President Obama, in an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, tried to put behind him the scandals that have hung over his second term, suggesting his administration did not mislead the public on the Benghazi attack and going so far as to say the IRS targeting scandal had “not even a smidgen of corruption.”
Obama addressed concerns over Benghazi, the launch of HealthCare.gov and the IRS, during the interview Sunday before the Super Bowl. He adamantly rejected the suggestion that the IRS was used for political purposes by singling out Tea Party groups seeking tax exemption.
“That’s not what happened,” he said. Rather, he said, IRS officials were confused about how to implement the law governing those kinds of tax-exempt groups.
“There were some bone-headed decisions,” Obama conceded.
But when asked whether corruption, or mass corruption, was at play, he responded: “Not even mass corruption -- not even a smidgen of corruption.”
He acknowledged that then-IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman had been to the White House more than 100 times but said he couldn’t recall speaking to him on any of those occasions.
Obama also downplayed the controversy over how the Sept. 11, 2012, Benghazi attacks were described by the administration.
He said he considers any such strike an act of terror and that he was told by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the time only that it was an “attack” -- and that the more important issue is whether security lapses have now been fixed.
“All of the security precautions that needed to be taken didn’t happen,” the president said. “The key is that we’ve implemented the reforms that have been recommended.”
He also said his administration didn't try to “hide the ball” regarding the attacks, in which four Americans were killed including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
“We revealed to the American people exactly what we understood at the time,” the president said.
Obama also claimed that the attackers were made up of a mix of people, some affiliated with terror organizations and others who were just “troublemakers.” A recent report from the Senate Intelligence Committee, though, definitively declared that individuals tied to Al Qaeda groups were involved.
On the rocky launch of the health care exchange system, Obama said he anticipated problems with the rollout of ObamaCare in October, particularly with the HealthCare.gov website because computer programs have glitches.
“But neither I nor anybody else anticipated the degree of problems with HealthCare.gov,” he said.
The president argued that total enrollment is now just about a month behind schedule and that young people, key to making ObamaCare work, are enrolling at a good rate.
He would not answer when asked repeatedly why he kept Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the job.
“I try to focus not on the fumbles but on the next play,” he said.