interview was a case study in Fox News’ conspiracy-mongering.
It’s far from surprising that Bream used the interview to tout NOM’s claims and completely ignored the uncomfortable fact that NOM’s cries of political persecution have been thoroughly debunked. Bream is a consistent champion for anti-equality causes on Fox, using her platform at the network to cheer on anti-LGBT business discrimination and offer anti-gay hate groups a friendly forum to spout their talking points.
As NOM grapples with financial woes and pro-equality victories in state after state, the group appears increasingly desperate to appear relevant and successful – and Fox appears perfectly content to carry NOM’s water.