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Woodward: IRS scandal 'a big mess' but ‘not yet’ Watergate

Bob Woodward on Friday said the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups had “not yet” risen to the level of Watergate.

“It’s a big mess, obviously,” Woodward said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “I know there have been these comparisons to Watergate. I would say not yet.”

The Washington Post reporter who pursued Watergate did compare the Benghazi controversy to the story that marked his career.

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Woodward said the scrubbing of administration talking points in the days after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, reminded him of Watergate.

“I have it to go back 40 years to Watergate when Nixon put out his edited transcripts of the conversations and he personally went through them and said, ‘let’s not tell this, let’s not show this,’ ” Woodward said. “I would not dismiss Benghazi. It’s a very serious issue. As people keep saying, four people were killed.”

Woodward said the federal government’s talking points as a whole should be done away with.

“Talking points, as we know, are like legal briefs. They’re an argument on one side. We need to get rid of talking points and they need to put out statements or papers that are truth documents.”

The Obama administration over the last two days has tried to get out front of a series of controversies that threaten to sink Obama’s second term.

The White House has released new emails on the internal Benghazi discussions, and Obama demanded the resignation of the acting head of the IRS. On Thursday, he appointed a longtime budget official to serving as the new acting commissioner.

Some Republicans have compared Obama and his administration to President Nixon, who resigned over Watergate.

So far, there has been no evidence that Obama knew about the IRS controversy before it became public a week ago. Obama on Thursday said he only learned about it from news reports.

Woodward has clashed on numerous occasions with the White House over the last year. His book, The Price of Politics, painted an unflattering portrait of Obama’s leadership during the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations.

And late last year, Woodward insinuated that a “very senior person” at the White House had threatened him over his criticism of Obama’s handling of the sequester. The email was later revealed to be a benign correspondence with White House economic adviser Gene Sperling, and Woodward later walked the allegations back.