His name is Faris Fink and, in real life, he's in charge of the Small Business and Self-Employed Division of the Internal Revenue Service. But to most Americans following the recent saga of the IRS, he's just "Mister Spock."
Fink played a starring role in a "Star Trek" parody video that was played at the beginning of a $4.1 million conference for IRS employees in Anaheim, Calif., in 2010. The parody, accompanied by another video showing IRS employees learning how to line dance, was released as part of an investigation into the agency's spending on conferences from 2010-2012. During that time, according to a Treasury inspector general report, the IRS spent $50 million on 225 conferences.
On Thursday, members of Congress questioned Fink and other agency officials about his decision to appear in the video and the IRS' judgment to produce it in the first place. The IRS has said the video was used for training.
California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, came right out with the question on everybody's mind.
"What were you thinking?" Issa asked Fink just seconds after he played clips of the video for all inside the committee room to see. "Were you thinking this will never be seen? Or were you thinking, 'How will this look when it is seen?'"
Sitting at the table below Issa and the other committee members, Fink, his ears smaller and his hair lighter than he appeared in the video, replied, unsurprisingly, that it was embarrassing for the public to see his portrayal of the universe's greatest half-Vulcan.
"Those videos, at the time they were made, were an attempt to, in a well-intentioned way, use humor," Fink told committee members. (None were laughing.) "It would not occur today, based on all the guidelines that exist and frankly, um, they were not appropriate at that time, either. Mr. Chairman, the fact of the matter is, it's embarrassing and I apologize."
Fink reiterated that "they are embarrassing. And I regret the fact that they were made."
As has been the case for many of the hearings in recent weeks that have examined the IRS' wrongdoing, the outrage over the agency behavior and spending of taxpayer dollars was bipartisan. Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, who at times appeared visibly angry during the proceedings, called the video "ridiculous."
"I swear to God, I have looked at that video over and over again and, I swear, I do not see the redeeming value," Cummings fumed while delivering his opening statement at the hearing. "I was up at 3 this morning watching it, because I was trying to get to the redeeming value. Couldn't get there. I worked hard at it now. However these facts do not lessen my anger at this ugly, wasteful spending."
Watch the video here:
- Darrell Issa
- Mister Spock
- Internal Revenue Service