On Wednesday’s “America Live,” Washington Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott defended his position on the tax-exempt status of conservative groups under intense questioning from Fox News host Megyn Kelly.
McDermott charged that his critics were selectively listening to his remarks during Tuesday’s committee hearing when they suggested he didn’t see the Internal Revenue Service actions as out of line.
“Anybody who would make that criticism didn’t listen to my whole speech,” McDermott said. “I spent five minutes talking, and you are talking about one line. The fact was, I said five times that the questions that they were asked were egregious. They were out of bounds and shouldn’t have been asked. And I said that over and over again clearly. But what I was trying to do was to say this process of asking for a tax exemption is one that once you ask for one, you open yourself up to being questioned. And I think that we want the questions to be on both sides. The only group that lost, that was told they couldn’t have an exemption a liberal group called Merge America.”
But then Kelly and McDermott had a back-and-forth over whether or not slow-walking tactics by the IRS was an impediment for some groups. McDermott argued there was no proof that it was, despite claims from Kevin Kookogey of a group called Lynchpins for Liberty.
MCDERMOTT: Ms. Kelly, they can still operate. They can still collect money. They can still put out advertisements. They can use their First Amendment right. Nobody in the IRS stopped them from doing that.
KELLY: But Congressman McDermott, that ignores the reality of the testimony you heard. [Kevin] Kookogey talked about how they lost a $30,000 donation because a lot of people don’t want to donate to groups that haven’t received that stamp of approval in officially becoming a 501(c)(4).
MCDERMOTT: That was not under testimony or under oath.
KELLY: You reject it?
MCDERMOTT: He didn’t offer any proof. He didn’t offer any proof.
KELLY: He was lying, is this your answer to that?
MCDERMOTT: No, no. Wait a minute. Ms. Kelly, you are putting words in my mouth.
KELLY: I am not. I am asking you.
MCDERMOTT: You are putting words in my mouth. Stop it.
KELLY: I’m not, sir. I am asking you whether you are rejecting that testimonial as not true.
MCDERMOTT: I am saying people can say anything and they do say in testimony before committees.
McDermott explained his skepticism to Kelly and insisted it would take more proof to convince him.
“The fact is that we don’t know that to be true. If he would bring us evidence in and show it to us, we would be glad to see that, that somebody said, ‘I offered you $30,000 and because you don’t have a tax-exempt status, I’m not going to give it to you,'” McDermott said. “If he had a letter or something like that, then we would have something to talk about. But when you’re just listening to people tell you stuff — people tell us in Congress things all of the time, and the IRS hears people say all of the time, and they ask more questions and ask for documentation and that’s the nature. This is not an honor system for giving tax exemption. When Merge America, a progressive organization who was training Democratic woman to run for office, when they asked the IRS for questions, they said, ‘No, that’s political.’ That’s the way it should be.”