Also: ACORN not dead yet!...
By Brad Friedman on 4/6/2010, 6:32pm PT  
(ED NOTE 4/9/10: ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis was my guest on Wednesday night while I was guest hosting the Mike Malloy Show. My interview with her can now be heard here. - Brad)

Yesterday, Peter Hart, of the media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), flagged the New York Times' latest ACORN-related report for us and notes "how far the Times is from where it started on this story."

Yes, after a full six months of out-and-out misleading the public on the now-infamous ACORN "Pimp" Hoax by repeatedly misreporting that disgraced rightwing prankster and activist James O'Keefe had dressed as a 70's-era blaxploitation pimp while scamming low-level workers in ACORN offices --- and even as the Times finally conceded it was wrong on at least that point just two weeks ago --- the paper has still been standing by the misleading assertion that O'Keefe "clearly presented himself as" a pimp in those offices.

But the NYTimes' latest story is decidedly "pimp"-less and seems to tacitly serve as an admission that even that false narrative was previously misreported. Of course, they've yet to issue a public acknowledgment --- much less a correction, retraction, apology, or explanation --- for having gotten that point so wrong, for so long.

Last week's finding by the CA Attorney General, that ACORN committed "no violations of criminal law" in any of the illicitly and likely-illegally taped videos that O'Keefe and his partner Hannah Giles created in CA offices, may finally have convinced the people running the paper they had it wrong. At least if one notices the glaring absence of what wasn't reported this time around by the Times in its most recent story...

In his investigation, Attorney General Jerry Brown found --- as did the former MA AG [PDF] last December and the Brooklyn DA last month --- that O'Keefe's videos, as deceptively published by rightwing con-artist Andrew Breitbart on his "Big Government" website, were "severely edited."

Brown also expressly noted --- as we've been trying to get across to the Times for months now --- that while in those offices, O'Keefe presented himself not as a pimp, but rather as the law school student boyfriend of the fake "prostitute" (Giles) who was trying to escape from an abusive pimp who had stalked her, thrown her down stairs, and had threatened to kill her.

The pair, according to the report, was also trying to "save the [mythical, underage] El Salvadoran girls from being preyed upon and raped" by that abusive pimp.

"He never claimed he was a pimp," the CA AG pointed out after reviewing the unedited versions of the tapes, which O'Keefe and Giles finally agreed to released to Brown, only in exchange for immunity from criminal prosecution.

"Contrary to the suggestion in the edited videos," the AG observed, "O’Keefe never stated he was a pimp."

In covering some potentially good news for ACORN following that news item last week --- and we'll certainly ask ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis about all of this tomorrow night when she'll be our guest on the Mike Malloy Show --- the Times' Ian Urbina reports that while ACORN was recently forced to announce they'd be closing the doors on their local chapters in 75 cities, they intend to fight to stay alive as a national organization.

But note how Urbina finally reported on the ACORN "Pimp" Hoax videos this time out, with something that almost resembles accuracy in the nation's "paper of record" [emphasis added]:

Acorn has faced a drastic drop in federal money and foundation support after a video sting was publicized last fall. In at least one of the undercover videos, Acorn employees were shown advising a young conservative activist, who posed as a prostitute, how to conceal her criminal activities in the course of trying to buy a house.

Well, fancy that! No mention of O'Keefe either dressed as, "posing as" or even "representing himself as" a pimp! Go figure!

So does this mean the NYTimes is quietly, but finally conceding it had the story completely wrong in the first place?!

If so, when will the paper be issuing their appropriate corrections, retractions, apologies, and explanations for how this all happened in the first place and what changes they intend to institute in order to ensure that something this damagingly inaccurate doesn't occur again in the future?

Would that be too much to ask? If not, how about some accountability along with it, for those senior staffers who went so far out of their way to cover up for the paper's blatant failure?

The BRAD BLOG has recently sought comment on these matters from Urbina and the other senior, managing and executive editors. They have all failed to respond.

Urbina's phrasing in the recent article, as FAIR details, certainly has come a long way since last September when he misreported on O'Keefe "posing as...a pimp...dressed so outlandishly that he might have been playing in a risque high school play," "travel[ing] in the gaudy guise of pimp" with "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."

It's a long way even from just late last month when the NYTimes Public Editor (ombudsman) Clark Hoyt misleadingly asserted in his Sunday column that "If O’Keefe did not dress as a pimp, he clearly presented himself as one." The column was published on the same day that Urbina compounded the misleading information yet again by reporting on O'Keefe "posing as a...pimp."

Yes, the Times has indeed come a long since their Senior Editor for Standards Greg Brock incredibly insisted in email in February that "there is nothing for us to correct" despite more than a dozen similar misreports, and when Hoyt helped to further cover up for the inaccurate reporting by asserting after a long chain of emails that he did not "see that a correction is in order", and even since just two weeks ago when the paper finally issued its begrudging and partial correction.

Isn't it time the paper comes fully clean on this entire story once and for all? If the people there don't, if they are allowed not to do so, you can bet your bottom dollar they will do it all again in the very near future!

* * *

...CONTACT...
Executive Editor Bill Keller, executive-editor@nytimes.com
Managing Editor John Geddes, managing-editor@nytimes.com
Sr. Editor for Standards Greg Brock, SeniorEditor@NYTimes.com
Public Editor Clark Hoyt, Public@NYTimes.com
Reporter Ian Urbina, urbina@nytimes.com

* * *

The BRAD BLOG covers your electoral system fiercely and independently, like no other media outlet in the nation. Please support our work with a donation to help us keep going (Snail mail, more options here). If you like, we'll send you some great, award-winning election integrity documentary films in return! Details right here...