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New York Times Issues Third Correction on Issa Story

Friday, 26 Aug 2011 12:47 PM

The New York Times has added two more corrections to the list of mistakes it made in a front-page article on the business dealings of Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

The Times has now issued three corrections to the 2,700-word article entitled, “Helping His District, and Himself” that looked at the congressman’s personal business dealings and the alleged overlap between them and his work in Congress.

In corrections published Friday, the Times said the August 15 article, “using erroneous information that Mr. Issa’s family foundation filed with the Internal Revenue Service, referred incorrectly to his sale of an AIM mutual fund in 2008. A spokesman for the California Republican now says that the I.R.S. filing is ‘an incorrect document.’ The spokesman, Frederick R. Hill, said that based on Mr. Issa’s private brokerage account records, which he made public with redactions, the purchase of the mutual fund resulted in a $125,000 loss, not a $357,000 gain.”

The correction continued that the article, “using incorrect information from the San Diego county assessor’s office, misstated the purchase price for a medical office plaza Mr. Issa’s company bought in Vista, Calif., in 2008. It cost $16.3 million, the assessor’s office now says — not $10.3 million — because the assessor mistakenly omitted in public records a $6 million loan Mr. Issa’s company assumed in the acquisition. Therefore the value of the property remained essentially unchanged, and did not rise 60 percent after Mr. Issa secured federal funding to widen a road alongside the plaza.”

The Times noted in a four-page letter to Issa by Washington Bureau Chief Dean Baquet that the errors “occurred as a result of inaccurate public records: in one case, your own foundation’s inaccurate filing to the Internal Revenue Service; in the other, the San Diego county assessor’s inaccurate records on the West Vista Way purchase.”

“The article was carefully reported, written, and edited, and we stand by the story both in its broad thrust and, except as noted, in its particular details,” Baquet wrote. “We do not believe a retraction is warranted.”

Issa has demanded the Times issue a front-page retraction for the article that he charged is riddled with errors. One section of the story said that Issa had “split a holding company into separate multibillion-dollar businesses.” The Times has acknowledged that the statement was incorrect and should have said “multimillion” instead of “multibillion.”

In a four-page response to Baquet’s letter, Issa’s office called the letter “deeply disappointing and makes your response to the issues raised by our office and others inadequate.”

“We repeat our request and ask that The New York Times reconsider Rep. Issa’s request for a full front page retraction of the August 15 story as well as your attention to multiple errors that still have not been corrected,” Hill wrote.

The article was written by author and Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Eric Lichtblau. It was 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.

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