By Brad Friedman on 2/10/2010, 11:55am PT  

Some folks have been ringing in on my exclusive yesterday on the embarrassing emails from Greg Brock, the NYTimes' Senior Editor of Standards, explaining why the once-great "paper of record" stands behind its gross misreporting on rightwing operative and accused federal felon, James O'Keefe as having "posed" as a pimp inside ACORN offices when he secretly made his highly-edited and apparently illegally-recorded hit videos --- since all public evidence shows that he was never dressed as a pimp in those offices!

I expect to have an official statement from ACORN soon on the Times' disastrous reporting of this key and oft-repeated element of O'Keefe's scam, as well as on Brock's extraordinary excuses for it (quickly summarized below).

[Update: ACORN's statement is now covered here...]

Until then, please see Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel's quick take on the story: "NYT Thinks TeaBugger James O'Keefe Entitled to Own Set of Facts," as well as Eric Boehlert's over at Media Matters: "I'm not sure 'standards' means what the NYT thinks it does"

Also, I appeared on the Randi Rhodes Show yesterday (Randi was snowed in, so Nicole Sandler of Radio or Not was guest-hosting) to discuss this mind-blowing matter. You can download the interview here [MP3], or listen online (appx 15 mins) here:

For those who didn't get the time to read yesterday's lengthy, detailed story, which includes the amazing, complete email thread with the Times' veteran Senior Editor of Standards(!) who, in 2007, after working for the paper since 1995, identified himself as the "senior editor who oversees corrections," here's my best attempt at the very quickest of summaries of those remarkable emails...

According to the December 7th, 2009 report [PDF] from former MA Attorney General Scott Harshbarger finding no wrong doing by ACORN employees: "Although Mr. O'Keefe appeared in all videos dressed as a pimp, in fact, when he appeared at each and every office, he was dressed like a college student - in slacks and a button down shirt."

Since the release of that independent study --- which the New York Times has never reported on --- they've run at least eight stories suggesting the fiction that O'Keefe was dressed as a pimp in the ACORN offices --- and God aren't those stupid ACORN employees idiots, who shouldn't receive any federal money to help poor people because they're just so dumb they couldn't recognize a phony pimp?

Yet, Times' Senior Editor for Standards Greg Brock, explains in the emails that no correction is due because:

  • Fox and O'Keefe said he was dressed that way on live TV, so "We believe him."
  • And, after being called on that absurd sourcing, the other reason is because: "At one point, the camera was turned in such a way to catch part of the 'costume' he was wearing."
    (But no, he won't point us to that video he says exists, because "I did not say that we saw the video online or that it ever was online. ... Many of our reporters have done a great deal of reporting on Acorn over a good period of time. And through that reporting --- whether it was watching videos, interviewing sources (who would not always go on the record) or doing other research --- we feel we have confirmed the information we reported. Just because I am not willing to give you a link --- or don't even have a link --- doesn't mean our reporting is in error.)
  • And furthermore, he writes: "ACORN employees who saw him described his costume."
    (But no, he won't point us those descriptions either when pressed for them, because "On my reference to comments by ACORN employees, I made that point ... based on my having read ad naseum [sic] about this case for months on end. I was not saying that the specific comment about 'dressed as a pimp' was from our interviews with ACORN employees. But others have reported such comments." Though he won't tell us when or where, of course.)
  • And, oh, he didn't really say most of the above, we were later informed, even though he did, but it didn't mean what we think we thought it meant, etc.
  • But in any case "We stand by our reporting" because "We believe him. Therefore there is nothing for us to correct."

If you've yet to read the full story, with much more info, including why none of this is a small matter, it may blow your mind. As it did mine.

Among those who have not yet rung in on this shameful affair is the NYTimes Public Editor Clark Hoyt (Public@NYTimes.com) who wrote in a column last September --- after much badgering from rightwing Fox "News" viewers and Andrew Breitbart followers (he's the rightwing media mogul/propagandist who published the grossly misleading video tapes under the title: "ACORN Child Prostitution Investigation") --- that the Times was "slow off the mark" in waiting "nearly a week after the first video was posted" before reporting on it. He concurred with Managing Editor for News, Jill Abramson, who blamed "insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio" for those supposed failures.

In that column, Hoyt himself mischaracterized the videos as having "caught Acorn workers counseling a bogus prostitute and pimp on how to set up a brothel staffed by under-age girls, avoid detection and cheat on taxes." Though he can, perhaps, be forgiven there, given that Harshbarger's report had not yet come out confirming that O'Keefe neither dressed as a pimp, nor represented himself as such. Rather, O'Keefe told ACORN workers that he was a college student considering a run for Congress someday, and was hoping to help the prostitute actually escape from an abusive pimp.

There is, however, no excuse for the Times having misreported those points at least eight times since the December 7th Harshbarger report, and certainly no excuse for their Senior Editor for Standards first taking Fox "News" and O'Keefe at their word, and then, when called on it, offering two dubious and so far wholly unverifiable points to back up the misleading reporting.

I remain hopeful that Hoyt will have something to say in this matter where clearly aggressive and loud corrections, retractions, and possibly even personnel changes, are called for.

Also not responding or calling for retractions from the Times on this is Breitbart, naturally. That, even though he has loudly demanded retractions and corrections for just about any significant or insignificant error --- or "journalistic malpractice" as he likes to call it --- he is able to find from outlets he views as enemies. Though wingnut and Fox "News"-friendly outlets such as the NYPost or National Review and Fox themselves are usually exempt from such self-righteous, self-serving, hypocritical calls for retractions, even when they get the very same story wrong as those he demands retractions from, you'd think he'd demand a retraction from his enemies at the NYTimes over this, no? Oh, right, the "journalistic malpractice" in this case works in his favor, so he disingenuously hasn't said a word to his followers about it at all. Go figure. O'Keefe, as Breitbart has noted, is his salaried employee.

(Feel free to ask him why that is on Twitter @AndrewBreitbart, if you like. He reads his Twitter feed closely.)

More on all of this, including reaction from ACORN, soon...

UPDATE 8:24pm PT: ACORN calls emails from Times Senior Editor "troubling and disturbing", seeks meeting with NYT Public Editor. Details now here...

UPDATE 2/11/10, 4:25pm PT: Rightwing blogger attacks both us, and our coverage. Swings and misses on both counts...

UPDATE 2/17/10: "Breitbart Lied About ACORN 'Pimp' Videos When Selling Story in His Own Washington Times Column". Full details...

UPDATE 2/19/10: Giles Admits O'Keefe, Breitbart ACORN 'Pimp' Story was a Lie: 'It Was B-Roll, Purely B-Roll'. Woman who posed as prostitute confirms repeated misreporting by NYTimes, many others. Full details...

UPDATE 2/21/10: "In CPAC Meltdown, Breitbart Forced to 'Apologize' for 'Apparently' Lying About ACORN 'Pimp' Story". Full details...

UPDATE 2/23/10: "Exclusive: NYTimes Public Editor Declines to Recommend Retraction for Multiple Erroneous Reports on False ACORN 'Pimp' Story" Full story, Hoyt's emails...

UPDATE 2/24/10: Hoyt responds to our on his emails and accuses The BRAD BLOG of having a "political agenda" on par with O'Keefe and Breitbart. Also, blogosphere issues blistering response, petition, call for Hoyt to step down. Full details, Hoyt's email response, right here...

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