Saying she does not want to detract from students’ graduation experience, the scandal-plagued IRS official at the heart of a controversy over the agency’s targeting of conservative groups has backed out of her commitment to speak at her alma mater’s commencement ceremony.
Lois Lerner – director for the IRS Exempt Organization Division – was slated to deliver Western New England University School of Law’s commencement address Saturday, and be given the university’s President’s Medallion – which honors “those who have distinguished themselves in a particular field or in service to an important cause that has benefited society,” the school’s website states.
But in a statement by a university official Wednesday, they said Lerner – who graduated from the law school in 1978 – will no longer attend.
“Western New England University has been notified that Lois Lerner, director for the IRS Exempt Organization Division, has chosen to withdraw as guest speaker for the School of Law’s Commencement ceremony this Saturday, May 18,” Barbara Moffat, vice president for marketing at the university, told MassLive.com on Wednesday. “In her notification to the university, Ms. Lerner cited her wish to have the ceremony focus on a celebration of the achievements of the graduates.”
University officials have said they invited her to speak long before news of the scandal broke. Nevertheless, as recently as Tuesday, they stood by their invitation after the facts in the case became widely known.
“Our plans have not changed at this time,” David Stawasz, a spokesperson for the university, said in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation on Tuesday. “Ms. Lerner has apologized for the actions of certain IRS employees. We are aware of the circumstances, but our plans have not changed.”
It remains to be seen when and if Lerner will still be bestowed with the school’s President’s Medallion, however. Her actions have prompted some conservatives to dispute whether she deserves it.
Michelle Malkin on Wednesday provided on her website an email from one her sources who had emailed the university and received this response: “Lois Lerner was chosen several months ago to deliver the commencement address … We reviewed the matter following her apology on Friday for the inappropriate actions of certain agents within the exempt organizations division of the IRS. Our plans for commencement have not changed.”
To which Malkin pointed out: “Maybe they should read the IRS Inspector General’s report before Saturday. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
In the wake of revelations that her division zeroed in on and gave extra scrutiny to groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names, Lerner, 62, has been thrust into the national spotlight, dubbed by some as the “face of the IRS scandal.”
Lerner knew of the inappropriate focus in her division on conservative groups since June 2011. She recently apologized publicly, but won’t comment on whether IRS employees will be disciplined, and denied any political bias was involved in the effort.
Revelations on the ongoing IRS scandal reveal Lerner’s division demanded much of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, including information “under penalties of perjury” on donor lists, names of family members and spouses, and whether people affiliated with the groups were planning to run for office.