AP Scandal: Why Haven't Republicans Decried It Like Benghazi Or the IRS?

This week has been a political goldmine for the Republican Party, one of the best they have had since President Barack Obama was sworn in for his second term after getting re-elected in 2012. Three events that bear the coveted word of "scandal" have come into the news cycle against the Obama administration. Republicans have already jumped on the IRS and Benghazi scandals, but are they giving the same enthusiasm to the AP scandal?

The reality is that while some Republicans have slammed the Obama administration hard over the AP scandal, others have taken a much more nuanced view compared to their reactions to the IRS and Benghazi scandals.

In the Senate, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) was much more muted when asked about the AP scandal. He told the press, "I want to see the details — what was their rationale, why did they do it — before offering an opinion."

Earlier in the week, McCain accused the Obama administration of "a cover-up" over the Benghazi attack. He said on Sunday, "I would call it a cover-up in the extent that there was willful removal of information, which was obvious. It was obvious."

Senator John Coryn (R-Texas) was similarly muted in his criticism. He said on Monday, "The problem is, we have so many things happening now that cause people to question the motivation and the actions of the executive branch that it’s easy to sort of jump to conclusions that this was wrong. I’m not yet convinced about that." 

Coryn and McCain were among the senators most outraged about an earlier event last year after a series of leaks in the Obama administration; both Coryn and McCain pressed Attorney General Eric Holder. Coryn called for Holder’s resignation for not investigating the leaks hard enough.

McCain was highly concerned over the leaks as well. On the floor of the Senate, he said, “Over the past few months, there’s been a disturbing stream of articles in the media. In common among them is that they cite leaked classified or highly sensitive information […]”

Last year, 31 Republican senators, including McCain and Coryn, signed a letter that called for Holder to appoint a special counsel to specifically investigate national security leaks, which is exactly what the Department of Justice claims they were doing when the AP scandal broke.

In Tuesday's Republican Leadership press conference, House Majority Leader John Boehner mentioned both Benghazi and the IRS scandals but did not mention the AP scandal.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell responded to a question about the AP scandal with, "I can only speak for myself, but it strikes me this Justice Department inquiry will go forward and we’ll look forward to seeing what comes of it."

Freshman Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), an avowed foe of the administration, has said the IRS scandal "harkens back to the days of Nixon." But on the AP scandal he was much more muted, saying that while the investigation "cast a very wide net," senators "should await the facts of the specific predicate for that investigation."

To be fair, several Republicans in Congress have expressed their concern over the AP scandal. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor mentioned it in Tuesday’s Republican Leadership Press Conference. And Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus had the strongest comments about the AP scandal, calling for Holder to resign over it.

"Attorney General Eric Holder, in permitting the Justice Department to issue secret subpoenas to spy on Associated Press reporters, has trampled on the First Amendment and failed in his sworn duty to uphold the Constitution. If President Obama does not [make him resign], the message will be unmistakable: The president of the United States believes his administration is above the Constitution and does not respect the role of a free press," he said.

Compared to the IRS and Benghazi scandals, the AP scandal seems to be less of a Republican rallying cry, at least so far. It will be interesting to see if the Republicans take up the AP scandal as a cause célèbre or simply name drop it as yet another in a series of scandals.

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Gabriel Rodriguez

Gabriel Rodriguez is currently studying for a Masters in Applied Economics at Georgetown. He is a graduate of New College of Florida with a degree in Economics. He is interested in econometrics, statistical analysis, behavioral economics, and developmental economics.

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