Politics

Issa demands front-page NYT retraction after ‘error-ridden’ ‘hit piece’

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter

House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa is demanding that The New York Times publish a front-page retraction for an “error-ridden front page story” it published about him on Monday. In the article, Times reporter Eric Lichtblau attempted to connect Issa’s private business interests with his public service as a congressman.

With one exception, the Times has not corrected or retracted any of the errors Issa’s office publicly identified almost immediately after the story ran. On Friday morning Issa’s office blasted out a lengthy evidence-packed release alleging that nearly everything Lichtblau wrote isn’t true.

Issa had pointed to what he said were errors beginning with the story’s first sentence, which said Issa’s Southern California “gleaming office building” overlooks a golf course. Issa’s office publicly stated on Monday that the office the Times referred to doesn’t overlook a golf course. Issa’s team subsequently released a video showing that the Times’ characterization was false.

Without citing any sources, Lichtblau also contended that DEI Holdings, a car alarm company Issa founded, is a “major supplier” to Toyota. He asserted that Issa went “easy” on Toyota during a Congressional investigation into the company’s vehicles’ safety because of the relationship Lichtblau claimed exists between DEI and Toyota.

Issa and Toyota have both now publicly stated that DEI, also known as Directed Electronics, is not a “major supplier” to Toyota, nor is it a direct supplier at all. According to a story by Heritage Foundation reporter Lachlan Markay, Toyota said it’s possible that some independently owned and operated dealerships use DEI products. Issa and Toyota say it’s inaccurate, though, to write that Toyota and DEI are financially connected.

Lichtblau’s story also failed to inform readers that Issa no longer has a financial interest in DEI.

The Times also alleged foul play on Issa’s part because he withdrew much of his family foundation’s assets from the stock market several months before it crashed. Lichtblau wrote that Issa’s foundation made a nearly 1,900 percent return on its investment in less than a year. Issa’s office originally contended that this conclusion was wildly inaccurate.

“In one 2008 sale, months before the stock market crashed, his family foundation earned $357,000 on an initial investment of less than $19,000 — a return of nearly 1,900 percent in just seven months, the foundation reported to the Internal Revenue Service,” Lichtblau wrote. “It reported acquiring the security, then known as AIM International Small Company Fund, at a cost basis representing a tiny fraction of the market value. In addition, Mr. Issa sold at least $1 million in personal holdings in the same fund that year but was not required to report what he paid.”

Lichtblau and the Times have stuck to their reporting, refusing to issue a correction even after Issa’s office published a document proving his family foundation’s initial investment was $500,000, not “less than $19,000.” The document shows that Issa’s family foundation actually lost more than $125,000 from the investment.

Lichtblau also wrote that a medical complex Issa purchased in 2008 appreciated in value from $10.3 million to $16.6 million “at least in part because of the government-sponsored road work” the Congressman supported. If true, this assertion would mean Issa’s private business interests benefited from his actions as a congressman. Issa’s office released documentation this week, however, proving that he purchased the property for $16.6 million — almost exactly the same amount as its current value.

In his article Lichtblau criticized Issa for objecting to the Treasury Department’s forced sale of Merrill Lynch, implying that Issa was acting unethically.

“After the forced sale of Merrill Lynch in 2008, for instance, [Issa] publicly attacked the Treasury Department’s handling of the deal without mentioning that Merrill had handled hundreds of millions of dollars in investments for him and lent him many millions more,” Lichtblau wrote.

Issa’s office, however, insisted in a Friday press release that the Congressman has followed all ethics rules while handling his financial relationship with Merrill Lynch: “The New York Times fails to note that Rep. Issa’s transactions with Merrill Lynch have been appropriately disclosed in his annual ethics filing.”

The Times has corrected one factual error, arising from Lichtblau’s report that Issa “split a holding company into separate multibillion-dollar businesses.”

The Times’ correction read: “An earlier version of this article incorrectly described value of businesses that resulted from splitting a holding company owned by Representative Darrell Issa. They are multimillion-dollar businesses, not multibillion-dollar businesses.”

New York Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades-Ha told The Daily Caller on Monday that the newspaper will stick to its story and believes it told the truth. “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.