Vito Fossella's Dread Ringer

At left, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).  At right is Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.).
At left, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). At right is Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.). (Mark J. Terrill - AP Craig Ruttle - AP)

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By Mary Ann Akers And Paul Kane
Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tall, dark and handsome is one thing. But being a dead ringer for Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) is quite another.

For years, Fossella and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) have been confused for each other. But now isn't really the best time to be mistaken for Fossella, who was arrested recently on drunken-driving charges and then confessed to having a secret, long-standing extramarital affair and fathering a child with his mistress. All of which presumably was news to his not-so-secret wife and three children in Staten Island.

That led to a story on New York Magazine's Web site Tuesday titled "Vito Fossella: When Sex Overcomes Politics," which included a photo of the congressman with a big scarlet letter "A" Photoshopped around his neck.

Only the congressman in the photo wasn't Fossella. It was Fossella's doppelganger, Issa.

Issa never saw the photo of himself in the steamy online version of the story. His press secretary, Frederick Hill, called the magazine and got it pulled off the Web site in very short order.

The magazine then quickly removed the errant Issa photo from its Web site and replaced it with one of Fossella. Though, perhaps because the Photoshop idea lost its luster in the mix-up, there is no scarlet letter hanging around Fossella's neck in the current photo accompanying the online story.

"By the time I was able to show Rep. Issa a printed copy of the Web page, the photo had already been removed from the Web site," Hill told On the Hill by e-mail. "Upon seeing it, he asked if it was real. I told him it was and he just shook his head."

Hill says Fossella and Issa -- both of them tall and fit -- have been mistaken for each other over the years. Even Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) once mistook Issa for Fossella, his own state's 13th District congressman, according to Hill. Reporters looking for comment from the scandal-plagued Fossella have made the mistake more often, he adds.

Lauren Starke, a spokeswoman for New York magazine, says the mix-up occurred because the photo the magazine got from Getty Images was mislabeled. As for why the magazine chose not to hang the same scarlet "A" around Fossella's neck, Starke said: "In the interest of correcting it as quickly as possible, we did not replace the letter."

"We certainly didn't intend to tar Representative Issa with the same brush," she adds.

But Would Bush Sign It?

We've got to hand it to Rep. Walter Jones Jr. (R-N.C.). He's no shrinking violet.

As the leading antiwar Republican in the House, Jones was challenged in his state's May 6 GOP primary by a conservative who supports the Iraq war. Jones won by 20 points.


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