Lawrence O’Donnell lashes out at GOP congressman, declaring him a ‘tax criminal’ on air

Jeff Poor Media Reporter
Font Size:

Perhaps it would be wise for MSNBC “The Last Word” host Lawrence O’Donnell to proceed carefully before trying to fill his former colleague Keith Olbermann’s void by declaring someone a “criminal” in his journalistic position, especially as the guidelines of such declarations suggest a higher standard than what is alleged by a left-wing group’s website.

On his Wednesday evening broadcast, O’Donnell went on something of a rampage against Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz for using his office as a place to sleep while he is in Washington, D.C. for congressional business. Throughout his segment, O’Donnell accused Chaffetz of illegal activity and called him a tax criminal.

Partial transcript as follows:

O’DONNELL: Now, you’re living in your office. You’ve been living in your office for two years now in the House of Representatives?
CHAFFETZ: No, I live in Alpine, Utah. That’s where my home is.
O’DONNELL: That’s your answer on your tax return, right? because have you filed on your 2009 tax return, have you filed the equivalent income you have in effect received by illegally living for free in a federal building?
CHAFFETZ: I reject the whole premise of what you’re saying there. I live in Alpine, Utah. That’s my home. I work here in Washington.


O’Donnell made several other accusations of “illegal” activity throughout the exchange, including declaring Chaffetz a “tax criminal” for not declaring his “savings” as income:

  • “Congressman, you have seized, you have illegally seized from the federal taxpayer a personal income benefit that saves you the rent money that you would pay in Washington like all of your fellow congressmen who are responsible, who pay rent in Washington. How much money do you save by not paying rent in Washington? Would you say you save $20,000 a year off your $175,000 salary?”
  • “Do you declare that savings as income as you are legally obliged to do or are you sleeping in your office as a tax criminal?”
  • “You are deriving additional personal income of your $174,000 of House income you get to save more of it because you sleep in the office. Have you declared that additional income benefit on your tax return with a dollar figure?”
  • “[Y]ou cannot afford on $174,000 a way to live in Washington legally without becoming a tax criminal in the process?”
  • “You’re trying to make the most money you can from the House of Representatives by sleeping on your sofa and not declaring the additional in effect income benefit you get from it.”

O’Donnell then proceeded to accuse other members of the House of Representatives who also use their office as temporary sleeping quarters of criminal activity:

O’DONNELL: Do you think fellow House members that pay their rent in Washington are more responsible about this than you are?
CHAFFETZ: They have to make choices for themselves. I am one of dozens that do what i do, and on both sides of the aisle. We’re just trying to be frugal.
O’DONNELL: You haven’t checked with your colleagues to see whether they have filed the benefit on their tax return?
CHAFFETZ: No, it is none of my business.
O’DONNELL: As far as you know, the rest of them are tax criminals, too?
CHAFFETZ: No, no, that’s ridiculous.
O’DONNELL: All right, Congressman Jason Chaffetz – get straight with the IRS, Republican of Utah. Thank you very much for joining us.