White House press secretary Jay Carney on Monday sought to cool his feud with House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), saying he wasn't interested in “a back and forth” with the GOP congressman.
Asked about Issa’s swipe during a CNN interview on Sunday that Carney is a “paid liar,” Carney broke into a smile and quipped, “I haven't heard that. That's amazing.
In the CNN interview, Issa charged that Carney had deliberately insinuated that the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups asking for tax-exempt status was contained to only the agency's office in Cincinnati.
“As late as last week, the administration was still trying to say there was a few rogue agents from Cincinnati, when in fact the indication is they were directly being ordered from Washington,” Issa said.
Carney said Monday that he was simply recounting what the initial government report on the IRS targeting had found.
“Those are the findings of the audit of the independent inspector general, correct?” Carney said.
Issa's remarks earned some disapproval from his Republican colleagues, with Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) telling radio host Brian Kilmeade it "never helps" to engage in name-calling.
“Let's not make it personal. Jay Carney is not the issue here. He's the spokesman for the White House,” Graham said.
Carney was also asked about former White House officials who had jumped to his defense. Former press secretary Robert Gibbs told MSNBC on Monday that Issa owed Carney an apology, and former senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer mocked unproven allegations that Issa had stolen a car and committed arson in a tweet.
“I appreciate those who have spoken in my defense, but I would say I am not interested in having a back and forth,” Carney repeated.
The press secretary went on to emphasize that the White House believes Congress should play a role in investigating the Internal Revenue Service's misdeeds.
“We believe there is an important role to be played by Congress through legitimate oversight,” Carney said.
The press secretary was also pressed on reports that a new inspector general's report would show the IRS spent some $50 million in taxpayer money over the past three years.
Carney said the White House had already moved to limit high-dollar conferences, noting an 80 percent decline in IRS conference spending. He said large-scale IRS meetings had not taken place since 2010.
The administration “must take their role as stewards of the taxpayer dollar seriously,” Carney said.