Issa apologizes for saying House colleague told an ‘outright lie’


By Joe Tash

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, has apologized for his comment - made in a March 22 article in the Rancho Santa Fe Review - that a House colleague told an “outright lie” at a committee hearing on contraception last month.

Issa, who chairs the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, referred in an interview with the Rancho Santa Fe Review to a statement made by Democrat Carolyn Maloney, D-New York.

Maloney had criticized the lack of female representation on a panel of witnesses at a Feb. 16 hearing called to discuss whether the government could force religious institutions opposed to birth control to offer contraceptive coverage to their employees.

“Where are the women?” Maloney asked, noting that all five witnesses on the panel were men.

In the interview, Issa said the panel actually consisted of 10 witnesses split into two groups. The second group, he said, included two female witnesses. He also said Democrats on the committee had not requested any qualified female witnesses for the first group of panelists, which consisted of members of the clergy.

Maloney’s statement, Issa said in the interview, “was an outright lie and she knew it when she said it.”

On Tuesday, March 27, Issa apologized to Maloney for his choice of words in both a telephone call and a letter to the congresswoman.

In his letter, Issa referred to his comments in the Rancho Santa Fe Review and wrote, “For years, we have collaborated as colleagues on numerous projects intended to create better government for the American people. In this context, I agree with your point and regret that my choice of words in an interview with a community newspaper did not reflect the collegial relationship and open communication you and I have long enjoyed.”

Maloney invoked House rules to respond to Issa’s comments on the floor of the House Tuesday. She said she accepted Issa’s apology, but continued in her insistence that women were not adequately represented at the hearing. As she spoke, supporters held up an enlargement of a photograph of the five clergymen testifying at last month’s hearing.

In her remarks, Maloney also referred to Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student who was not allowed to testify on Feb. 16, but spoke at a hearing the following week. Fluke became the center of a firestorm after conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

“I know what I said that day and I know it to be true but I do think the Democratic witness, Sandra Fluke, and the women of America, are owed an apology -- an apology for denying them a voice -- an apology for denying them a seat at the table,” Maloney said Tuesday.

In response to a request for comment from this newspaper, a spokesman for the Oversight Committee wrote in an email, “While the Committee has moved forward and held hearings on issues like failed energy loans and the debt crisis in Europe, there remain substantial differences over some of the allegations noted by Democrats at the earlier, February hearing.”

Below are links to video of Maloney’s floor speech and Issa’s apology letter: