On MSNBC Tuesday night Rachel Maddow ran segments of the unedited ACORN video tapes posted online by California Attorney General Jerry Brown last week. Brown completed an investigation of the anti-poverty organization and cleared the demonized group of any criminal wrongdoing. Maddow shared with her viewers what many of us have known and been reporting for weeks, the story blogger Brad Friedman has been writing in the non-cable TV wilderness for months about how right-wing activists James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles and right-wing media mogul Andrew Breitbart created and promoted ham-fisted severely edited videos that suggested ACORN employees aided a pimp and his prostitute girlfriend in a child smuggling and prostitution enterprise.
There was never a pimp. O’Keefe, who plead guilty last month to misdemeanor charges related to his entering Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office in New Orleans under false pretenses, never posed as a pimp in the ACORN offices. On the contrary, Hannah Giles posed as a frightened prostitute and O’Keefe mostly posed as Giles’ law-student boyfriend who was trying to help rescue her from an abusive pimp. The two told tragic stories to win sympathy from the ACORN workers but they later edited the tapes to make it seem that the ACORN workers were criminals. They were not criminals. They were set up, just like the mainstream media and the American people were set up.
Indeed the mainstream media including the New York Times stood by the story and kept reporting it as if it were real even though the only sources on the story ever drawn upon seemed to be the deeply controversial activist tapes themselves, the activists authors of the tapes and the right-wing impresario of the hoax, Andrew Breitbart.
Aghast, Friedman hectored New York Times editors and public editor Clark Hoyt to run corrections and to stop reporting the story incorrectly. He was unsuccessful. Hoyt wrote a series of emails to Friedman excusing the bad reporting and splitting hairs in the face of strong evidence that the paper was wrong, evidence that at very least demanded a story of its own in the nation’s paper of record.
Now that Maddow has reported the news, perhaps Friedman will get the full correction he is owed, too late to save ACORN, which was illegally defunded by willfully ignorant members of Congress who literally commended the hackwork videos as investigative journalism in the public interest. The videos are more likely the product of criminal invasion of privacy, according to Attorney General Brown.
Strapped for cash and disgraced, ACORN shut its doors last week. As Friedman put it: “The anti-poverty organization of 400,000 low- and middle-income member families in 75 cities was successfully targeted and put out of business… by long, concerted smear campaigns intended to do little more than undercut ACORN’s successful voter registration drives… For enfranchising Americans to participate in their own democracy, the GOP had to put them out of business.”