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He also pushed back against reports that former IRS Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman had visited the White House 118 times in 2011 and when asked whether he discussed any type of targeting by the IRS with anyone during those meetings, he said, “Not to my memory.”

“I certainly have no information that … would contradict that,” he said.

The embattled presidential spokesman was treading carefully. He had just told the press corps that he’s likely to make more mistakes in fact and chronology on stories, explaining that he was not trying to be duplicitous but he doesn’t always get all the information or anticipate all questions in his rush to respond as quickly as the news cycle demands.

“The approach we take is we get the information to you that we have as soon as we can, and we try to get that information to you as quickly as possible and as comprehensively as possible,” he said. “Now, quickly and comprehensively are not objectives that we always meet.”

To reporters who asked about details of the Benghazi attacks and the complaints about the improper targeting of conservative groups early on, the assertion rung hollow.

But Mr. Carney may be turning over a new leaf. His 48th birthday was Wednesday. Or he may just be trying to hang onto his job.

Either way, he struck a far more humble and amiable tone Wednesday, at one point acknowledging that there have been “some legitimate criticisms about how we’re handling this,” adding “I say legitimate, because I mean it.”

“It’s part of our democracy, and it’s a great part of our democracy,” he said, as if to welcome more vigorous debate from a press corps that is often criticized for being too conciliatory.