In March 2012, as conservative Groups complained of harassment by the IRS, the New York Times was ready with a judgment of the agency and its activity: “Taxpayers should be encouraged.”

Under the headline, “The IRS Does Its Job,” the editorial board of what is supposedly the nation’s most important practitioner of journalism – and by extension a leading symbol of free speech – decided to tell everyone to move along, that there was nothing to see here, and that the IRS “properly contends that it must ensure that these groups are ‘primarily’ engaged in social welfare, not political campaigning, to merit tax exemption under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code.”

It has now emerged, of course, that the IRS was not properly doing its job, and that conservatives, as they claimed at the time, were indeed being targeted. Even the White House is not offering a defense.

The New York Times is correct that the IRS must ensure that rules are being followed. But the outrage here is that the newspaper chose to completely ignore something far more important than whether someone is complying with 501(c)(4) regulations: that is, whether the government is targeting private individuals because of their political views.

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