WASHINGTON -- Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is suggesting a New York Times reporter may be guilty of making things up in a recent critical report on the Republican, even though his office cites the same reporter's work when it criticizes the White House.
Issa's office has been on a crusade against scribe Eric Lichtblau ever since the reporter penned a lengthy story arguing that Issa, a wealthy businessman who heads the House Oversight Committee, has enriched himself through his congressional office.
Team Issa started by firing a scathing broadside at the broadsheet last week, demanding a retraction and contending that Lichtblau's story was riddled with at least 13 errors. The Times made one minor correction, but is otherwise standing by the piece and Lichtblau.
That has not pleased Issa, and on Tuesday his office went so far as to suggest Lichtblau may not have actually visited Issa's California office building because the lead of the reporter's story said it overlooks a golf course. Issa says you cannot see the golf course from his building, and his office cited stories in the San Diego Union-Tribune and the North County Times as evidence. Lichtblau has maintained that he saw the building from the golf course.
In a release to reporters, Issa's office even compared the veteran Lichtblau to notorious Times fabricator Jayson Blair.
Yet a review of press releases from Issa's office finds at least four letters Issa fired off over the past year or so that cite Lichtblau stories as evidence, including two letters about White House staffers allegedly skirting public records rules by using personal email accounts and holding meetings off-campus.
Frederick Hill, Issa's top spokesman, did not see anything contradictory in his boss's stance, and suggested that if there are problems with the Times stories that Issa likes, it's up to others to point them out.
"If anyone, including the White House, challenged the accuracy of any item reported by Eric Lichtblau, the committee would treat that concern seriously," Hill said.
UPDATE 9:45 p.m.
The notion that I was never really in San Diego in reporting my piece is ludicrous and demonstrably false. I spent two days in northern San Diego on June 21 and 22 to get a better sense of how Congressman Issa’s many outside business interests have intersected with his congressional duties. I observed more than a dozen commercial properties that Mr. Issa has acquired in Vista, Carlsbad and Oceanside to better understand how they were impacted by congressional earmarks he secured in the area; I went to the third floor of his office building to see just how close his congressional office sits from his property management office (it is directly across the bank of elevators); I spoke with tenants who lease from his property management company; I took photos on my cell phone of a Hooters that rents from him, a vacant lot he owns next door, and other properties; I visited the medical plaza that sits directly along a road-widening project for which he secured more than $800,000 in federal earmarks; and I spoke with merchants and local residents impacted by the road widening and other earmarks he has approved in the area.
In our story, we discussed some of the past allegations Mr. Issa has made that turned out to be unfounded, including his attacks on government officials in defense of Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch – two firms with which he has had extensive financial ties in his private business dealings. This baseless attack, sadly, seems to fit that same pattern of slinging mud and seeing what sticks. And it’s more than a bit ironic, considering that he has cited a past story of
mine on the White House’s contacts with lobbyists as an authoritative source in at least four official committee letters he has written.