When Republicans criticize the Internal Revenue Service for targeting conservative groups, they are using coded language to call President Barack Obama a n*****, MSNBC host Martin Bashir argued Wednesday.
"Despite the complete lack of any evidence linking the president to the targeting of Tea Party groups, Republicans are using it as their latest weapon in the war against the black man in the White House," Bashir began.
Bashir then played a clip of four Republicans – Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Rep. Paul Ryan (Wisc.), Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) – criticizing the IRS for the targeting of conservative groups from 2010 through 2012. To support his contention that those Republicans were being racist, he quoted an infamous 1981 interview with Republican strategist Lee Atwater in which he explained his party's "southern strategy."
"You start out in 1954 by saying, 'n*****, n*****, n*****." By 1968 you can't say "n*****" – that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights, and all that stuff, and you're getting so abstract. Now, you're talking about cutting taxes, .… 'We want to cut this,' is much more abstract than even the busing thing and a hell of a lot more abstract than "n*****, n*****," the late Atwater said at the time.
After reading Atwater's quote, Bashir said, "so this afternoon, we welcome the latest phrase in Republican attacks on this president – the IRS. Three letters that sound so innocent, but we know what you mean."
In the clips played by Bashir, only Bachmann suggested that the IRS targeting of conservative groups was directed by the White House. Indeed, the clip of McConnell that Bashir used showed McConnell explicitly saying that there is not enough known about the situation to say it was directed by the White House.
Bashir also neglects to mention that the IRS has been roundly criticized by Democrats and liberals as well, including Obama himself.
"I've reviewed the Treasury Department watchdog's report, and the misconduct that it uncovered is inexcusable," Obama said in a press conference last month. "It's inexcusable, and Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it. I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but especially in the IRS, given the power that it has and the reach that it has into all of our lives. And as I said earlier, it should not matter what political stripe you're from – the fact of the matter is, is that the IRS has to operate with absolute integrity. The government generally has to conduct itself in a way that is true to the public trust. That's especially true for the IRS."
Obama then promised to hold the responsible parties accountable.