White House Press Secretary Jay Carney wound up with egg on his face today as he told reporters that President Barack Obama first learned from a TV news report that his Veterans Administration was denying medical care to vets with secret off-the-books-waiting lists.
But new evidence emerged this morning that his transition team was notified five years ago about how VA medical centers’ official wait-list times bore little resemblance to reality and risked denying military heroes critical health care.
The Washington Times reported today that waiting times at veterans’ medical facilities were known to be wildly inaccurate at the end of the George W. Bush administration. By the time Obama’s transition team got a post-election briefing from the VA at the end of 2008, scheduling failures were already reaching a critical point.
The newspaper received a copy of that briefing through a Freedom Of Information Act request.
Obama has come under fire before for saying he was made aware of scandal-worthy shortcomings in his own administration by watching television, including the IRS tea party-targeting scandal that rocked Washington 12 months ago and the Operation Fast and Furious saga that has tainted his Justice Department for years.
A CNN reporter asked Carney on Monday when the president was ‘first made aware … of these fraudulent lists that were being kept to hide the wait times’ at VA medical centers.
‘You mean the specific allegations,’ Carney asked, ‘that I think were reported first by your news network out of Phoenix, I believe?’
‘We learned about them through the reports. I will double check if that is not the case. But that is when we learned about them and that is when I understand Secretary Shinseki learned about them, and he immediately took the action that he has taken.’
After the Operation Fast and Furious scandal broke, Obama responded to national outrage in an interview broadcast by CNN’s John King on October 12, 2011, similarly saying he was out of the loop until he turned on his television.
‘There have been problems, you know,’ the president said then. ‘I heard on the news about this story that – Fast and Furious, where allegedly guns were being run into Mexico, and ATF knew about it, but didn’t apprehend those who had sent [the guns].’
A few months into his presidency, Obama’s White House approved an unannounced New York City flyover by Air Force One, with a fighter jet following closely, in order to capture a photograph of the iconic plane over the Statue of Liberty.
Some buildings were evacuated and emergency phone lines were jammed as panicked New Yorkers feared a terror attack was imminent.
‘It was a mistake,’ the president said on April 28, 2009, the day after the flight. ‘It was something we found out about along with all of you. And it will not happen again.’
Last year on May 14, Carney told reporters that Obama had learned about his Department of Justice seizing two months’ worth of Associated Press journalists’ phone records ‘from news reports yesterday, on the road.’
‘We don’t have any independent knowledge of that,’ Carney insisted.
That punt came just one day after Obama himself told the Washington press corps during a joint press conference with UK Prime Minister David Cameron that he was in the dark – until it hit news reports – that the Internal Revenue Service had targeted conservative nonprofit groups for special inquisitions when they applied for tax-exempt status.
‘I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this,’ he said in the East Room of the White House on May 13, 2013. ‘I think it was on Friday. And this is pretty straightforward.’
‘I’ve got no patience with it,’ Obama said moments later. ‘I will not tolerate it. And we will make sure that we find out exactly what happened on this.’
Read more at The Daily Mail.