Lois Lerner, director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), withdrew from her commitment to speak at the Western New England University Law School's upcoming commencement ceremony Wednesday.
Her decision was in light of her controversial admission that the IRS inappropriately targeted conservative political groups for additional scrutiny during the 2012 election, according to a university press release.
“Western New England University has been notified that Lois Lerner, director for the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, has chosen to withdraw as guest speaker for the School of Law’s Commencement ceremony this Saturday, May 18,” said Vice President Barbara A. Moffat in a statement to the university, according to the press release.
The university’s commencement ceremony will proceed as planned, without a keynote speaker, the release said. Lerner told the university that she decided to withdraw because she thought the ceremony's focus should be on the graduates and their accomplishments.
“As we’ve been watching the news unfold we’re not terribly surprised that this came about. It certainly was her decision at every moment to make,” Moffat said to New England outlet ABC40. “We were grateful actually that she was doing this out of concern for the students."
Lerner publicly apologized for the IRS’ unfair targeting of conservative groups on May 10. She said IRS agents singled out applications for tax-exempt status if they contained the words “tea party” or “patriot.” Those groups were then sent additional, lengthy questionnaires, according to the Associated Press.
As Lerner heads the IRS branch that handles tax-exempt groups, she has been at the center of the controversy.
On Thursday, a White House official said that President Barack Obama plans to appoint White House budget officer Daniel Werfel as acting IRS commissioner, the AP reports.