White House press secretary Jay Carney, previewing a speech on the economy President Obama is to deliver Wednesday, said that Washington needs to focus on things important to the country and not "phony" or "pretend scandals."
The focus "shouldn't be on the skirmishes that cause gridlock; it shouldn't be on the phony scandals that have consumed so much attention here, all to come to naught," Mr. Carney said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe.
"It should be focused on what we can do to strengthen and grow the middle class, because when the middle class is thriving, when the middle class is growing, our economy is at its best and that's what we need to do as we move forward in the 21st century," he said.
Mr. Carney said that the issue with the IRS, which was discovered to have improperly scrutinized mainly conservative groups seeking nonprofit status, is important. But he argued that Republicans have inflated it into something it's not.
"I think what we've seen is inappropriate activity that the president forcefully came out and said he would not tolerate and that he installed somebody at the IRS to take care of," he said, accusing the GOP of selectively leaking "cherry-picked information" that only tells one side of the story.
"The president will not tolerate poor performance or inappropriate activity at any agency, and when he finds out about it, he acts on it," Mr. Carney continued. "But he's focused on the economy. ... He's not focused on pretend scandals that Republicans on Capitol Hill want to turn into partisan skirmishes."
After a somewhat testy exchange with host Joe Scarborough, who said, "I'm not someone you talk down to from your podium," Mr. Carney continued.
"The IG report and every bit of evidence that has come out since then makes clear that no one at the White House was involved at all or even knew what was happening — and that has not changed, Joe," he said.
"I accept the fact that we need to get to the bottom of what happened at the IRS, and we need to make sure that our government is performing in a way that Americans can be proud of, but we also need to focus on the economy. And what's frustrating, I think, for so many Americans, is that we're not here in Washington focused on the things that matter the most," Mr. Carney said.
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