The big story on Fox News yesterday was the undercover video of ACORN employees improperly advising a couple of conservative activists, posing as a pimp and a prostitute, on how to deceive the IRS and acquire funds to operate their illegal business. The video was featured throughout the day on just about every program on the Fox network.
It was a pretty revolting spectacle. The ACORN workers were utterly unethical and outside any standard of decency. This is the sort of behavior that ought to get someone fired. And that’s exactly what ACORN did. Both of the women who appeared in the video were terminated the same day as it was exposed. But that didn’t stop Fox News from exploiting and sensationalizing the story.
So far anyone has been able to determine (including Fox) the events depicted in the video were limited to the two people caught up in the sting. Of course, everyone from Glenn Beck to Sean Hannity implied that the the video documented what they alleged was the rampant corruption of the entire ACORN organization. The facts, however, reveal just the opposite. One fact that Fox News neglected to report (so that their audience could decide) was that the sting operation attempted to snare at least three other ACORN offices but came up empty. The phony journalists (James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles) who sought to entrap ACORN just kept running the scam until they got a bite. Nothing wrong with that, really. The problem is that they didn’t report that most of their targets proved to be honest and uncorruptable. They deliberately left the false impression that all of ACORN was a sewer of sleazeballs.
It should be noted that O’Keefe and Giles are not journalists, but conservative activists. O’Keefe has plotted scams aimed at Planned Parenthood, and Giles is a Yaffie (a member of the uber-rightist Young Americas Foundation). Also, despite the pathetic behavior of the two women in the video, no actual crime took place. There is no reason to assume that more senior ACORN officials would not have been appalled by this and turned in these women themselves if the episode had progressed up the chain of authority. Indeed, that has been the norm within ACORN.
It is standard procedure at Fox to misrepresent news events, that is, when they aren’t inventing them entirely. Just yesterday, Fox News ran another ACORN story under an intentionally misleading headline that read “ACORN INSULT.” So did the Fox Nation, whose version of the same story said “Arrest Warrants Issued for 11 ACORN Workers.” But what actually happened was that ACORN had discovered evidence of fraud and reported it to the state attorney’s office. So while Fox portrayed ACORN as crooked, it was ACORN who turned in their own people and were praised by law enforcement for their diligence.
When Fox News goes out if its way to create scandals based on intellectually dishonest conclusions that everyone in an enterprise is guilty if anyone in it commits a crime, they are leaving themselves wide open. Following the Fox model of culpability it would be easy to declare Fox News guilty of numerous abhorrent crimes.
Earlier this year, Fox News producer Aaron Bruns was arrested for trafficking in child pornography. Another Fox Newser, Don Broderick, committed hit-and-run on a bicyclist. Fox News contributor Dick Morris was famously caught with a hooker, whom he let listen in on phone calls with the White House. And Bill O’Reilly himself was the subject of a sexual harassment case that he settled privately for millions of dollars.
With evidence like this it is pretty clear that Fox News is a venal criminal enterprise, steeped in the most repulsive sorts of violence and sexual assaults. That is, if we use the Fox criteria for establishing guilt. And while ACORN fired their offending employees, three of the four Fox felons above still report there for work.
This is all reminiscent of another case where Beck accused ACORN of having a criminal culture because a few employees were found to have filled out forms improperly. Beck analogized that no one would ever eat at Burger King if it were found that BK employees were as criminally prone as he alleged ACORN’s were. Unfortunately for Beck, it was easy to show that Burger King employees were indeed a rather lawless bunch that made ACORN look like a Sunday school.
Therein lies the fallacy of this variety of guilt by association. Burger King, ACORN, and even Fox News, have thousands of employees. And since they are, for the most part, human, some of them will behave poorly. That does not mean that the rest of the enterprise is similarly prone to misbehavior. Unless, of course, you’re Fox News and it is your intention to slander your political enemies. Fox News, and the whole of the Rupert Murdoch empire, is by design a vicious smear machine and ought not to be taken seriously by anyone interested in the truth.