Speaking at a news conference at the White House on Monday, President Obama addressed the topic of the IRS targeting and auditing conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Thank you, Mr. President. I wanted to ask about the IRS and Benghazi. When did you first learn that the IRS was targeting conservative political groups? Do you feel that the IRS has betrayed the publicâ€™s trust? And what do you think the repercussions for these actions should be? And on Benghazi, newly public emails show that the White House and the State Department appear to have been more closely involved with the crafting of the talking points on the attack than first acknowledged. Do you think the White House misled the public about its role in shaping the talking points? And do you stand by your administrationâ€™s assertions that the talking points were not purposely changed to downplay the prospects of terrorism? And, Prime Minister Cameron, on Syria, if the EU arms embargo that you mentioned is amended or lapses, is it your intention to send the Syrian opposition forces weapons? And are you encouraging President Obama to take the same step? Thank you.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me take the IRS situation first. I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this. I think it was on Friday. And this is pretty straightforward.
If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that had been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that's outrageous and there's no place for it. And they have to be held fully accountable, because the IRS as an independent agency requires absolute integrity, and people have to have confidence that they're applying it in a non-partisan way -- applying the laws in a non-partisan way.
And you should feel that way regardless of party. I don't care whether you're a Democrat, independent or a Republican. At some point, there are going to be Republican administrations. At some point, there are going to be Democratic ones. Either way, you don't want the IRS ever being perceived to be biased and anything less than neutral in terms of how they operate. So this is something that I think people are properly concerned about.
The IG is conducting its investigation. And I am not going to comment on their specific findings prematurely, but I can tell you that if you've got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and non-partisan way, then that is outrageous, it is contrary to our traditions. And people have to be held accountable, and it's got to be fixed. So we'll wait and see what exactly all the details and the facts are. But I've got no patience with it. I will not tolerate it. And we will make sure that we find out exactly what happened on this.