REPORT: Media Ignore Rep. Issa's Alleged Criminal Past
Rep. Darrell Issa's past includes arrests for weapons charges and auto theft, suspicions of arson, and accusations of intimidation with a gun, but you'd hardly know it from the media's recent coverage of the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. While Issa was substantially mentioned in 15 articles in the nation's largest newspapers since the last election -- including several major profiles -- only one of those articles mentioned any of these allegations. Likewise, interviewers did not ask Issa about his alleged criminal past in any of the cable or network interviews he sat for during that period.
Network and Cable Interviewers Won't Ask Issa About Criminal Allegations
In 11 Interviews Since Election Day, No Network Or Cable Anchor Has Asked Issa About The Allegations Against Him. Media Matters reviewed the Nexis database for cable and network interviews of Issa from November 3, 2010 through January 10, 2011. In 11 interviews on ABC, CBS, MSNBC, Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News, and CNN, no host or anchor asked Issa about the criminal allegations that have been made against him.
Print Media Largely Overlooks Issa's Alleged Criminal Past
Only One Of 15 Articles Substantially Mentioning Issa Referenced Any Of The Allegations.Media Matters examined coverage of Issa in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times from November 3, 2010, through January 10, 2011. Of the 15 articles in that period that included substantial coverage of Issa, only one referenced any of the allegations against him.
- Wash. Post Article Mentions In Passing Issa's Arrest For Car Theft. A 1300-word Washington Post profile of Issa published December 19, 2010, stated, "After Issa (pronounced EYE-suh) and his brother ran into trouble with the law for car theft (Issa's brother, William, claimed responsibility), Darrell Issa invested all of his savings, about $7,000, in starting a car-alarm business that he grew into a behemoth." The article did not mention Issa was also suspected of arson, accused of intimidation with a weapon, and repeatedly arrested on weapons charges. [Washington Post, 12/19/10]
The Real Issa: Suspected Arson
1982: Issa Suspected, But Never Charged, In Arson Incident At Manufacturing Plant. According to the Los Angeles Times: "A suspected arson fire ripped through [Issa's Ohio] manufacturing plant in 1982. No one was ever charged in the fire, but authorities were troubled by a dramatic escalation in the facility's fire insurance just weeks earlier. Even before the blaze was put out, investigators began peppering Issa and his partner with 'crazy questions' regarding their whereabouts before the fire, Issa recalled." [Los Angeles Times, 5/23/98, via Nexis, emphasis added]
- Prior To Fire, Issa "Boosted" Fire Insurance And Removed A Computer From The Premises.According to the Los Angeles Times: "Weeks before the fire, Issa and [business partner Miles] Hunsinger boosted their fire insurance from $ 100,000 to $ 462,000 on property stored for other companies...At the same time, a separate company that contracted with Quantum to outfit bug zappers increased its insurance to $ 400,000, and, according to an insurance report, one investigator was 'concerned about the coincidence.' Fire investigators also noted that a computer was taken off the site eight days before the fire, 'allegedly to be reprogrammed' by Issa's lawyer, and that business blueprints were put away in a safe -- which was 'not previously done before.'" [Los Angeles Times, 5/23/98, via Nexis]
"Suspicious Burn Patterns" And "Out Of Normal Practice" Behavior Alerted Investigators. TheWashington Post reported: "Investigators reported 'suspicious burn patterns' and said the fire may have been set. A company bookkeeper, Karen Brasdovich, also told them that computers and records had been removed from the site days before the fire for no clear reason. 'It was totally out of normal practice,' she said in a telephone interview last week." [Washington Post via FTLComm.com, 7/8/03]
AC Custom Fire: Flammable Liquid Had "Been Poured On The Only Area Not Covered By Fire Sprinklers." The Los Angeles Times reported that "seven months after Issa took control," a fire broke out at the "Quantum manufacturing plant." "Case files from Maple Heights, the Ohio fire marshal and insurers pointed repeatedly to the likelihood of arson in the blaze, which officials estimated caused $ 800,000 in damage. Although an accident could not be ruled out, the uneven and unnatural burn patterns made the blaze 'suspicious in nature,' the state concluded two months later. Flammable liquid appeared to have been poured on the only area not covered by fire sprinklers, investigators found." [Los Angeles Times, 5/23/98, via Nexis, emphasis added]
The Real Issa: Intimidation With A Weapon
Former AC Custom Executive Claimed Issa Intimidated Him With A Gun. According to the Los Angeles Times: "One of Issa's first tasks as the new boss [of AC Custom] was to remove an executive named Jack Frantz. According to Frantz, Issa came into his office, placed a small box on the desk and opened it. Inside, he said, was a gun." [Los Angeles Times, 5/23/98, via Nexis]
- Issa Allegedly Used Intimidation To Fire Executive Frantz. According to the Los Angeles Times, Frantz claimed, "'He just showed [the gun] to me and said 'You know what this is?' Issa invited Frantz to hold the gun at one point and told him he had learned about guns and explosives during his military days, Frantz said. Because he was about to be fired, Frantz said he saw it as 'pure intimidation.'" [Los Angeles Times, 5/23/98, via Nexis]
- Former AC Custom Bookkeeper: "It Was Pretty Terrifying." According to the Los Angeles Times: "The bookkeeper, [Karen] Brasdovich, also recalled Issa having a gun at the company that day. 'It was pretty terrifying,' she said." [Los Angeles Times, 5/23/98, via Nexis]
Issa On The Incident: "Shots Were Never Fired." The Los Angeles Times reported: "Issa said, 'Shots were never fired. If I asked Jack to leave, then I think I had every right to ask Jack to leave...I don't recall having a gun. I really don't. I don't think I ever pulled a gun on anyone in my life.'" [Los Angeles Times, 5/23/98, via Nexis, emphasis added]
The Real Issa: Auto Theft & Weapons Charges
Issa "Twice Arrested In 1972 On Weapons Charges." According to the San Francisco Chronicle: "Issa was twice arrested in 1972 on weapons charges -- once in Ohio, once in Michigan." [San Francisco Chronicle, 7/2/03]
Issa Was Convicted Of "Possession Of An Unregistered Handgun," Paid Fine, And Served Probation. According to the San Francisco Chronicle: "[W]hen Issa was attending college in Michigan, was fined $100 and put on three months' probation after being arrested for possession of an unregistered handgun, Michigan court records show." [San Francisco Chronicle, 7/2/03]
1972: Issa Was Arrested For Auto Theft. According to the New York Times: "In 1972, [Darrell Issa] and his brother William were arrested in the theft of a Maserati from a Cleveland car dealership." [New York Times, 7/23/03]
1972: Issa Also Charged With "Carrying A Concealed Weapon." According to the San Francisco Chronicle: "Court records...show that in March 1972, one month after getting out of the Army, Issa was arrested on charges of carrying a concealed weapon and auto theft. The court file doesn't indicate the type of weapon involved." [San Francisco Chronicle, 7/2/03]
Auto Theft, Concealed Weapons Charges Were Ultimately Dropped. According to the San Francisco Chronicle: "In May 1972, a grand jury indicted Issa on a larceny charge in connection with the car theft but dropped the weapons charge. Two weeks later, a prosecutor dropped the car theft charge as well." [San Francisco Chronicle, 7/2/03]
- Charges Were Dropped Despite Witness Reports. According to the Los Angeles Times, "a witness reported seeing [Darrell and William Issa] pushing the sports car down the street just before midnight, records and interviews show. But the charges were dismissed -- months before the older brother, [William], was convicted of stealing another car amid a string of offenses." [Los Angeles Times, 5/23/98, via Nexis]
Media Matters for America searched the Factiva database for news articles from The Wall Street Journal and the Nexis database for news articles from the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post and all network and cable news programming* from ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News, MSNBC, and NBC between November 2, 2010 and January 10, 2011 for mentions of Darrell Issa. From cable, only interviews were included -- news packages and short clips were excluded. From print, any article substantially mentioning Issa -- beyond merely reporting his new position in Congress or other brief mentions -- was included.
The original data is located here.
*ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox Broadcasting, and NBC transcripts include all news programming; Fox News and MSNBC transcripts include prime-time and select daytime interviews.