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Gary Shapiro

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New York Times Must Come Clean on Faulty Issa Story

Posted: 08/23/11 06:56 PM ET

The August 15 New York Times front page boldly featured a menacing headline, "A Businessman in Congress Helps His District and Himself," whose accompanying article slams House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). However, key facts in the story are inaccurate and the headline crumbles without these facts. Amazingly, the New York Times has as of this writing failed to make any correction other than a correcting a typo.

First, reporter Eric Lichtblau even got the description of Issa's building in downtown San Diego wrong. As Politico has reported, contrary to Lichtblau's assertion, the building does not overlook a golf course. While this inaccuracy seems trite at first, it raises further questions of Lichtblau's reporting, such as whether he visited Issa's office at all as the "Vista, Calif." byline suggests.

It gets worse. As Politico reported:

Issa claims that The Times asserted a building he bought went up in value, when it did not and the story said Issa went easy on Toyota during congressional inquiries because a company he founded was a supplier to them, when in fact Issa says his Directed Electronics corporation does not have a relationship with Toyota. Issa's camp also says the Times' assertion that his charitable foundation reaped a windfall from a financial holding is false, as he actually lost money on the investment.

A San Diego Union-Tribune article confirms that a medical complex Issa owns did not enjoy a 60 percent appreciation in value, as Lichtblau alleges. The County Assessor confirmed to the SDUT that Issa bought the building for $16.6 million -- which Lichtblau erroneously reports was $10. 3 million.

Lichtblau's intent is clear: To defame Issa. But the Darrell Issa I have known for over 20 years is honest, ethical and puts the nation before himself. Despite the inference of the New York Times, his wealth makes him a politician immune to special interests and self-dealing. He simply is not motivated by money, but rather gives up almost all his waking moments in a fierce desire to leave the nation better for our children. I understand that the New York Times does not share Darrell's political philosophy. But different views do not justify allowing inaccuracies to go uncorrected.

Darrell is incredibly principled. I met Darrell in the late 1980s because of these principles: I was a young lawyer working for the predecessor to the Consumer Electronics Association when Darrell, as a company owner exhibiting at International CES, insisted on constructing his own exhibit. The union thought otherwise and wanted a work stoppage before the show. I was thrilled that the unions and Darrell agreed that the union could picket his booth after the show. Everyone won.

That experience led Darrell to the Consumer Electronics Association where he helped engineer a merger of another association and quickly moved up the ranks to become our Chairman. No one worked harder for the betterment of our organization. Indeed, he was first elected to Congress in 2000 while Chairman of our Board. When he switched his energies to Congress, he took the same no-sleep, solve-the-problem approach.

While some deride Darrell as the wealthy congressman, this was not inherited wealth. He earned it as an entrepreneur and may be the only patent owner in Congress. He approaches problems as the engineer he is and remains focused on coming up with real business-like solutions to national problems. His plan to save the Postal Service is an example of confronting tough situations with no easy answers. That is why we hire politicians, and sadly too many give silver-bullet, no-pain solutions. Darrell solves problems -- he does not sugarcoat solutions.

We need legislators of both parties who can solve problems. But the first way we get problems solved is by agreeing on the facts. Congress needs to agree on facts to create a common base -- just as a newspaper must do this out of journalistic principles, integrity and an obligation to its readers.

So New York Times, step up. You blew this one. Have the decency to come clean. It will help your reputation in the long run.

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies, and author of The New York Times best-selling book, "The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream."

 
 
 

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