The Times Retracts Issa Hit Piece, One Correction at a Time

I wrote here about the hit piece on Congressman Darrell Issa by Eric Lichtblau that appeared on the front page of the New York Times. Lichtblau’s article, which sought to create the impression that Issa has misused his Congressional power to benefit his personal financial interests, was riddled with errors. In fact, as I noted at the time, “the Times’ attack on Issa consists of nothing but lies and fabrications, and its story never should have been published.”

When I wrote that post on August 19, the Times had issued a single correction to Lichtblau’s article. Today it issued two more:

An article on Aug. 15 about Representative Darrell Issa’s business dealings, 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.

And 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.

Notice how the Times tries to justify its mistakes by blaming incorrect documents filed by others. Of course, if the paper had contacted Issa’s office before running its hit piece, it would have been spared these errors. And if Lichtblau had done a little internet research, he would have found that the $6 million loan was public knowledge.

Presumably the Times has not yet finished correcting Lichtblau’s piece. Issa’s office tabulated a total of thirteen errors in the Times article. Among other howlers that have not yet been corrected is Lichtblau’s false statement that Issa’s San Diego office “overlook[s] a golf course.” One would think that by now, the paper’s fact-checkers should have figured out that there isn’t a golf course in sight.

More important was Lichtblau’s false claim that Issa “went easy” on Toyota during 2010 hearings because of “his electronics company’s role as a major supplier of alarms to Toyota.” As Issa has pointed out, he no longer owns the car alarm company that Lichtblau referred to, and, in any event, that company is not a supplier to Toyota. It is also worth noting that the 2010 hearings that Lichtblau referred to related to claims of “unintended acceleration,” and if Issa “went easy” on Toyota, he was right to do so. To date, the Times has not corrected this false claim.

The most important point here is that Lichtblau’s errors did not relate to a few minor details. On the contrary, every significant example that Lichtblau put forward to support his claim that Issa has improperly benefited from his Congressional office turned out to be false. Thus, the Times doesn’t just owe Issa a few scattered corrections, it owes him an apology. Lichtblau’s article was a partisan smear that never should have been written.

I sent this email to Eric Lichtblau, with a copy to the Times’ Public Editor, Art Brisbane:

Eric, your article on Darrell Issa appears to be false in almost every material detail. I wrote about it here:

Do you have any evidence that any of Congressman Issa’s factual statements are incorrect? Beyond that, do you have anything to say in your own defense? I will be happy to publish any defense that you may wish to offer.

John Hinderaker

So far, I have received only a form email from Brisbane and no response at all from Lichtblau. My offer remains open: if Lichtblau can offer any excuse for his partisan hit-job, we will be happy to print it.

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