Falsely asserted O'Keefe 'dressed as pimp' while 'asking for, getting help for illegal activities'; Still stands behind fabricated claim
Media Matters details mainstream outlets that took bait, fell for Breitbart/O'Keefe's sensationalized fiction...
By Brad Friedman on 2/17/2010, 5:46pm PT  

As mentioned yesterday, on Monday night, wingnut propagandist Andrew Breitbart tweeted to me...

andrewbreitbart | @TheBradBlog U can lie that i lied until youre blue in face. ive told truth every step of way. U are propagandist. keep repeating the lies.

...in reply to The BRAD BLOG's recent series of articles highlighting, among other things, how he lied, along with his accused federal felon employee James O'Keefe, in order to sell their phony ACORN hit videos to gullible media --- and how the New York Times, and so many others, fell for it hook, line, and not-yet-retracted sinker.

But, as it turns out, evidence from Breitbart's own Sept. 21, 2009 Washington Times column reveals that Breitbart did, in fact, not tell the "truth every step of way." In fact, he out and out lied while selling O'Keefe's all together phony misrepresentation (some might call it a lie) that he "dressed as a pimp" while "asking for - and getting - help for various illegal activities," as Breitbart inaccurately reported in his column.

Breitbart's promotion of those videos, as published on his own BigGovernment.com website, with the spectacular, media-friendly marquee selling point of low-level ACORN workers so stupid that they couldn't even spot a skinny white kid as a phony "pimp," kick-started the sting video campaign that was built and sold on an utter lie.

More evidence has been published today at Media Matters highlighting the effectiveness of that lie, and how media outlets from one side of the country to the other --- not just the New York Times as we've shown --- were utterly bamboozled and played for chumps by Breitbart and O'Keefe's phony scheme.

Furthermore, when confronted with the lies --- yes, lies --- in his column, while on the air live last night, Breitbart chose to do what he always does...lie about them...

In his column this morning at Media Matters, "James O'Keefe and the myth of the ACORN pimp," Eric Boehlert picks up on our weeks long coverage of the scam, and of the New York Times embarrassing excuses for (so far) refusing to issue corrections for their repeated misreporting of the story:

Fact: On the guerilla clips posted online and aired on Fox News, O'Keefe was featured in lots of cutaway shots that were filmed outside and showed him parading around with Giles in his outlandish cane/top hat/sunglasses/fur coat pimp costume.

The cutaway shots certainly left the impression that that's how O'Keefe was dressed when he spoke to ACORN workers.

But inside each and every office, according to one independent review that looked at the public videos, O'Keefe entered sans the pimp get-up. In fact, he was dressed rather conservatively. During his visit to the Baltimore ACORN office, he wore a dress shirt and khaki pants. For the Philadelphia sting, he added a tie to the ensemble.

Instead, the '70s-era, blacksploitation pimp costume was a propaganda tool used to later deceive the public about the undercover operation. It was a prop that was quickly embraced by the mainstream media and turned into a central part of the ACORN story.

It's true that Giles was seen on the ACORN office tapes scantily clad as she discussed her future prostitution plans with ACORN workers. But it was the pimp costume, or the idea that O'Keefe was sitting there getting ACORN advice while decked out in it, that really hit the laughter button and caused the press --- and public --- to guffaw at ACORN's apparent cluelessness. Read: Not only were the ACORN employees morally suspect for doling out tax advice to a would-be prostitute, but the low-income advocates were dumb as stumps to boot!

"I can't believe ACORN believes this dude is a pimp!" exclaimed a Washington City Paper blogger last year, falsely reporting that O'Keefe arrived inside ACORN offices "looking like he had recently crawled from a frat house basement."

There's no doubt the pimp costume story worked. (Raise your hand if you were duped.) My guess is if you polled Americans today, and even ones who followed the story closely last year (including right-wing partisans), at least 90 percent would say O'Keefe sat inside ACORN offices while decked out in his pimp costume.

But it's not true.

No, it's not. Not even by Breitbart's own twisted attempt at back-tracking, since he was called out for what he wrote in his column last night when I appeared on his colleague's radio show (which Breitbart then called in to, to scream repeatedly that I was, ironically enough, a liar).

More on Breitbart's preposterous justification for what he wrote in his own column in a moment, but first I want to get on record here just a few of the multiple other media outlets that were scammed and/or gullible enough and/or failed due-diligence enough to report the phony story pushed by Breitbart and O'Keefe. None of them, to my knowledge, have corrected their misreporting to date.

It wasn't just the New York Times and Amanda Hess at the Washington City Paper, as quoted above in Boehlert's snippet, from her article "Does This Man Look Like a Pimp to You?" that fell for it, misreported it, and owe their readers a retraction and explanation for all of the above. Here are just a few other examples...

Unbylined Baltimore Sun editorial:

The video sounds like a satire: A young man and woman, dressed as caricatures of a pimp and prostitute, walk into the Baltimore office of ACORN...But it's not satire.

T.J. Holmes on CNN:

We have got some brand-new developments to tell you about on a story we have been following here on CNN, the conservative activist filmmaker who also poses as a pimp. Why would he do that? Yes, a pimp complete with a fake prostitute. He did this to record two Baltimore ACORN workers allegedly giving advice on how to avoid paying taxes from a prostitution ring involving underage girls.

Scott Shane at New York Times:

They visited Acorn offices in Baltimore, Washington, Brooklyn and San Bernardino, Calif., ... Mr. O'Keefe, 25, a filmmaker and conservative activist, was dressed so outlandishly that he might have been playing in a risque high school play.

Jeremy Olshan at New York Post:

O'Keefe and Giles were garishly dressed as a stereotypical pimp and prostitute. O'Keefe was decked out in excessively snazzy flesh-peddler couture...

David Gabacorta at Philadelphia Daily News:

O'Keefe and Giles were dressed as a pimp and prostitute, just as they were during undercover visits to ACORN offices in Baltimore, Washington, Brooklyn and San Bernardino, Calif., over the summer.

Pam Fessler on NPR's Morning Edition:

In the video that's been splashed all over cable TV and the Internet, a young man dressed as a pimp and a young woman posing as a prostitute are talking with an employee from the community organization known as ACORN.

Ken Rudin on NPR's "Political Junkie" blog:

O'Keefe became a national conservative celebrity last year when, dressed as a pimp and accompanied by a young woman dressed as a prostitute, he entered an ACORN office and taped employees...

Unbylined Dallas Morning News editorial:

James O'Keefe, 25, dressed up as a cartoon version of a pimp. Hannah Giles, 20, barely dressed as a stereotypical hooker ... stashed their camera and walked into ACORN offices from coast to coast

All of those news outlets need to issue retractions and explanations. We'll try to follow up on that point in the near future.

Boehlert also goes on to detail, as we have endeavored to get across repeatedly on these pages, a few of the reasons why all of this is of no small import:

Why the costume story is still important, though, is that it highlights the almost pathological streak that runs through Breitbart and O'Keefe's work, and how the press too often falls for their concocted cover stories.
It's important to understand how Breitbart and O'Keefe were able to so easily plant the ACORN falsehood. That's especially true in the wake of O'Keefe's recent arrest in New Orleans, where he was cuffed for entering a federal building under false pretense and tagged with intent to commit a felony. As blogger Marcy Wheeler noted, O'Keefe's cover story for that failed caper is riddled with holes, which should be a red flag for journalists as Breitbart concocts his contradictory spin.

Wrote blogger Brad Friedman last week, as he highlighted the pimp falsehood against the backdrop of the New Orleans arrest:

If O'Keefe, and Breitbart, who still employs him, were that willing to out-and-out lie about the ACORN scam, seen as a successful one, just how far would the two GOP operatives be willing to go to get off the hook for what appears to be a very serious federal felony?

More importantly, if news organizations are still making the dressed-like-a-pimp mistake, it's time that they stop. And yes, that means you, New York Times.
It's one thing to be suckered in by Breitbart and O'Keefe's pimp costume tale, it's another for the Times to now defend its erroneous reporting. And even worse is the Times' implication that it's O'Keefe who gets to decide which version of the pimp story is true, despite all the contrary evidence.

Soon, we'll be revisiting the process of getting a retraction from the NYTimes which, at the moment, is still standing by its reporting, following its Senior Editor for Standards, Greg Brock's emailed assertion to a BRAD BLOG reader who had requested a correction:

Our article included that description because Mr. O'Keefe himself explained how he was dressed --- and appeared on a live Fox show wearing what HE said was the same exact costume he wore to ACORN's offices. ... If there is a correction to be made, it seems it would start with Mr. O'Keefe himself. We believe him. Therefore there is nothing for us to correct.

In his first email, Brock offered a link to a video (embedded at right) to back up his Fox News/O'Keefe "We believe him" justification for standing by the "paper of record's" reports. In the video the Times editor says they relied on, Fox's Steve Doocy introduces O'Keefe, who is sitting next to him on the the couch in his now-infamous 70's pimp regalia, as follows:

I'm sure you've been seeing some of the videos from [Andrew Breitbart's] BigGovernment.com --- and also that we've been running here on Fox News --- showing these ACORN employees in Baltimore and also in Washington and now in Brooklyn, New York. These videos were put together by filmmaker James O'Keefe, whose joining us on the couch. He's dressed exactly in the same outfit that he wore in these ACORN offices up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

Doocy was played for a sucker by O'Keefe and Breitbart's BigGovernment.com. O'Keefe never appeared in any ACORN office dressed that way, much less "up and down the Eastern Seaboard."

Yet, O'Keefe just sat there as Doocy offered an entirely fictitious introduction --- which O'Keefe knew to be entirely false --- and he said not a word to correct him. He even helped underscore the fiction by responding: "I'm one of the whitest guys ever. I just wear ridiculous stuff and put people in ridiculous situations."

Do you care that you were knowingly played for a sucker, Mr. Doocy?

Even a close examination of O'Keefe's highly-doctored, heavily-overdubbed video tapes does not show what all of the media quoted above reported, inaccurately, that they supposedly showed.

In addition to former MA Attorney General Scott Harshbarger's observation in his Dec. 7th, 2009 report [PDF] on the videos:

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.

...simply viewing the actual videos reveals that none of them show what is reported by all of the media outlets above.

Brentin Mock at New Orleans' investigative outlet The Lens simply bothered to view the edited videos that O'Keefe/Breitbart released, and reported in his January 27, 2010 piece headlined "O'Keefe: Neither pimp nor journalist", that those descriptions of O'Keefe, as quoted above, are "inarguably wrong." He goes on to detail exactly what is shown (and isn't) in each of the videos, none of which show O'Keefe dressed as a pimp in any of the ACORN offices. Instead, where he is shown in the offices, or going in or out, he is, in fact, dressed in conservative slacks and shirt. And when representing himself to the low-level ACORN employees, he claimed to be a law student considering a run for Congress someday (or some variation thereof) hoping to rescue his girlfriend from the house of an abusive pimp.

And yet, when Breitbart wrote in his own Washington Times column about the fake story he continues to sell to this day, he falsely asserted [emphasis added]:

When filmmaker and provocateur James O'Keefe came to my office to show me the video of him and his friend, Hannah Giles, going to the Baltimore offices of ACORN - the nation's foremost "community organizers" - dressed as a pimp and a prostitute and asking for - and getting - help for various illegal activities, he sought my advice.

I quoted his own column back to him last night, during our dysfunctionally insane, nearly two-and-half hour, on-air shouting match after he blurted: "I didn't lie about James O'Keefe. When did I lie about James O'Keefe?"

But, in Andy Breitbart World, what he wrote was not a lie. So how did he justify it as not a lie?

In a syntactical Jedi Mind Trick that even Bill Clinton wouldn't be disingenuous enough to attempt, Breitbart stands by the statement in his own column as being accurate because, he eventually explained (after an assist from the show's host, Larry O'Connor, a contributor to Breitbart's wesbites) he only asserted that O'Keefe was "going to the Baltimore offices of ACORN" when he was "dressed as a pimp" ... and the rest of his sentence doesn't apparently matter. Or some such.

Oh, and besides that, he claims, though he refused to publicly release the unedited videos on the Internet to prove it, O'Keefe represented himself as a pimp, no matter what he was seen wearing or not wearing.

But even if we ignore the fact that Breitbart wrote that O'Keefe was "dressed as a pimp ... asking for - and getting - help for various illegal activities," and only focus on the first part of Breitbart's sentence wherein he writes that O'Keefe was "going to the Baltimore offices of ACORN ... dressed as a pimp," it still fails to hold up to scrutiny.

At the very beginning of the video in question, just before the eye-popping shots of O'Keefe dressed in his pimped-out costume, there is a quick shot of O'Keefe actually going into the Baltimore offices of ACORN!

And what's he wearing? A blue oxford shirt and khaki pants, as he says in the voice-over, "Scenario: A young woman pretending to be a prostitute, and a man pretending to run for Congress one day, walk into ACORN's Baltimore headquarters and speak with two of the employees..."

Here are two screen shots of him walking into those offices...

Yet, here's how he's shown in the bulk of all of the videos, deceptively edited and publicly sold, by Breitbart, O'Keefe, Fox and the gullible media, to suggest this is what he wore in those ACORN offices...

And here is how he was dressed on Fox "News," as Doocy incorrectly asserted that O'Keefe was "dressed exactly in the same outfit that he wore in these ACORN offices up and down the Eastern Seaboard," and as O'Keefe didn't lift a finger to disabuse him of the complete fabrication...

So, Breitbart is simply wrong. On every account. No matter how one slices it. And no matter what pathetic Clintonian parsing he's now clinging to in hopes of saving credibility, rather than copping to his inaccurate column and issuing a retraction. That is exactly what he would (appropriately) insist that any non-wingnut media outlet do in a similar circumstance --- as long as the complete inaccuracy didn't help to promote one of his spectacular blockbuster stories, of course, as this false reporting clearly does.

Lying is what Andrew Breitbart does for a living, and he's got plenty who will justify and support his doing so, sadly, in both the wingnut and non-wingnut media worlds.

Of course, by now regular readers of The BRAD BLOG should know when Breitbart's lying, because either his lips are moving or his fingers are tweeting things such as:

We will, of course, "keep repeating the lies" as he recommends, since they are, in fact, his lies, and ones that are undercutting the entirety of both our media system, and our democracy.

By now, we expect Breitbart to lie in order to push his political agenda, and then to accuse others of doing precisely what he is doing. But the real tragedy here is that the the mainstream media, even the New York Times, the "paper of record," are still falling for it.

[Be sure to check out Boehlert's full column here...]

UPDATE 2/19/10: "Giles Admits O'Keefe, Breitbart ACORN 'Pimp' Story was a Lie". 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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