Ed Henry vs. Jay Carney on VA Scandal

Fox News reporter Ed Henry challenged White House spokesman Jay Carney on whether Democrats felt President Obama was providing enough attention to the VA scandal during Tuesday's briefing.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D., Ill.), a veteran who lost her legs in Iraq, told the Washington Post she was "pissed" about the scandal and wondered whether Obama was giving this matter the "personal attention" it deserved.

"We have a Democrat from the president's home state saying we haven't had his personal attention," Henry said. "How do you react to that?"

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"Well, I would simply say that the president has provided his personal attention," Carney said. "He's personally instructed that we provide additional resources to the VA."

Upon protestations from Henry that even a Democrat was calling out Obama on this issue, Carney again insisted the "personal attention" was there on the "allegations."

Henry also took exception to the White House continually calling what's been verified as happening in VA hospitals as mere "allegations."

"So four years ago they were — they were saying it's not just allegations but a top VA official had determined this was going on and they had to immediately take care of it," Henry said. "So will you admit at least that it's not all allegations, that in fact some of this has happened?"

"Again, I have made clear that some of the allegations that emerged in these reports, including the most sensational ones, are under investigation and we'll wait to see the results of that," Carney said.

He added Obama wants the investigation to come to a "conclusion" and "produce results."

Full exchange:

ED HENRY: Jay, on the VA, Tammy Duckworth is, as you know, a wounded war veteran, served in the VA Department earlier in this administration, is a Democrat, and she said today to The Washington Post, it's hard, because Mrs. Obama has done so much, Mrs. Biden has done so much, and I see that as part of the president's push, on this overall issue. Then she went on to say, quote, "I think he's relied on Secretary Shinseki, but we could use his personal attention at this point." We have a Democrat from the president's home state saying we haven't had his personal attention. How do you react to that?

JAY CARNEY: Well, I would simply say that the president has provided his personal attention. He's personally instructed that we provide additional resources to the VA. He's personally overseen —

HENRY: (Inaudible.) Even Democrats are saying we need —

CARNEY: Well, I'm not sure that the quote you read is — backs up what you're saying, but the —

HENRY: We could use his personal attention.

CARNEY: And what I'm telling you is the personal attention is there. And as I just noted, his senior aide is going to Phoenix tomorrow evening as part of his assignment to assist Secretary Shinseki with that review, which reflects the president's focus and attention on this issue. And we share concerns that have been raised around some of the allegations that have surfaced in recent days, and that's why the president wants the secretary and the IG to conduct their inquiries completely and thoroughly and effectively and quickly so that we can get to the bottom of what happened, get the results of those inquiries and take action accordingly.

HENRY: You continue to call it allegations, and there are some. But on the other hand, that memo that Jim Acosta was mentioning before from 2010, an internal VA memo, said, quote: The purpose of the memorandum is to call for immediate action to review current scheduling practices to identify and eliminate all inappropriate practices. So four years ago they were — they were saying it's not just allegations but a top VA official had determined this was going on and they had to immediately take care of it. So will you admit at least that it's not all allegations, that in fact some of this has happened?

CARNEY: Well —

HENRY: The VA said it.

CARNEY: Again, I have made clear that some of the allegations that emerged in these reports, including the most sensational ones, are under investigation and we'll wait to see the results of that. I think it's an important place to start that no one in this building or anywhere else in the administration, including over at the VA, hold the position that all the challenges that the VA was confronting in 2008 and 2009 have been solved. Far from it. And that's why the president, as a candidate, spoke about the problems at the VA, spoke about the need to provide necessary resources to the VA —

HENRY: So why didn't you send Rob Nabors there in 2010, 2011?

CARNEY: Look, Ed, this is under investigation and the president wants results.

(Cross talk.)

HENRY: — said it was going on four years ago.

CARNEY: You're talking about an internal VA memo. I would refer you to the VA.

(Cross talk.)

HENRY: — anyone over here?

CARNEY: I would refer you to the VA about their internal memos. What I can say is that the president insists that these investigations go forward and that they come to a conclusion and produce results so that we can evaluate what happened and what action needs to be taken. And I would point to all of those who have, as the president does, a concern about our veterans and the need to provide them the services and benefits that they deserve to the effort that we have taken and that Congress has responded to in providing the additional funding over and above what was provided in the previous administration, substantial increases year by year, and to the steps that, under Secretary Shinseki's leadership and the president's leadership, that have been taken to expand the benefits provided to our veterans, expand significantly the number of veterans who are availing themselves of benefits through the — through disability claims and through the Veterans Health Administration, and to say simply that more work needs to be done, and that is absolutely the president's focus.