After 18 months of screaming headlines and attacks vilifying the anti-poverty group ACORN --- attacks reminiscent of a New McCarthyism that threatened the group's very existence --- it's clear now that this was a right-wing witch-hunt which, sadly, too many Democrats and the mainstream media failed to fact-check.
Fox and tabloids like the New York Post did a hatchet-job on ACORN that too many in the mainstream media were eager to run with. It seems to me those outlets have a special obligation to now step up and tell the full story. Also, contact New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt, Washington Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander, and other major newspapers. Tell them their publications should run front-page retrospectives on the ACORN story--how and why the media and politicians got it wrong and what the consequences have been to ACORN.
[T]his deception wore the winged sandals of Mercury while the truth got bogged down in cement overshoes.
But getting that truth out isn't easy when the lie is so much juicier. Just ask Brad Friedman, who has been all over the issue at his website, bradblog.com. Friedman has been mounting a campaign aimed at getting the nation's paper of record, The New York Times, to publish a correction and admit it was wrong when reporting that O'Keefe actually went into ACORN offices dressed as a pimp. On his site, Friedman posts an e-mail exchange he's been having with Clark Hoyt, the public editor of the Times.
Both of those two articles merit reading in full, along with a number of others published elsewhere of late, which follow up on The BRAD BLOG's weeks-long focus on exposing the Rightwing cult's ACORN "Pimp" Hoax and the corporate media outlets and public officials who shamefully fell for it. We've been too busy working on the exposé itself to keep you apprised of much of the coverage of it elsewhere, but there's been quite a bit, so let's try to put that right and get caught up on some of the more noteworthy pieces...
"And there’s a whole movement out there now trying to get the public editor to go on record saying the Times botched the story," Atlas, the president of the National Housing Institute, continued.
He was on the show to discuss this week's finding by a federal judge that Congressional legislation crafted specifically to defund ACORN was unconstitutional.
"The first thing I want to say, that needs to be said over and over again, is that the act of defunding ACORN by Congress is a national disgrace. We should all be outraged about that. Basically what happened is Congress bowed to Fox News, Glenn Beck, the rest of the right-wing echo chamber --- we’re talking about the United States Congress --- and then scapegoated the most effective anti-poverty organization in the country. That’s a scandal of enormous proportions," Atlas chided.
In the bargain, he set the record straight about what ACORN does, how important their work is to those in our country who most count on them, and how the story of the ACORN "Pimp" Hoax was so unforgivably misreported over and again by the New York Times (and others) who still continue their journalistic malpractice by flat-out refusing to responsibly correct the record, as The BRAD BLOG has detailed in great length over the past several weeks.
The full transcript is posted here, the full video of the Democracy Now! segment (appx 11 mins) with Atlas, Amy Goodman, and Juan Gonzalez is below, along with excerpts from Atlas' opening comments on the important role of ACORN, and the dreadful failure of the New York Times...
JOHN ATLAS: [T]he first thing I want to say, that needs to be said over and over again, is that the act of defunding ACORN by Congress is a national disgrace. We should all be outraged about that. Basically what happened is Congress bowed to Fox News, Glenn Beck, the rest of the right-wing echo chamber—we’re talking about the United States Congress—and then scapegoated the most effective anti-poverty organization in the country. That’s a scandal of enormous proportions.
ACORN has a record of helping poor people in these hard times. They help them get homes. They help them stop foreclosures. They help them fight predatory lending. They help them register voters. I’m talking about minority voters, people who ordinarily don’t vote. Very hard to get that kind of voter registration work done. And in short, all other studies, including mine, have documented how effective ACORN has been and how important it’s been to low-income people, especially the working poor.
... AMY GOODMAN: And remind us why they were defunded. I mean, what was the incident that precipitated this?
JOHN ATLAS: Well, as your opening said, which we can emphasize again, the immediate trigger—I’m talking about the immediate trigger—was the release of videos that appeared to show that ACORN staffers were giving advice to right-wing activists who looked like a pimp and a prostitute. And they were giving advice to them which was outrageous, which we should go into, after we talk about this case, because it turned out that that was completely misleading, that in fact he never—the guy who was posing as a pimp never showed up in this outlandish pimp outfit that we all associate with those videotapes. You know, the guy in the top hat, the cape around his shoulders, with his cane, the dark glasses, you know, he looked like a 1970s African American—you know, stereotype African American pimp. He went on TV. He said, “This is what I looked like when I was in the office.” Turned out, not true. And we should go into that, because—
AMY GOODMAN: Explain. How, then?
JOHN ATLAS: Well, it’s not true, because he edited—they took those pictures of him dressed that way, and they edited him into the tapes.
Now, before we get back into the decision, let me say this, that this reporting was done by not just the right-wing press, but every one of the mainstream press, and I’m talking about the Washington Post, the New York Times. Before I came here, I actually put together a list—I can—of times that the New York Times reported that fact, that this man was dressed like that when he was sitting in the office. And the New York Times has refused to retract this. And there’s a whole movement out there now trying to get the public editor to go on record saying the Times botched the story...
COMMENT #11 [Permalink] ... Billy said on 3/11/2010 @ 7:18 am PT...
Boy, if this keeps up, people will start thinking ACORN was targeted because Republicans simply hate black people.
But we know that's not true. They also hate women with jobs, happy gay people, miserable poor people, all people in need of medical attention, intelligent people who happen to speak one of them foreign languages, intelligent people in general, all people who live near high-yield oilfields, all people who oppose wars of aggression, people with unfavorable views of torturing non-Caucasians, people who wonder who's been listening in on our phone conversations and browsing our library lists, people who still believe in habeas corpus, people who don't use the U.S. flag as bling, and people who don't even exist --- like Murphy Brown.
But let us not jump to conclusions. There's always a good explanation.
The New York Times "was duped" and "refuses to own up to mistakes in the paper's coverage" of the now-infamous ACORN "pimp" hoax video tapes published by partisan Rightwing activists James O'Keefe, Hannah Giles, and Andrew Breitbart.
That coverage, according to a devastating, no-holds barred, well-documented action alert issued today by the decades-old media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), was "wildly misleading" as a result of the paper having "decide[d] to skip the standard rules of journalism."
FAIR has been covering bias in the media since 1986 and today's detailed action alert calls on the "paper of record" to issue retractions, apologies, and explanations for their repeatedly incorrect and uncritical coverage of the Rightwing ACORN "pimp" hoax videos.
The group also excoriates New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt's often-absurd emailed justifications to The BRAD BLOG for refusing to recommend the paper issue retractions and apologies, as they decry: "It is hard to believe that Hoyt actually believes what he's saying here."
Finally, FAIR's analysis of the reportage, videos, and transcripts comes to the damning conclusion: "The videos were in fact a hoax, and the Times was duped. Its readers deserve to know as much--and ACORN, which suffered serious political damage as a result of the false stories, deserves an apology."
They ask readers, as we have for many weeks, to contact the Times' Public Editor Hoyt to "recommend that the paper investigate the ACORN videos and produce a report that clarifies the record"...
"The government has offered no...unique reason to treat ACORN differently from other contractors accused of serious misconduct or to bar ACORN from federal funding without either a judicial trial or an administrative process applicable to all government contractors."
The court declared that the provisions of the "FY 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act," an amalgam of six separate bills which President Barack Obama signed into law on Dec. 16, 2009, which sought to strip ACORN of their right to enter future contracts with the U.S. government and to deprive them of all federal funding, save what had already been earned on existing contracts, amounted to an unconstitutional Bill of Attainder in violation of Article I, Section 9 of the United States Constitution.
Gershon's decision comes on the heels of a recent string of legal and public relations exhonerations for the community group which has long been targeted by the GOP, in large part, for their successful work in legally registering hundreds of thousands of low- and middle-income voters who tend to favor Democratic candidates...
“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.” - Mark Twain
"All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph is for enough good men to do nothing." -Edmund Burke
In a society increasingly dominated by dictatorial and corrupt corporate wealth and power, a collection of community organizations, The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), steps forward to become the voice of the most vulnerable of our citizens --- the poor and lower-middle class. It is a national coalition which not only strives to insure that these otherwise atomized and powerless masses retain and exercise their equal right to vote, but a caring organization which seeks a living wage for all citizens; that tries to protect them from predatory lenders and phony foreclosure assistance scams.
At a time when the heartless and uncaring Bush/Cheney cabal left thousands of our fellow citizens to sink or swim in a toxic soup of petrochemicals, flood waters and decaying bodies, ACORN, according to the Congressional Research Service [PDF], stepped forward to assist "in the clean-up of 1,850 homes and" organized "10,000 hurricane survivors into the ACORN Katrina Survivors Association."
It is, however, slightly more surprising, and certainly most noteworthy, that now that they've been exposed as hoaxes, even Murdoch's own New York Post was forced to describe the doctored tapes as a "'heavily edited' splice job that only made it appear as though the organization's workers were advising a pimp and prostitute on how to get a mortgage...[with] many of the seemingly crime-encouraging answers...taken out of context so as to appear more sinister."
What is truly disturbing, however, is that this concocted tale would be unquestioningly accepted as legitimate by the corporate media and by Congress, which, in their rush to mollify the noisy hard-right, displayed a profound ignorance of basic concepts of fundamental fairness and due process of law.
ACORN was prematurely and inappropriately tried and convicted in the press and in Congress, without so much as a single hearing, vis a vis a grotesque and shameful word-of-mouth propaganda lynch job unseen since the days of Joseph McCarthy, the disgraced, right-wing demagogue who misused his powerful perch in the U.S. Senate to smear "loyal Americans as disloyal" and who falsely "charged that the government was being undermined from within"...
[UPDATED TWICE: Good news! Morrissey quickly corrected his report after we notified him of the incorrect coverage. Bad news! His correction was also incorrect. SECOND UPDATE: Morrissey has copped to his second error as well, and has finally corrected appropriately. Details on all, at bottom of this article. -BF]
Once again, the accurate reporting of facts, truth, and reality doesn't seem to be required when it comes to the Rightwing's continuing, years-long attempt to villainize the community organization ACORN for having the temerity to help legally register millions of low- and middle-income voters (who tend to vote Democratic) to legally vote so that they may legally participate in their own democracy.
Latest example: Yesterday, Ed Morrissey of Hot Air --- a blog created by Rightwinger Michelle Malkin and recently purchased for an undisclosed sum by the far Rightwing Salem Communication outfit --- misreported [emphasis added]:
Today, [Wisconsin’s Attorney General J. B.] Van Hollen announced indictments in five cases — including two felony indictments against ACORN for scheming to have registrants vote multiple times in November 2008.
Unfortunately, Morrissey and Hot Air are patently --- and apparently knowingly --- incorrect.
The "two felony indictments," which Morrissey even links to [PDF] and quotes from in his inaccurate hit piece, are not "against ACORN," but against two workers who defrauded ACORN, even as the pair defrauded the voter registration process...
Much more soon on Rightwing propagandist Andrew Breitbart and James O'Keefe's quickly unraveling ACORN "Pimp" Hoax, just how much of a hoax it really was, how the media and Democrats shamefully failed their due diligence in reporting and/or acting on it, and coverage of a lot of new commentary on it all that has been coming in rapidly from the Left, Right, and Other over the last week or so.
Until then --- and as we still wait for Breitbart and O'Keefe to release the unedited versions of the videos which they've charged for six months demonstrate serious crimes they apparently don't want to show us, and while we continue to wait for the embarrassingly discredited hard rightwing L.A. County District Attorney Patrick Frey, who blogs pseudonymously as "Patterico" both at his own site and in comments at The BRAD BLOG and at Breitbart's websites, to explain how it is that as a Deputy D.A. he's authenticated the "unedited audio" that he claims proves some form of criminality by ACORN that neither the Brooklyn D.A. nor the former MA Attorney General [PDF] nor the Congressional Research Service have been able to find --- here is a short, instructive video worth a quick look.
It's from 2007 and demonstrates just how simple it is to edit raw video in order to show something other than what actually occurred...
Given her own history of documented voter fraud felonies, you'd think Ann Coulter would want to stay away from the whole ACORN issue (particularly since there is no evidence that, unlike her, they've ever committed any).
So what did Coulter do to shore up the wingnut hoax that is falling apart faster than Andrew Breitbart himself? She quoted some "seemingly crime-encouraging answers" from the video, "out of context so as to appear more sinister," naturally. And, even more naturally, those folks who have been played and conned by "Andrew Breitbart Presents...Big Journalism" and "Andrew Breitbart Presents...Big Government," etc., ate it all up...
Earlier this week, the Brooklyn D.A. concluded a five-month investigation of the Brooklyn ACORN videos, finding "no criminality." Following the release of the findings, Rupert Murdoch's own New York Post, of all places, reported it this way:
ACORN set up by vidiots: DA
The video that unleashed a firestorm of criticism on the activist group ACORN was a "heavily edited" splice job that only made it appear as though the organization's workers were advising a pimp and prostitute on how to get a mortgage, sources said yesterday.
... Many of the seemingly crime-encouraging answers were taken out of context so as to appear more sinister, sources said.
In the meantime, as the Times continues to fail, last night Stephen Colbert mocked the entire ACORN "pimp" hoax as we've been revealing it over the last several weeks and, along with it, James O'Keefe, Andrew Breitbart, Fox "News" --- and, yes, indirectly, the New York Times --- by sharing his own "exclusive," damning, and heavily-edited video interview...
Related: Yesterday ACORN launched a campaign to fight back and "Demand Accountability" from the Times and the other media outlets that have grotesquely misreported this story and have still failed to correct their damagingly inaccurate coverage. More on that campaign and how you can add your voice to it, right here...
Following on our weeks-long coverage here at The BRAD BLOG, and at other sites who've similarly jumped in demanding accountability from the New York Times, ACORN itself is now launching a "Letter to the Editor" campaign to "Demand Accountability" from the paper for their repeated misreporting of the James O'Keefe/Andrew Breitbart ACORN "pimp" hoax.
The community group's heavily-footnoted email blast, signed by "CEO and Chief Organizer" Bertha Lewis, quotes several articles from The BRAD BLOG's detailed coverage, including NYTimes Public Editor Clark Hoyt's outrageous emailed justifications for refusing to recommend the paper correct its multiple misreports.
The BRAD BLOG, however, has indeed shown "conclusive evidence" to Hoyt that the paper was wrong, and even Hannah Giles (who played the fake prostitute) and even Andrew Breitbart (who published the videos to help launch his new BigGovernment.com website) have both now admitted that the reports of James O'Keefe dressing as a "pimp" in the offices of ACORN were flat out wrong.
Whelan says the group is "asking people to contact either the New York Times OR their local paper and ask for a correction to the erroneous reporting regarding O'Keefe and his video scams."
"Bradblog and a handful of online writers have been way ahead in looking at the facts on this story," Whelan wrote, "just as you were in exposing the great voter fraud fraud in 2006." (Our indexed coverage of that particular Rightwing fraud campaign is here.)
We are asking people to contact papers all around the country because nearly everyone has reported on this story erroneously at some point-O'Keefe's purpose after all, was to deceive and confuse. The New York Times has a special responsibility to correct the facts though-both as the paper of record and because they reported based on a combination of wild misconceptions (as they admitted to you) and pressure from the radical right.
Moreover, even Rupert Murdoch'sNew York Post reported on the finding, noting the D.A. described the video as a "'heavily edited' splice job" where "many of the seemingly crime-encouraging answers were taken out of context so as to appear more sinister."
And yet, the New York Times, the "paper of record," continues to misreport the story, even in the wake of the D.A.'s finding, as we detailed last night.
It's not particularly worth my time, or anybody's time (unless they are involved in suing or pressing charges against the GOP hoaxsters), to get into the detailed weeds on how the ACORN "pimp" hoax videos were doctored to show something other than what they really were, in comparison to what the text transcripts (which may or may not be accurate) actually show, since:
the entire scam was a political hit job and a scam from the jump, and;
since accused felon James O'Keefe and his employer and publisher Andrew Breitbart have refused to release the unedited video tapes, and;
since nobody but low-level workers and volunteers are even seen on the tapes, and;
since ACORN immediately fired those who violated the organization's own written protocols.
As The BRAD BLOG has been detailing over the last several weeks, the highly-edited, heavily-overdubbed, secretly (and likely illegally) taped videos, and those who published them, have already proven to have discredited themselves.
Now that O'Keefe's ACORN "pimp" hoax has been acknowledged, even by Andrew Breitbart, as a deceptive fraud --- where he once called it Pulitzer Prize-worthy "journalism" he now compares it to Borat --- it doesn't seem to matter to the same rightwing bloggers who trumpeted it in the first place that O'Keefe lied about playing his now-infamous 70's-era blaxploitation "pimp" character in ACORN offices. What's important, those foolish enough to keep backing O'Keefe and Breitbart now claim, is not that the purveyor of the information has been shown to be a fraud himself, but what he purports to have caught ACORN workers saying and doing on his highly-edited video productions.
But even those charges don't hold up to even the quickest scrutiny...
The quote in the above panel is taken from the mindblowing emails Hoyt sent to me recently, as one of his reasons for not recommending the "paper of record" issue retractions for their repeatedly inaccurate and misreported coverage of the James O'Keefe/Andrew Breitbart ACORN video "pimp" hoax, as The BRAD BLOG has now been covering for weeks.
In addition to the absurd justifications that Hoyt (who can be emailed at Public@NYTimes.com) offered for refusing to responsibly recommend corrections, the paper's Senior Editor for Standards, Greg Brock, offered equally absurd reasons for standing by their reporting earlier, including O'Keefe's appearance on Fox News, "wearing what HE said was the same exact costume he wore to ACORN's offices."
Kings County, New York District Attorney Joe Hynes put out a statement just now:
On Sept. 15, 2009, my office began an investigation into possible criminality on the part of three ACORN employees. The three had been secretly videotaped by two people posing as a pimp and prostitute, who came to ACORN’S Brooklyn office, seeking advice about how to purchase a house with money generated by their ‘business.’ The ‘couple’ later made the recording public. That investigation is now concluded and no criminality has been found.
Brooklyn prosecutors on Monday cleared ACORN of criminal wrongdoing after a four-month probe that began when undercover conservative activists filmed workers giving what appeared to be illegal advice on how to hide money.
While the video by James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles seemed to show three ACORN workers advising a prostitute how to hide ill-gotten gains, the unedited version was not as clear, according to a law enforcement source.
"They edited the tape to meet their agenda," said the source.
UPDATE 3:24PM ACORN issues a statement following the announcement from the King County, D.A. noting what The BRAD BLOG has been reporting for years:
O'Keefe and the Fox attack machine targeted ACORN because of our successful work to empower hundreds of thousands of low and moderate families as voters and active citizens.
Observers who looked closely at the filmmakers' own transcripts have already noted that O'Keefe presented low level employees with a bogus scenario in which he presented himself as a boyfriend trying to rescue a prostitute from a violent pimp. Although no employees took any actual action to file papers for loans or taxes, ACORN already conducted its own review in order to move forward serving our communities.
Hopefully today's announcement, and similar results from independent reviews, will make politicians and media examine the facts more carefully the next time a valuable community organization is attacked.
I recently attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in D.C., with video camera in hand, to report on the attendees. I was particularly interested in interviewing James O'Keefe, the miscreant (and accused felon) responsible for the ACORN video media hoax that The BRAD BLOG has been meticulously detailing for several weeks, including the important focus on how the mainstream corporate media (the old-media) have been had by the scam.
O'Keefe's phony "pimp" story has been debunked, but, as Brad Friedman has shown, the old-media remain remarkably reticent to admit their errors, and the publisher of the videos, O'Keefe's employer and promoter Andrew Breitbart, has been unwilling to help them off the hook. Witness the outrageous email responses from the NYTimes' Senior Editor for Standards Greg Brock and then from their Public Editor Clark Hoyt, when it was shown to them that "the paper of record" had been had --- that O'Keefe had never "visited Acorn offices...dressed so outlandishly" in the now-infamous "pimp" costume as the paper had reported, as O'Keefe had represented, and as Breitbart himself had claimed in his own column, to the public.
While I didn't get the chance to speak with O'Keefe, I did catch up with his partner in fraud, Hannah Giles. Alas, she was surrounded by a protective coterie and fled without answering any questions when one of her entourage recognized me.
But then my luck turned. I trekked to the basement to cover the "XPAC" party and found myself standing shoulder to shoulder with Breitbart, O'Keefe's promoter, publisher, and employer, and owner of the website which launched the infamously damaging, misleading, deceptive, and highly doctored video tapes. I had previously questioned Breitbart at a press conference at the National Press Club press last October. He's had a pretty easy ride of it since then, facing questioning only from a largely adulatory press.
Though old-media, as Brad has shown, have been remarkably reluctant to demand answers to hard questions from Breitbart --- or any of the players involved in the ACORN secret video scheme --- I felt it important to do so for a number of reasons. The results were revealing, both in Breitbart's insanely manic demeanor, and in the substantive content of his answers to my questions.
Ultimately, as I believe you'll find in the video, he reveals a lot about his own editorial judgment, professionalism, and reliability --- none of it is good...
* * *
The Breitbart/O'Keefe media fraud has been wildly successful for the pair, helping to launch Breitbart's BigGovernment.com site late last year. But, unfortunately, it's hurt a great number of innocents.
Lost in the outrage against the New York Times for having fallen for the scam without bothering to fact-check, as The BRAD BLOG has been detailing for the past several weeks, is the fact that Breitbart and his ward O'Keefe have accomplished a despicable goal: They've all but destroyed an organization committed to helping those Americans most in need. Real people --- thousands of children amongst them --- will suffer hardship as a direct consequence of Breitbart's and O'Keefe's mendacious and malicious hoax, and singularly partisan political agenda. When will the media get around to telling that story?
And what of the damage that disreputable propagandists like Breitbart and O'Keefe bring to the real citizen journalists in the new media --- those of us striving not to sell a political agenda under false pretenses, but, rather, hoping to document facts, truth, and on-the-record positions of those who would corrupt our system through disingenuousness, self-enrichment, and lies?...