Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is demanding The New York Times
issue a front-page retraction for an article “riddled with factual errors” that looked at the congressman’s personal business dealings and the alleged overlap between them and his work in Congress.
The office of the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee requested the retraction for the article entitled, “Helping His District, and Himself.”
“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,” the congressman’s office said in demanding the retraction.
The New York Times has issued one correction so far and is reviewing other errors Issa’s office cited and the request for the retraction, according to Issa’s staffers.
The 2,700 word piece by author and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Eric Lichtblau is a detailed look at Issa’s business interests, how they have grown since he entered Congress in 2000, and how his work in Congress may have helped.
However, the congressman’s office said shortly after the piece appeared that “beginning with the opening line, The New York Times piece is riddled with factual errors and careless assertions that has resulted in a story predicated on innuendo and not fact.
“It's disappointing that the so-called 'paper-of-record' has decided to publish a story that is nothing more than a compilation of left-wing blog posts that are easily found by a simple Google search. It's the same old playbook, every time Darrell Issa starts gaining ground, the left-wing smear machine goes on the attack. If anything, this story validates the work that the Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee is pursuing.”
The article alleged that as Issa’s “private wealth and public power have grown, so too has the overlap between his private and business lives, with at least some of the congressman’s government actions helping to make a rich man even richer and raising the potential for conflicts.”
“He has secured millions of dollars in Congressional earmarks for road work and public works projects that promise improved traffic and other benefits to the many commercial properties he owns here north of San Diego. In one case, more than $800,000 in earmarks he arranged will help widen a busy thoroughfare in front of a medical plaza he bought for $10.3 million.”
The article alleged that Issa “bought the complex in 2008, soon after securing the first of two earmarks for the two-mile project and unsuccessfully seeking millions more. The assessor’s office now values the complex at $16 million, a 60 percent appreciation.”
“This, however, is false,” Issa’s office stated in a memo that included a copy of the sale agreement.
“According to the final settlement statement of the medical plaza property, the purchase price paid by Rep. Issa’s company for the property was $16.6 million. This figure, $16.6 million, is essentially identical to its current tax assessment and wipes-out the 60 percent appreciation the New York Times story alleges Rep. Issa’s commercial property enjoyed.”
The congressman’s demand for a retraction asserted that the “government sponsored road work noted in the article has not even begun and Rep. Issa’s requests for the project (which were publicly announced and made on behalf of and at the request of the City of Vista, and the San Diego Association of Governments which is the regional transportation planning authority) all came before the 2009 property purchase.”
An attempt to reach Lichtblau for comment was unsuccessful. His article noted Issa “did not respond to repeated written requests in the last three weeks to discuss his outside interests.”
“Eric Lichtblau’s story is filled with factual errors, half-truths, and exaggerations,” Issa spokesman Frederick Hill told Newsmax. “This poorly reported piece is consistent with past interactions we have had with Lichtblau. These past experiences with Lichtblau, and concern that any comment we gave him would be distorted, was why we declined to speak with him for his story. “
The congressman’s office said the article contained “13 erroneous statements” including:
- The assertion, "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." The office building located at 1800 Thibodo Rd. in Vista does not overlook a golf course.
- That "Mr. Issa has . . . split a holding company into separate multibillion-dollar businesses . . ." Issa does not own a single "multibillion-dollar business.
- That "Mr. Issa brushed aside suggestions that his electronics company's role as a major supplier of alarms to Toyota made him go easy on the automaker as he led an investigation into the recalls." Issa's former company, Directed Electronics, is not a "major supplier" or even a supplier to Toyota and the congressman does not have a personal financial interest in Directed Electronics.
Hill said that so far the Times has “only acknowledged the multibillion claim was incorrect.”
“Since publication, our efforts have been focused on raising awareness of the unambiguous factual mistakes in the New York Times’ story and the recycled innuendo from partisan blogs that the Times story attempts to portray as original nonpartisan reporting,” Hill said. “To be sure, their story contains a number of half-truths, but some facts have been also been taken from sources like the congressman’s annual financial disclosure. So far, the Times has been unwilling or unable to offer us serious explanations for its many dubious claims.”
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