Congressman Darrell Issa Hits Back at NYT's Front-page Attack

August 19th, 2011 3:44 PM

The New York Times's Eric Lichtblau published a front-page hit piece on the House oversight committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, on Monday, titled "Helping His District, and Himself." The piece opened with an attempt to paint a corporate image of the entrepreneurial congressman, saying, "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," going on to attempt to forge a connection between Issa's public service and private business. The errors began in the lede, as Issa's office is not located in a ritzy building near a golf course, and continued for the rest of the article.

Issa's office has called for a "front-page retraction of the story due to the inaccuracies that fully undermine the premise of the article," describing the piece as an "error-ridden front page story." Issa's director of communications, Frederick Hill, explained that the three central examples the Times used to justify their claims are "wildly inaccurate," citing 13 inaccuracies in the article that reflect incorrect information or baseless assertions. With only one exception, the Times has yet to correct or retract any of the errors in the article.

According to the press release from Issa's office today,

The central claim in the New York Times story is an allegation of self-dealing on the part of Rep. Darrell Issa, as the story describes, "with at least some of the congressman's actions helping to make a rich man richer" and "specific actions that appear to have clearly benefited his businesses."

The first major claim Lichtblau made in his front-page Times article was that a medical complex purchased by Issa in 2008 supposedly appreciated in value from $10.3 million to $16.6 million, a 60% increase, due in part to "government-sponsored road work" Issa supported. Lichtblau was entirely wrong here, as the property was purchased for $16.6 million, which is the exact same value listed its current tax assessment, an appreciation in value of 0%. Furthermore, the road work Lichtblau mentioned has not even begun yet, and Issa's support of the project came before the property purchase.

The next factual inaccuracy was that Issa "went easy" on Toyota during the 2010 hearings on the unexpected acceleration experienced by some Toyota car drivers. This was supposedly because Issa's electronics company played a "role as a major supplier of alarms to Toyota." In fact, Issa's former company, Directed Electrics, is not a supplier to Toyota, nor does Issa still have a personal financial stake in the company.

The third disputed claim with the Times article is that Issa's charitable foundation made a 1900% profit on a less than $19,000 investment, selling it only seven months later for $357,000, mere months before the stock market crashed. This is once again a reporting error. According to Issa's press release, "the Issa Family Foundation's initial investment in the AIM Small Company fund was not $19,000 but $500,000. The asset was later sold for $375,000 resulting in a $125,000 loss - not a 1900 percent gain...".

The one error the Times has corrected was the assertion that Issa had "multibillion-dollar businesses." Issa does not own any multibillion dollar businesses, which the Times has updated in the article, noting Lichtblau "misstated the worth of the companies involved in [Issa's] splitting up of a holding company. The split entailed separate multimillion-dollar companies, not multibillion-dollar ones."

The Daily Caller reached out to the New York Times on Monday for a comment on the story, and spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades-Ha explained that the Times is sticking to its article.

“We believe the story to be an accurate and fair account,” she said in an email . “Of course we will have a look at any factual issues his staff has raised.‬‪ However, there is nothing in the Congressman’s complaint that questions the heart of the story.‬ The Times has made several attempts to reach the Congressman — by phone and by email — to get his comment. And he has declined.”

Rhoades-Ha has not responded to TheDC’s latest request asking if the Times will run a front-page retraction of the story, now that Issa has documented its factual inaccuracies.

According to Issa's press release, the Times is currently reviewing other errors cited by Issa's office and official request for retraction, and has promised to respond to Issa.