Monday, August 22, 2011

Liberal Media Bias of the Day

UPDATE: The Times issued several "corrections" about the value of the medical complex and the profit on the AIM fund.

Republican Darrell Issa has been a congressman since 2001, representing the northern suburbs of San Diego. He chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He's a fierce critic of Obama Administration economic policies--and that, plus the fact that he's wealthy, turned Issa into a target.

A week ago, the New York Times profiled Issa on the front page, in a story by Eric Lichtblau. The first para of this "hit piece" reads:
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.
The article generally suggests the Congressman uses political power to favor personal financial interests. Devastating, if true.

Issa's office says it isn't, in a letter quoted on Hot Air:
On behalf of Rep. Darrell Issa, please accept this as a formal request for a full front page retraction, including the headline, "Helping His District, and Himself," that ran in the Monday, August 15 edition of the New York Times. The request for a full front page retraction is based on numerous errors that invalidate the primary assertions made in the story that is a false and sensationalized account [of] Rep. Issa’s efforts to conduct congressional oversight of the Obama Administration and other matters.

This request is being sent after New York Times reporter, Eric Lichtblau, who wrote the story, refused to share the contact information of his editors for a discussion of errors in the story as requested by Rep. Issa’s congressional office.

The central claim in the New York Times story is an allegation of self-dealing on the part of Rep. Darrell Issa, as the story describes, "with at least some of the congressman’s actions helping to make a rich man richer" and "specific actions that appear to have clearly benefited his businesses."

The New York Times story cites three central examples it believes justifies these allegations:
  • A medical complex purchased by Rep. Issa in 2008 that the Times story alleges enjoyed a 60 percent appreciation as it increased in value from $10.3 million to $16.6 million, "at least in part because of the government-sponsored road work" that Rep. Issa supported.

  • That he "went easy" on Toyota during 2010 hearings on unintended acceleration due to "his electronics company’s role as a major supplier of alarms to Toyota."

  • An alleged 1900 percent profit Rep. Issa’s charitable foundation made on an investment of "less that $19,000" that was sold seven months later for $357,000 "months before the stock market crashed."
All central examples, however, are wildly inaccurate, and the truth deserves to be told.
  • The medical complex the Times story alleges enjoyed a 60 percent appreciation since it was purchased for $10.3 million and is now valued at $16.6 million is a patently false claim. According to the buyer’s final settlement statement, the property in question was not purchased for $10.3 million as the New York Times reported but for $16.6 million -- the exact same figure of its current tax assessment. According to these numbers, the appreciation is not 60 percent but roughly zero. In addition, the government sponsored road work noted in the article has not even begun and Rep. Issa’s requests for the project (which were publicly announced and made on behalf of and at the request of the City of Vista, and the San Diego Association of Governments which is the regional transportation planning authority) all came before the 2009 property purchase.

  • The allegation that Rep. Issa "went easy" on Toyota during 2010 hearings because of "his electronics company’s role as a major supplier of alarms to Toyota" is again an example of a factual error in the Times story that lends no support to the story’s central premise. While the Times story tells readers that Rep. Issa’s former company, Directed Electronics, is a "major supplier of alarms to Toyota," the story offers no evidence, and Directed Electronics is, in fact, not a supplier to Toyota. . .

  • The "1,900 percent" profit allegation is, again, based on reporting errors by the New York Times. This . . . assertion is based on an incorrect form obtained by the Times. According to a financial transaction record, the Issa Family Foundation’s initial investment in the AIM Small Company fund was not $19,000 but $500,000. The asset was later sold for $375,000 resulting in a $125,000 loss -- not a 1900 percent gain as was reported.
Toyota later confirmed that Issa's company has no direct relation with the automaker (though the company might be a Toyota or Toyota dealer subcontractor). Issa's office also posted records supporting the $500,000 and $16.5 million figures. Issa's staff also provided a picture of his office view--with no golf course in sight.

Lefties, the mainstream media and the Obama Administration (but I repeat myself) love class warfare arguments. I doubt they're effective with the electorate--but ask me again in 15 months.

And what about legal arguments? By Federalizing the case law, the Warren Court made it almost impossible for politicians to sue the press for libel. New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964). This is so even where the article is false, id. at 278. The principal exception is where the officeholder "proves that the statement was made with "actual malice" -- that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not." Id. at 279-80.

Absent a retraction -- unlikely, given the newspaper's follow-up piece -- I wonder whether the Times story qualifies as "reckless disregard" for the truth? Plenty of errors, and even the left-wing Politico says there was no smoking gun--though, with the burden on the Congressman, that's not enough. So, Issa's unlikely to try, but what a test case it would be!

(via reader Warren)


Assistant Village Idiot said...

What was the old Lyndon Johnson legend? Spreading the rumor that his opponent had carnal relations with a pig, not because he believed it, but because he wanted him to have to deny it.

Carl said...

AVI: That's always been one of my favorite LBJ-isms. BTW, the Tuesday August 23rd Day-by-Day cartoon is quite good on the Times Issa story.

Anonymous said...

Republicans seem to have lost faith in free enterprise/capitalism (bailing out failing businesses) and in democracy (ignoring the will of the voters in the 2000 Presidential election and letting the Republicanized Supreme Court place George Bush-the budget surplus smasher and national debt creator-in the White House. I remember when Republicans were patriotic and even understood economics (e.g., the need for aggregate demand, negotiation, letting failing businesses fail). How sad that the "conservative" hypocritical Republicans are destroying our once-great nation and acting as though they are morally superior while constantly causing the increasing misery and poverty of the population of the USA.

Carl said...

Anony: The bailout of banks was adopted by both parties; it was Obama and the Dems who extended it to non-financial companies. Regarding the 2000 election, nothing was stolen. Similarly, Bush 41's tax cuts helped trim the deficit (until the credit crunch arrived in 2007). Get your facts and law right before trying to debate the merits.

Anonymous said...

Republicans simply try to destroy Obama and the Democratic party. Guess they will fix or try to fix the next Presidential election, if voters express their disgust at the stupid, destructive acts of the Republicans and Tea Party jerks. The excessive greed, duplicity, and negative acts of Republicans will bite them eventually, but there will be a lot of suffering before the country is freed from their lethal grasp. Remember integrity? Remember patriotism? Republicans forgot and the majority of the US population suffers because of that.