Non-denial denial

Yesterday, President Obama was asked the obvious question about the IRS scandal:

Can you assure the American people that nobody in the White House knew about the agency’s actions before your counsel’s office found out on April 22nd? And when they did find out, do you think that you should have learned about it before you learned about it from news reports, as you said last Friday?

His answer seems very carefully worded:

Let me make sure that I answer your specific question. I can assure you that I certainly did not know anything about the IG report before the IG report had been leaked through the press.

(Emphasis mine.) But he didn’t answer the specific question. The specific question was when he knew about the agency’s misconduct, not when he knew about the investigation, which no one cares about. That careful wording seems significant.

POSTSCRIPT: Obviously he wants people to think that he denied any knowledge, though, and the New York Times is happy to play its part, ending its quotation just before the key wording, and filling it in inaccurately:

President Obama said he “certainly did not know anything about” the targeting of conservative groups by the I.R.S. . .

(Previous post.)

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