Obama spokesperson shrugs off jibe

2013-06-03 22:21
Barack Obama

Barack Obama

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Washington - President Barack Obama's top spokesperson Monday shrugged off a Republican claim that he was a "paid liar" in the latest ill-tempered twist of a scandal enveloping US tax authorities.

"I hadn't heard that. That's amazing," White House press secretary Jay Carney said, professing to be unaware of a comment by House Oversight Committee chairperson Darrell Issa that grabbed headlines on Sunday.

"I'm not going to get into a back-and-forth with Chairman Issa," Carney told reporters.

Issa made the comment on CNN when he was discussing his clash with the White House over a probe into allegations that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) unfairly targeted conservative political groups for extra scrutiny.

Pointing to a picture of Carney in the television studio, Issa said the administration was insisting that the targeting of conservative groups was orchestrated in a rogue office in Ohio, rather than in Washington.

"The administration is still -- their paid liar, their spokesperson ... he's still making up things about what happens," Issa said.

In an appearance on MSNBC, Carney's predecessor as White House spokesperson, Robert Gibbs, meanwhile called on Issa to apologise, and accused Republicans of politicising the IRS drama and overplaying their hand.

Carney said the focus of the White House, which has yet to be directly tied to the scandal, was to find out inappropriate activity that took place and to hold those responsible accountable.

Obama had previously demanded the resignation of the interim head of the IRS and launched an investigation into the alleged unfair practices, as a string of congressional probes gather pace.

The beleaguered IRS was hit by a fresh embarrassing revelation as footage aired on television stations of employees at a taxpayer-funded conference in 2010 dancing to a song called "Cupid Shuffle" by R&B star Cupid.

The new IRS acting commissioner Danny Werfel said in a statement that wasteful spending at conferences was an "unfortunate vestige" from a previous era and would not take place now following administration reforms.

The White House says that reforms introduced after a furor surrounding another agency, the General Services Administration, cut the federal government's spending on travel by more than $1bn in fiscal year 2012.

A new spate of congressional hearings into the IRS affair are being teed up by Republicans, in a bid to get to the bottom of what happened, and also to politically pin down the Obama administration early in its second term.

The head of the IRS office that oversees non-profit groups, Lois Lerner, last month invoked her Fifth Amendment constitutional rights against self-incrimination at a hearing, citing accusations by lawmakers that she had earlier provided false testimony.

Read more on:    barack obama  |  jay carney  |  us  |  politics

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