How the Howard Kurtz/Darrell Issa Error Happened

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 19 2011 10:25 AM

How the Howard Kurtz/Darrell Issa Error Happened

The best correction of the month, if you missed it, came when Howard Kurtz fixed a November profile of incoming Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa.

In late November, I asked Rep. Darrell Issa’s spokesman, Kurt Bardella, for an interview with the congressman. He said he would see what he could do. That afternoon my phone rang, I heard the words "Darrell Issa" and I thanked the congressman for calling. I asked why "you" made various statements about the president and congressional oversight, and he responded. I called him "Congressman" several times during our discussion... On Nov. 29, after my story ran on The Daily Beast, I got a note from Bardella saying there had been "a little confusion" and "it wasn’t the congressman you spoke with, it was me speaking in his capacity as his spokesman."

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How did this become a problem, and how was it corrected? Ryan Lizza just explained this on Hugh Hewitt's radio show. Lizza attended a luncheon with Issa (I was at this same event, I think) and asked for an interview.

LIZZA: I went up to his spokesperson, and said hey, would you guys like to cooperate on a profile? And his spokesperson said yeah, let’s talk after the election, I’m sure we would. So flash forward to after the election. I call, and they’re kind of it lockdown. They don’t want to talk to the press at all, because Issa wants to wait until he’s formally elected chairman. So one day, I sit down at my computer and I read a profile of Darrell Issa in the Daily Beast, a piece by Howie Kurtz.

HEWITT: Okay.

LIZZA: And the piece quotes Darrell Issa. And it seemed like he interviewed Darrell Issa. I called Issa’s spokesperson, and he said, I said hey, I thought you told me I couldn’t interview Issa? What happened here? And he said Ryan, I swear to God, we didn’t do an interview with Howie Kurtz. Howie was talking to me, and he thought he was talking to the Congressman.

The envy of another reporter: The surest way of getting accountability!

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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