Cincinnati FOX affiliate WXIX found itself with a front row seat on a national story after it was revealed the IRS had been targeting conservative political groups. After all, one of the IRS offices at the center of the controversy was in Cincinnati, making it a local story.
Kevin Roach, WXIX news director, told TVSpy, “We made a concerted effort to start unpeeling the onion on this local IRS story. I put a team together lead by [an] executive producer, it included three reporters and an anchor working full time on it. We were determined each day to try to break something else new with this story.”
The WXIX news director, who started in February, said his team went through “dozens and dozens of documents” and had “many conversations with several Cincinnati based IRS workers” to flesh out the story.
The national media noticed. Roach said he’s not sure how many outlets picked up his station’s reporting. “I do know Fox News Channel, CNN, Drudge (twice) and The Hill have reported our findings. As you would expect on a story like this one, The Blaze, Brietbart and the Washington Examiner reported our coverage; but so did a whole lot of local TV stations around the country.”
TVSpy asked if FOX News Channel, which is owned by NewsCorp., exerted any influence on the Raycom owned station. Roach told TVSpy it wasn’t an issue. “Our reporting was attractive to them for obvious reasons. If liberal groups were targeted, and we did look into that we would have covered it with the same aggressiveness,” said Roach. “We are committed to providing news which is balanced and that means covering all sides in a truthful, transparent and complete way,” he added.
Roach also said WXIX was not going to let the story drop anytime soon, “We are aggressively covering it because it is a big local story with big national implications.”
WXIX has a pretty slick looking timeline documenting how the story unfolded. Click here to view.
Roach sent TVSpy a timeline of his station’s coverage of the IRS story.
-Lois Lerner, the head of the IRS Tax Exempt Division in Washington D.C. answers a planted question about allegations the IRS has gone too far in scrutinizing conservative groups asking for 501C4 status. Lerner admits that her office unfairly targeted conservative groups.
-An inspector general’s audit is released, alleging that workers in the Cincinnati IRS office unfairly targeted at least 298 conservative groups applying for 501C4 status.
-A WXIX reveals that the audit has been released, and conservative groups, including tea party groups in Ohio, have been targeted.
MAY 15TH: Major developments break on this day.
-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller announces that 2 “rogue” Cincinnati workers are to blame.
-President Obama holds a news conference, announcing that Miller is forced to retire.
-WXIX does story on a Liberty Township (Ohio) Tea Party that was targeted.
-Late that night WXIX reports that at least 4 Cincinnati IRS workers are involved in the targeting, and that they said they were “doing what they were told to do.”
-WXIX reveals the names of the four workers we eluded to the night before, and has reaction and documents from conservative groups that each of them allegedly targeted. We knock on doors, trying to talk with them.
-WXIX reveals 5 IRS workers who have been subpoenaed to appear in Washington, D.C. to answer questions about what they knew.
-WXIX investigates campaign donations and discovers 67% of the federal campaign donations made by IRS employees in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky since 1990 have gone to Democrats.
-A house committee hearing is held in Washington, D.C. where now former acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller is grilled about what he knew about the targeting.
-WXIX reveals the name of a 5th Cincinnati IRS worker who targeted a conservative group. We provide documentation and reaction from the group targeted.
-Ben Swann appears on Fox News Channel Greta Van Susteren show reporting on pieces of stories we broke.
-WXIX reveals the name of a 6th Cincinnati IRS worker who targeted a conservative group. We provide documentation and reaction from the group targeted.
-WXIX camps out outside the local IRS office, and talks with workers off camera, to get a feel for what the office is like. We hear worries about sequester furloughs.
-WXIX does an exclusive on camera interview with Bonnie Esrig, a recently retired Cincinnati IRS worker who at one time worked in the exempt division under the microscope. Esrig has 38 years of IRS experience. She explained local staffers are overworked and they were just following orders from Washington DC.
MAY 21ST: A major development in WXIX’S reporting.
-WXIX reveals the name of the woman who heads up the Cincinnati IRS office, Cindy Thomas. Up until this point, Cindy Thomas’ name has not come up in any testimony or reports.
-The Senate Budget and Finance Committee holds a hearing, where Steven Miller and Former IRS Commissioner Douglas Schulman are grilled about what they knew.
-The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a hearing. Lois Lerner the head of the IRS Tax Exempt Division in Washington, D.C. and the woman who essentially oversees the Cincinnati IRS office, pleads the 5th amendment, after making an opening statement in which she says she did nothing wrong.
-Holly Paz’s name is revealed in testimony. Paz is one person underneath Lerner and works in Washington D.C. Paz’s name comes up in testimony 6 days after WXIX revealed that she was one of the 5 IRS workers subpoenaed to Washington to be interviews.
-WXIX reveals the name of a 7th Cincinnati IRS worker who targeted a conservative group. We provide documentation and reaction from the group targeted.
-Lois Lerner is replaced as head of the IRS tax exempt division.
-The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee announces it will call Lerner back to Washington to testify.
-A WXIX reveals the relationship between Lois Lerner and Cindy Thomas, the head of the Cincinnati IRS office.
-Ben Swann appears on Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity show, to talk about WXIX’S breaking of the name Cindy Thomas.
-WXIX talks exclusively with one of the 7 workers WXIX has identified in its reports, to gather insight about what went on in the Cincinnati office. She explains how her world has been turned upside down. She says the Cincinnati workers we following orders from Washington, DC and these orders were constantly changing.
-WXIX sends links of its stories to various Congressmen and women, to find out if they even know of the name Cindy Thomas, since Thomas’ name hasn’t come up in testimony. WXIX is immediately contacted by three offices who want to know more.
-Tea Party groups from all over the state of Ohio who were targeted come together for a town hall gathering in Delhi, along with local U.S. Congressman, Rep. Steve Chabot (R), Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R) and U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), to discuss their issues with the IRS, and next steps, which include lawsuits.
-In an interview with WXIX, Wenstrup a reveals the House Ways and Means Committee confirms is now looking into Cindy Thomas after our reports
– Ben Swann appears on Fox News Channel Megyn Kelly show, updating our investigation. We report the promotion of an IRS worker from the exempt organizations group involved in targeting conservative groups.