CBS Reporter Mark Knoller Asks Jay Carney What Obama Means by Phony Scandals

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, July 31, 2013. (AP)

When asked Wednesday what President Obama means by “phony scandals,” White House press secretary Jay Carney cited the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups and the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.

“In his speech again yesterday, President Obama mentioned the ‘phony scandals’ that are part of an endless parade of distractions,” said CBS News’ Mark Knoller. “Can you tell us which phony scandals he’s talking about?”

“I think we all remember a few weeks ago when Washington was consumed with a variety of issues that, while in some cases significant, were, uh, there was an effort underway to turn them into ‘partisan’ scandals,” Carney said in response to Knoller. “I don’t think anybody here would doubt that.”

“What we’ve seen as time has passed and more facts have become known, whether it’s about the attacks in Benghazi and the talking points or revelations about the conduct at the IRS,” he continued (emphasis added), “attempts to turn this into a scandal have failed. And, you know, when it comes to the IRS, as I said the other morning, the president made very clear that he wants the new leadership there to take action to correct improper conduct and that is happening.”

“What some in Congress have failed to do, despite many attempts, is to provide any evidence, because there is none, that that activity was in any way known by or directed by the White House or was even partisan or political,” the White House press secretary added.

“That doesn’t excuse the conduct,” he continued, “it means we have to address poor performance as poor performance and reject efforts to turn it into yet another partisan political football.”

Knoller pushed Carney for clarification.

“You mentioned two [‘phony scandals’]: the IRS and Benghazi,” the CBS News reporter began.

“There was a period when there a was a lot more energy and focus was paid by some in Congress as well as in the media on issues that, while important, these are not of the highest priority to the American people and they were not scandals,” Carney concluded.

Watch the exchange below starting at the 38:22 mark:

President Obama first referred to “phony scandals” in a speech last week at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill.

“With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals” the president said, “Washington has taken its eye off the ball. And I am here to say this needs to stop.”

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