From Trusted Source to Jayson Blair

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 24 2011 11:10 AM

From Trusted Source to Jayson Blair

Darrell Issa's office has conducted a days-long scorched earth battle against the reporting of Eric Lichtblau. The New York Times reporter opened his story about Issa's personal wealth and public priorities with a color lede.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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.
Advertisement

Issa's office has raised a couple of problems with the piece, the most compelling of which being that Issa didn't actually make money on the purchase of a medical complex. But a lot of the fire's been trained on that color lede. Yesterday, Issa's office released a memo with the explosive title of "Does the NY Times have a Jayson Blair/Rick Bragg Problem with Reporter Eric Lichtblau?" In it, the congressman's staff offers speculation that Lichtblau parachuted in to San Diego and lied about what he saw. (The disagreement is over grammar -- the building is near a golf course, but the office itself does not overlooking it. The verb, it seems to me, is attached to "office building," not "office.")

How could Lichtblau, who says he visited Rep. Issa’s district office, flub such a simple fact about a view of a golf course?  
If Lichtblau really visited the building as he claims, why didn’t he attempt to enter the District office and ask to speak to someone or see the view?   How did Eric Lichtblau gain access to the Shadowridge Country Club when the Union-Tribune was unable? 
Where exactly was he when he claims to have seen Issa’s district office from there?  Does he have a photo or other evidence to back-up his claims?
Is The New York Times delaying corrections of obvious errors to protect the reputation of a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter? 
After the experience with Jayson Blair and Rick Bragg, is the New York Times making a serious effort to examine why Lichtblau presented false claims that his story implied he personally witnessed?

That's a hell of an accusation, based not on proof that Lichtblau never went to San Diego, but on the way one detail was phrased. Yes, Lichtblau has won a Pulitzer. Actually, his previous reporting has been cited by Issa's staff as ballast for their previous investigations and requests. Here's a letter from June, in which Litchblau's story about lobbyists getting unreported access to the White House by having meetings just outside the building is cited as a recent to gather data from Microsoft.

So does the Issa team consider Lichtblau a reporter who gets his facts right, or is he a Jayson Blair? "If anyone, including the White House, challenged the accuracy of any item reported by Eric Lichtblau the committee would treat that concern seriously," said Issa spokesman Frederick Hill. Can we have that standoff without accusing a previously trusted reporter of being a fabulist? Apparently not.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Oct. 19 2014 1:05 PM Dawn Patrol Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s critically important 5 a.m. wake-up call on voting rights.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
  Life
Outward
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 4:23 PM A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Oct. 17 2014 1:33 PM What Happened at Slate This Week?  Senior editor David Haglund shares what intrigued him at the magazine. 
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 19 2014 4:33 PM Building Family Relationships in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Space: The Next Generation
Oct. 19 2014 11:45 PM An All-Female Mission to Mars As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.