Nightly News   |  May 17, 2013

Ousted IRS chief: ‘We provided horrible customer service’

IRS commissioner Steven Miller, who submitted his resignation earlier this week, faced lawmakers at a House hearing on the IRS targeting, insisting that he had not mislead Congress or the American people. NBC’s Lisa Myers reports.

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>>> switching our attention now to washington and a grilling today for the acting irs commissioner . he's leaving his job after the irs was discovered to be targeting conservative political groups looking for tax-free status. he told the house committee the targeting was not based on politics, but not many people in the room were having any of it. lisa myers with us tonight from our washington newsroom. good evening.

>> reporter: brian, good evening. the hearing was contentious with the usual partisan showboating. the irs commissioner apologized for what he called foolish mistakes by people trying to appear more efficient. he didn't appear contrite and provided few answers. the house committee made steven miller testify under oath.

>> nothing but the truth so help you god.

>> i do.

>> reporter: claiming he and his agency misled congress in not revealing for the last year that tea party and other conservative groups applying for tax exempt status had been targeted for extra scrutiny.

>> why did you mislead congress and the american people on this?

>> mr. chairman, i did not mislead congress nor the american people . i answered the questions as they were asked.

>> who is responsible for targeting these groups?

>> i'm going to take exception to the concept of targeting. it's a loaded term.

>> reporter: miller said groups with tea party or patriot names were improperly singled out as a bureaucratic short cut not out of partisanship.

>> we provided horrible customer service here. i will admit that. we did. horrible -- but politically motivate sd a different question.

>> reporter: republicans didn't buy it.

>> if the targeting wasn't targeting. if the targeting wasn't based on philosophy, how come only conservatives got snagged?

>> they didn't, sir.

>> reporter: miller acknowledged the irs planted a question at a conference last week so a senior official could break the news could say conservative groups were singled out and apologize before telling congress. there was frustration with the irs from both parties.

>> this outrage is not democrat and republican.

>> we are all upset about this. i don't believe nor do my colleagues believe any organization, political organization should be targeted solely because of their thought. that's on both sides of the spectrum.

>> reporter: at times republicans became so agitated they wouldn't let miller answer the question.

>> do you not thing congress has a right to know the information you knew?

>> so, look --

>> mr. miller, does the committee -- mr. miller?

>> reporter: a continuing question, brian, is what did the obama administration know and when. today the inspector general said he told senior treasury officials last june he was conducting an investigation but didn't provide any details. he informed secretary jack lew.

>>> lee sarks thanks.