NYTimes Owes Us An ACORN Smear Retraction

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
A month ago while covering the arrest of James O’Keefe after his attempt to tamper with the phones at Senator Mary Landrieu’s office the New York Times repeated conservative misinformation that smeared ACORN, and is now refusing to retract their “reporting.”

James O’Keefe previously had released videos that purported to show ACORN employees supposedly advising a “pimp” on how to evade the law. These videos were widely publicized in conservative outlets as part of a larger conservative campaign to destroy ACORN, because the organization registers poor people to vote. Usually-careful major media outlets like the New York Times then picked up the “story” from these conservative outlets and repeated the false accusations against ACORN.

An an example of how the Times has repeated the misinformation, this Times story, High Jinks to Handcuffs for Landrieu Provocateur, contained the following:

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.

In fact, O’Keefe was NOT “dressed as a pimp.” He represented himself as a candidate for Congress who was trying to help women who were being exploited. He then doctored the resulting videotapes to make it appear that ACORN acted improperly. He only dressed as a “pimp” when publicizing his videos, using the racist stereotype to amplify his false claims. This preposterous 1970′s blaxploitation-movie costume seemed to resonate with media outlets like the Times. (The woman who played the “prostitute” in the videos has herself been videotaped verifying that O’Keefe DID NOT wear a “pimp” costume.)

Compare the impression left by this NY Times story with other independently verified facts of the case as explained in : ACORN Report Finds No Illegal Conduct, which describes former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger’s investigation of the accusations. Among the investigation’s conclusions,

The videos that have been released appear to have been edited, in some cases substantially, including the insertion of a substitute voiceover for significant portions of Mr. O’Keefe’s and Ms. Giles’s comments, which makes it difficult to determine the questions to which ACORN employees are responding. A comparison of the publicly available transcripts to the released videos confirms that large portions of the original video have been omitted from the released versions.

The Brad Blog has taken the lead with efforts to get the NY Times to retract their reporting. From yesterday’s post, Exclusive: NYTimes Public Editor Declines to Recommend Retraction for Multiple Erroneous Reports on False ACORN ‘Pimp’ Story,

We’ve spent the last several weeks here reporting and demonstrating how the O’Keefe/Breitbart ACORN video hoax was exactly that — a political partisan scam that was publicized uncritically by the New York Times, and dozens of otherwise reputable outlets.

Despite the Times’ repeatedly misreporting that O’Keefe was dressed or posed as a “pimp” while meeting with ACORN employees in those videos, and even after being shown in no uncertain terms that he did not, the Times’ Public Editor has declined to recommend the paper retract its reporting on this story.

The next day, in NYT Public Editor Accuses The BRAD BLOG of ‘Political Agenda’ on Par With ACORN Smear Artists, Hoaxsters Breitbart and O’Keefe, New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt offered the following stunning statement,

The story says O’Keefe dressed up as a pimp and trained his hidden camera on Acorn counselors. It does not say he did those two things at the same time

Also at this Brad Blog post are links to a number of other blogs following this story.

You can take action by clicking through to: Tell the NY Times: retract anti-ACORN reportage.

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