The IRS acted in an "intolerable and inexcusable" manner in singling out conservative advocacy groups for extra scrutiny, President Barack Obama said Tuesday evening in a statement about the emerging controversy.
Amid an uproar in Washington over revelations that IRS agents targeted conservative and Tea Party groups as part of their oversight of a new crop of political groups established as tax-exempt groups in recent years, the president roundly criticized IRS employees to subjected those groups to additional scrutiny.
"[T]he report’s findings are intolerable and inexcusable," Obama said in a statement. "The IRS must apply the law in a fair and impartial way, and its employees must act with utmost integrity. This report shows that some of its employees failed that test."
The president had criticized the report during a press conference on Monday, before the publication this evening of an inspector general's report detailing the additional scrutiny of conservative groups. The report pointed to incompetence and poor management for the persistent scrutiny of conservative groups. The IRS also argued that the behavior was relatively isolated, and did not come at the direction of any outside official.
Nonetheless, the IRS controversy has prompted a major uproar among conservatives in Washington, who have openly suggested the Obama administration had deliberately targeted political enemies. Some Republicans have likened Obama to President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal.
The controversy comes at an inopportune time, too, for the White House, which has struggled at times to address other imbroglios regarding its response to the terrorist attack last year in Benghazi, Libya, as well as new reports that the Department of Justice surreptitiously monitored the phone records of Associated Press journalists.
Of the IRS uproar, Obama said he had directed Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to "hold those responsible for these failures accountable," and implement the recommendations of the inspector general report.
"[R]egardless of how this conduct was allowed to take place, the bottom line is, it was wrong," Obama said. "I expect everyone who serves in the federal government to hold themselves to the highest ethical and moral standards. So do the American people. And as president, I intend to make sure our public servants live up to those standards every day."