Darrell Issa Demands A Retraction From The NY Times


Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose House Oversight committee has overseen the aftermath of such horrors as the “Gun Walker” scandal, has demanded the retraction of a hit piece published by the New York Times.  He even wants them to retract the headline: “A Businessman in Congress Helps his District and Himself.” 

Issa’s office has cited 13 erroneous statements in the article.  Thus far, the Times has issued one “correction.”  You know how that works: front-page smear, corrections several days later on page A-37, sandwiched between ads for the Chevy Volt and help-wanted notices from federal regulatory agencies. 

 The formal request for retraction from Issa’s office wants the Times to do better than that:

On behalf of Rep. Darrell Issa, please accept this as a formal request for a full front page retraction, including the headline, “Helping His District, and Himself,” that ran in the Monday, August 15 edition of the New York Times.  The request for a full front page retraction is based on numerous errors that invalidate the primary assertions made in the story that is a false and sensationalized account Rep. Issa’s efforts to conduct congressional oversight of the Obama Administration and other matters.

This request is being sent after New York Times reporter, Eric Lichtblau, who wrote the story, refused to share the contact information of his editors for a discussion of errors in the story as requested by Rep. Issa’s congressional office. 

Among the “errors” in the Times story is the assertion that Issa gave Toyota sweetheart treatment during government hearings over their product recalls, because a company Issa founded, Directed Electronics, is a major supplier of alarm systems to Toyota.  (Unlike everyone in the Obama Administration, Issa is a successful businessman who has actually created jobs.)

Two problems with that assertion: Issa and his wife sold off their personal financial interest in DEI after he was elected to Congress in 2000, and DEI is not a direct supplier to Toyota, as the latter company has confirmed.  The Times could have learned the first fact with a five-minute Google search, and the second with a five-minute phone call to Toyota, so calling this an “error” is a stretch.

Another marquee allegation was that Issa bought a medical complex for $10.3 million, then arranged for some government-financed road work to increase its value, increasing its value by 60%.  I believe this might be the first time the New York Times has criticized “infrastructure” spending.  Why are they hassling Issa for doing his part to “rebuild America,” one of the only three ideas President Obama advanced during his fifteenth pivot to job creation?

At any rate, that story was a lie, too.  The actual purchase price of the property, as documented in the buyer’s final settlement statement, was $16.6 million, which is essentially the same as its current value.  Also, the road work cited by the Times was requested by Issa long before he bought the property.  Once again, a simple check of public documents was all the paper needed for accuracy.

Issa was also slammed for an investment made by his charitable foundation, which supposedly made $357,000 profit on an investment of only $19,000.  The Times asserts darkly that the security in question was purchased “at a cost basis representing a tiny fraction of the market value,” and sold “months before the stock market crashed.”  In reality, as the Issas have documented, their family foundation paid $500,000 for the security, and lost $125,000 on the sale. 

The Times piece is so dishonest that they even lied about the location of Issa’s office, which they falsely claimed overlooks a golf course.  It’s odd that slavering Obama partisans would try using a golf course, of all things, to smear a political enemy.  The Times thought it was important enough to lie about it.  Think I’m being harsh in that judgment?  Here’s the beginning of the hit piece:

Here on the third floor of a gleaming office building overlooking a golf course in the rugged foothills north of San Diego, Darrell Issa, the entrepreneur, oversees the hub of a growing financial empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Just a few steps down the hall, Representative Darrell Issa, the powerful Republican congressman, runs the local district office where his constituents come for help.

The proximity of the two offices reflects Mr. Issa’s dual careers, a meshing of public and private interests rarely seen in government.

How is anything about the location of the office in the above paragraph excusable as an honest mistake?  Did author Eric Lichtblau hallucinate the golf course while cooling his heels at the reception desk?  For fun, try looking up Issa’s office at 1800 Thibodo Road in Vista, California, on Google Maps and note where the nearest golf course is actually located.

You can read the statement from Issa’s office for the rest of the “errors.”  If the Times actually ran the front-page retraction Issa demands, they would deservedly become laughingstocks in the newspaper community.  This is an amazing example of journalistic fraud, the kind of sloppy hack work that should be used in cautionary tales at journalism schools, assuming you have an idealized vision of what those schools are like.  On the other hand, it’s par for the course when partisan operatives masquerading as journalists use the front page to discredit alarmingly effective investigators.


Update: If the New York Times is going to make up silly crap to convey a false impression about their targets, they should at least put some effort into it.  Here’s my suggested rewrite of the opening paragraphs:

Here on the third floor of a capitalist palace, as a corporate jet floats through a sunset the color of Paul Ryan’s table wine and casts its tax-evading shadow over a golf course filled with millionaires, fatcat Darrell Issa sits at the heart of a web spun from the blood and tears of exploited workers, building an empire out of dollars that could be putting health care into the veins of poor minority children.

Just a few steps down the lushly carpeted hall, Representative Darrell Issa, the powerful Tea Party terrorist, runs the local district office where well-connected robber barons come to avoid paying their fair share.  Outside those office windows, imported Texas oil pumps continue their slow and soulless date-rape of the Earth, crushing the hope of green jobs beneath their rusty jackboots.  A dying polar bear cries for mercy, but Issa cranks up his expensive sound system to drown that piteous howl beneath Glenn Beck’s latest call for secession.