Watchdog Group Demands Retraction and Explanation From New York Times for Multiple Inaccurate O'Keefe/ACORN/'Pimp' Reports
NYT's Senior Editor for Standards "stands by" repeated misreporting, cites Fox News appearance by rightwing propaganda "journalist" as "evidence," despite contrary eye-witness testimony, independent reports and video
WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- National nonpartisan watchdog group Velvet Revolution calls on the New York Times to immediately issue a retraction and correction of its repeated, inaccurate reporting that James O'Keefe entered offices of The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) dressed as a "pimp." This information is false.
"Not since the Times' flagrant and inexcusable front-page 'reporting' by Judith Miller on Saddam Hussein's non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction has the paper so irresponsibly, and repeatedly, in saturation coverage, helped to mislead the American people in a way that has caused so much harm," says Brad Friedman, Velvet Revolution co-founder and publisher of The BRAD BLOG, which first reported on the Times' errors.
In several stories over the past six months, the Times falsely reported that O'Keefe
- "visited Acorn offices … dressed so outlandishly that he might have been playing in a risque high school play" http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/16/us/politics/16acorn.html?_r=1
- "travels in the gaudy guise of pimp … through various offices of Acorn" http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/19/us/19sting.html
- made a "national splash last year when he dressed up as a pimp and trained his secret camera on counselors with the liberal community group Acorn…" http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/19/us/19sting.html
However, the visual evidence from video tapes and direct interviews with ACORN employees who actually witnessed O'Keefe in their offices provide direct proof that O'Keefe did not dress as a pimp when he entered the ACORN offices. In fact, the official December 7, 2009 report of an investigation by former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, states: "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." http://www.proskauer.com/files/uploads/report2.pdf
That finding, and the report itself, were never reported by the New York Times. Instead, the Times relied on O'Keefe and his Rightwing employer propagandist Andrew Breitbart for the false "dressed as a pimp at ACORN" claims at least eight times on their pages since the report was released. Through these articles, the Times has consistently ill-served both the public and the truth, and caused irreparable harm to a legitimate organization that does serve the needs of the public.
Incredibly, Times' Senior Editor of Standards, Greg Brock, in charge of corrections at the paper, attempted to justify the paper's multiple misreports by referencing a live appearance on Fox News by O'Keefe dressed in his pimp outfit, as evidence to back up their reporting. "We believe him," Brock stated. "Therefore there is nothing for us to correct.... We stand by our reporting". http://www.bradblog.com/?p=7689
The Times' repeated false and unsupported reporting encouraged Congress to pass legislation, signed by the President and later found unconstitutional, to defund ACORN at a time when the low and middle-income citizens it serves are in the greatest need in decades. Moreover, this false, garish and politically charged "reporting" introduced many Americans to ACORN, a community organization that works for better schools, wages, loans, voting rights and neighborhoods, by painting it as an incompetent, corrupt, and criminal enterprise. ACORN lost critical funding, suffered widespread opprobrium, and its employees received waves of violent threats as a result of these false and inaccurate portrayals.
A report by the Congressional Research Service, commissioned by the House Judiciary Committee, also concluded, as did Harshbarger, that ACORN did not violate any laws vis a vis the O'Keefe affair, although a number of state laws against secret wiretapping were likely violated by O'Keefe.. http://judiciary.house.gov/news/091222.html . And yet, the New York Times has failed and even refused to find the truth and the facts "fit to print."
VR calls on the "paper of record" to issue a retraction and apologize to the American public, ACORN and the U.S. Congress. Moreover, VR calls on the Times to launch a full investigation and provide readers with an explanation of how its own editorial failures allowed such a serious and damaging error to be repeatedly reported in the face of conclusive evidence to the contrary.