Last summer Fox News participated in a media frenzy surrounding some sensationalistic videos produced by conservative activists and promoted by right-wing propaganda outlets. The ACORN representatives in the videos appeared to counsel a couple of cartoonish characters posing as a pimp and a prostitute on how to apply for loans without disclosing the nefarious nature of their pretend business.
The subsequent controversy led to ACORN initiating an independent review to ascertain the facts and to propose solutions. To that end they retained former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger to conduct a thorough investigation. The results of the investigation were released last week (pdf) and revealed that…
“While some of the advice and counsel given by ACORN employees and volunteers was clearly inappropriate and unprofessional, we did not find a pattern of intentional, illegal conduct by ACORN staff; in fact, there is no evidence that action, illegal or otherwise, was taken by any ACORN employee on behalf of the videographers. Instead, the videos represent the byproduct of ACORN’s longstanding management weaknesses, including a lack of training, a lack of procedures, and a lack of on-site supervision.”
Harshbarger pulled no punches in his condemnation of ACORN’s failings. While he found that there was no unlawful conduct, this was no vindication. There was much about which to be embarrassed. Reporting on the study’s release could have justifiably focused on that aspect. However, Fox News and its affiliates chose instead to virtually ignore the matter. It was reported on the air with the typical Fox slant, and there was a single story on their web site and another on Fox Nation. Also, Glenn Beck did a segment on it that focused more on how it tied into the carnival of unrelated conspiracy delusions that occupy his so-called brain. Then it vanished.
What makes this peculiar is that Fox was wall-to-wall ACORN for several weeks when the videos were released. You couldn’t turn the network on without seeing a report or a replay of clips from the Borat News Team. On one day in September, the Fox Nation posted sixteen separate stories on their web site – all with disparaging viewpoints. This past week the Fox Nationalists had a single story on the report and another on Acorn-shaped cookies at a White House dinner (I’m not sure that counts).
Now that a study is released that actually delves into the factual details of the affair, Fox has gone silent after an obligatory wave. And when they did address the issue, it was with their typical sneering disdain. The Fox News account of the study’s results was something less than “fair and balanced.” While they did include excerpts from statements released by Harshbarger and ACORN CEO, Bertha Lewis, they interviewed no one from the ACORN side of the story. On the other hand, Fox did do interviews with James O’Keefe, the videographer, Republican senator Lamar Smith, and a spokesman for Republican congressman Darrel Issa. All of these critics dismissed the study despite not even bothering to dispute any of its findings.
The findings, by the way, also revealed some notable information about the folks who brought the story to Fox. For instance, efforts by Harshbarger to interview O’Keefe and his hooker/partner Hannah Giles were rebuffed. It should be noted that O’Keefe and Giles have declined EVERY interview request that didn’t come from Fox News, or an otherwise similarly prejudiced venue, since this story went public. They are being kept in a hermetically sealed, undisclosed location. Also, the punking pair and their patron, Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment, refused to make the unedited videos available to Harshbarger for review. Thus, preserving the producers intent to deceive, as well as to assure that any exculpatory material was edited out of the tapes before anyone could see them. However, Harshbarger was still able to establish that the videos were materially altered prior to broadcast:
“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 release of this report may not absolve ACORN for acts that were improper by the people captured on video, but it demonstrates another incidence of their being tarred with allegations of illegality that are unproven and irresponsible. ACORN has been the victim of repeated smears related to voter fraud when there has never been a single case of it documented. Another news item this week reported that congressional efforts to defund ACORN were ruled unconstitutional.
Most of these relentless attacks against ACORN are motivated by right-wing politicians and organizations with a vested interest in suppressing low and middle income voters. These are the citizens that ACORN serves and conservatives recognize that empowering them will be adverse to their agenda of advancing the interests of the wealthy and powerful. That’s why so many attempts have been made to undermine and discredit ACORN’s operations. And despite the fact that all of the allegations against ACORN have so far been thoroughly debunked, we can expect the harassment to continue.
We can also expect the reporting from Fox to continue to be brazenly one-sided. They will plaster their air with unverified allegations that harm the interests of ordinary Americans, and they will look the other way when there is positive news about them and the groups that are their advocates. How can we expect Fox to be impartial when they actually partnered with Giles to raise money for her defense?
The Harshbarger report proves not only that ACORN is not guilty of breaking the law, it also proves that conservative media like Fox IS guilty of suppressing the truth.