A lengthy article in today’s New York Times about Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) contains at least five major factual errors, including one that the undermines the central premise of the story, the congressman’s office asserted in a high-profile showdown with the Grey Lady.
The newspaper already admitted to one mistake in the 2,700-word story, but reporter Eric Lichtblau said he would not correct other factual errors pointed out by Issa’s staff. Now, the central assertion of Lichtblau’s story — that Issa directed federal funds to increase the value of property he owns — appears to be crumbling as well.
Lichtblau’s story is the latest critique of the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Issa is growing accustomed to the attention given his role on Capitol Hill. He’s become one of the left’s top targets and even the subject of a nonprofit organization run by liberal political activists out to tarnish his reputation.
Issa’s office quickly dismissed today’s story as “riddled with factual errors and careless assertions that has resulted in a story predicated on innuendo and not fact.”
The story’s headline, “A Businessman in Congress Helps His District and Himself,” suggests that Issa benefited personally from steering federal funds to a road project near a medical complex he owns. Lichtblau reported the value of Issa’s property increased 60 percent after he bought it. But the reporter’s information is inaccurate, Issa’s office said. According to the settlement statement posted on the committee’s webstite, Issa paid $16.6 million — a figure that’s nearly identical to its current San Diego County property assessment.
In addition to this questionable assertion, Issa’s office earlier in the day requested the Times correct three other factual errors in Lichtblau’s story. Issa’s release stated:
- The story states, “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.” This is factually incorrect. The office building located at 1800 Thibodo Rd. in Vista does not overlook a golf course.
- The story states, “Mr. Issa has … spilt a holding company into separate multibillion-dollar businesses …” This is factually incorrect. Rep. Issa does not own a single “multibillion-dollar business.”
- The story states, “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.” This is factually incorrect. Rep. Issa’s former company, Directed Electronics, is not a “major supplier” or even a supplier to Toyota.
As of now, the Times has only corrected the second error. When I asked Lichtblau if he planned to do anything about the other two, he responded, “No, because both points were correct.”
As for the first point, Issa’s office building is located about a half-mile from the Shadowridge Country Club, according to Google Maps. However, the office building is surrounded by three housing developments and a state highway. There’s no direct access from Issa’s building to the course and it would take approximately 20 minutes to walk there.
Issa’s office also maintains that Directed Electronics is not a supplier to Toyota, contrary to Lichtblau’s story. The reporter does not include a source for this information in the article and he did not respond to a follow-up email seeking clarification.
Those aren’t the only problems with the story. Lichtblau also makes a false claim about the Issa Family Foundation, according to Issa’s office, asserting that it “earned $357,000 on an initial investment of less that $19,000 — a return of nearly 1,900 percent in just seven months.” In fact, Issa’s office responded, the foundation took a loss of $125,000. The foundation’s initial investment was not $19,000 but $500,000. Lichtblau apparently relied on an incorrect form to get the information.
And if that wasn’t enough, there are also rumblings that Lichtblau didn’t properly attribute parts of his story. Lee Fang of the liberal Center for American Progress called him out on Twitter, noting “your NYT Issa piece looks awfully familiar.” Both the liberal Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and San Diego Beat also previously attacked Issa on some of the same points included in Lichtblau’s article.
UPDATE: The Issa Family Foundation has donated to Heritage in the past.