NYT Admits It Was Wrong About ACORN, But Still Gets It Wrong

The New York Times, thanks in large part to FAIR activists, printed an ACORN correction today (3/23/10):

Several articles since September about the troubles of the community organizing group ACORN referred incorrectly or imprecisely to one aspect of videotaped encounters between ACORN workers and two conservative activists that contributed to the groupâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s problems.

In the encounters, the activists posed as a prostitute and a pimp and discussed prostitution with the workers. But while footage shot away from the offices shows one activist, James Oâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢Keefe, in a flamboyant pimp costume, there is no indication that he was wearing the costume while talking to the Acorn workers.

The errors occurred in articles on September 16 and September 19, 2009, and on January 31 of this year. Because of an editing error, the mistake was repeated in an article in some copies on Saturday.

Well, that’s better than nothing. But as FAIR has pointed out, it’s not entirely clear that O’Keefe ever posed as a pimp in any of the actual meetings at ACORN offices. In many cases, he seems to be telling ACORN workers that he is the boyfriend of Hannah Giles (the “prostitute”).

The Times‘ correction comes as little comfort given the news thatACORNis shutting down, in large part thanks to these hoax videos. Thepaper covered that news, and managed to continue to misreport the story:

ACORNhas been battered by criticism from the right and has lost federal money and private donations since a video sting was publicized last fall. ACORN employees were shown in the videos advising two young conservative activists–posing as a pimp and a prostitute–how to conceal their criminal activities.

Again, O’Keefe does not appear to be “posing as a pimp” in many of the encounters; he’s claiming that he’s trying to protect Giles from a pimp. From O’Keefe’s transcript of his visit to ACORN’s Brooklyn office (cited by Brad Blog, 3/22/10):

I know nothing about her business, I am just trying to be here to be professional because, ya know, she walks in and–but now we have this pimp discriminating against us.

And it’s a stretch to suggest that the advice was about “how to conceal their criminal activities.” The duo were trying to get advice on how to get a mortgage; the gist of the advice in the somewhat rambling meetings was about the need to file tax returns in order to be able to even applyfor a mortgage.

The Times added:

While the videos gave the impression that one of the two activists, James E. O’Keefe III, was dressed as a pimp when he entered the offices, later inspection seemed to indicate that he had manipulated that part of the footage and showed no evidence that he wore the costume when talking to ACORN workers.

The transcript of several stings, however, indicate that Mr. O’Keefe clearly presented himself as a pimp and that ACORN workers in some offices told him how to hide prostitution activities from the authorities.

This is the New York Times grasping at straws, strenuously attempting to justify their sorry record on this story.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.