Today has been a tough day for IRS official Lois Lerner.
In addition to touching off a political firestorm by admitting some conservative groups with the names “tea party” or “patriots” were singled out by her agency, she also admitted that she’s not a math whiz.
“That would be a quarter of the 300 then, so we’re talking 75 or so?” asked Tom Costello of NBC news, in an attempt to clarify how many groups had been affected.
“That’s correct. Is that a quarter?” Lerner asked hesitantly. “I’m not good at math.”
“You’re with the IRS,” Costello noted.
“But I’m a lawyer, not an accountant, sorry!” said Lerner, who is the director of the tax-exempt division of the IRS.
Her mea culpa conference call today became a feeding ground for dozens of political reporters from ABC News to the New York Times, The Washington Post and Politico who peppered Lerner with questions about who knew about the problems and when.
Lerner, who falls somewhere near the bottom of the IRS’s leadership organizational chart, made an effort to field the questions. But the entire event seemed to indicate that the depth of this potentially explosive political story hadn’t fully sunk in.
When asked why she waited so long to apologize, Lerner said she just hadn’t been asked.
“You know, somebody asked me a question today, so I answered it,” she said. “I don’t believe anybody ever asked me that question before.”
Asked why her superiors weren’t notified sooner, the answer was similarly unsatisfactory.
“Because I didn’t know exactly what was going on. I was seeing the same things in the press that you were,” she said.
After initially saying that no one had been disciplined in connection to the kerfuffle, Lerner then said that she couldn’t talk about it with the media.
But with Congressional Republicans already asking for further investigation, it’s doubtful that not talking about it will remain an option.