More on NYT and ACORN

A short New York Times piece by Ian Urbina (4/2/10) serves as an update of sorts on the future of community organizing group ACORN, which says it will continue to have a national presence. Urbina includes this description of the now-infamous right-wing video hoax that did much of the damage to the group:

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.

It’s worth noting how farthe Times is from where it started on this story; see the list below,culled fromFAIR’s March 11 alert.

No matter what, a story about ACORN seems to require an over-the-top accusation from a right-wing figure. In this case it’s Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.), who says that state offices that have severed ties to ACORN”are like career criminals who adopt aliases without changing their criminal lifestyles.” As a reader pointed out to the Times, Issa seems to have been convicted of more crimes–in the form of a misdemeanor gun-possession charge (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/2/03)–than ACORN has.

You would think that reporters would be wary of letting right-wing sources spin them on ACORN–that’s how the Times got into trouble in the first place. Remember, the Times used to tell readers that ACORN workers eagerly helped the undercover activists devise their criminal schemes:


“…amateur actors, posing as a prostitute and a pimp and recorded on hidden cameras in visits to ACORN offices…. Conservative advocates and broadcasters were gleeful about the success of the tactics in exposing ACORN workers, who appeared to blithely encourage prostitution and tax evasion.”

Videomaker James O’Keefe “was dressed so outlandishly that he might have been playing in a risque high school play. But in the footage made public–initially by a new website, BigGovernment.com–ACORN employees raised no objections to the criminal plans. Instead, they eagerly counseled the couple on how to hide their activities from the authorities, avoid taxes and make the brothel scheme work.”

— (9/19/09)

“Their travels in the gaudy guise of pimp and prostitute through various offices of ACORN, the national community organizing group, caught its low-level employees in five cities sounding eager to assist with tax evasion, human smuggling and child prostitution.”

— (9/27/09)
“a video sting had 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.”

— (10/4/09)
“To recap: Two conservative activists with a concealed video camera, posing as a prostitute and her pimp, visited offices of ACORN, the community organizing group, and lured employees into bizarre conversations about how to establish a bordello, cheat on taxes and smuggle in underage girls from Central America.”

— (1/28/10)
“Mr. O’Keefe is a conservative activist who gained fame last year by posing as a pimp and secretly recording members of the community group ACORN giving him advice on how to set up a brothel.”

— (1/31/10)
“Mr. O’Keefe made his biggest national splash last year when he dressed up as a pimp and trained his secret camera on counselors with the liberal community group ACORN–eliciting advice on financing a brothel on videos that would threaten to become ACORN’s undoing.

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.