Says 'videos were a hoax,' 'hard to believe' Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt 'actually believes what he's saying' in defense of repeated misreporting
Group issues action alert calling for retractions, apologies from 'paper of record'...
By Brad Friedman on 3/11/2010, 1:08pm PT  

The New York Times "was duped" and "refuses to own up to mistakes in the paper's coverage" of the now-infamous ACORN "pimp" hoax video tapes published by partisan Rightwing activists James O'Keefe, Hannah Giles, and Andrew Breitbart.

That coverage, according to a devastating, no-holds barred, well-documented action alert issued today by the decades-old media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), was "wildly misleading" as a result of the paper having "decide[d] to skip the standard rules of journalism."

FAIR has been covering bias in the media since 1986 and today's detailed action alert calls on the "paper of record" to issue retractions, apologies, and explanations for their repeatedly incorrect and uncritical coverage of the Rightwing ACORN "pimp" hoax videos.

The group also excoriates New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt's often-absurd emailed justifications to The BRAD BLOG for refusing to recommend the paper issue retractions and apologies, as they decry: "It is hard to believe that Hoyt actually believes what he's saying here."

Finally, FAIR's analysis of the reportage, videos, and transcripts comes to the damning conclusion: "The videos were in fact a hoax, and the Times was duped. Its readers deserve to know as much--and ACORN, which suffered serious political damage as a result of the false stories, deserves an apology."

They ask readers, as we have for many weeks, to contact the Times' Public Editor Hoyt to "recommend that the paper investigate the ACORN videos and produce a report that clarifies the record"...

Please read the entire FAIR piece, and take the action they recommend there to demand accountability from the New York Times, but here are a few devastating money quotes from FAIR's coverage today:

Ignoring calls from numerous critics, the New York Times refuses to own up to mistakes in the paper's coverage of the now-famous right-wing videotapes attacking the community organizing group ACORN. Instead, the paper's public editor, Clark Hoyt, is relying on an absurd semantic justification in order to claim the paper does not need to print any corrections.
[T]he story the Times continues to tell is wildly misleading, as a review of the publicly available transcripts of his visit ( makes clear. O'Keefe never dressed as a pimp during his visits to ACORN offices, seems to never actually represent himself as a "pimp," and the advice he solicits is usually about how to file income taxes (which is not "tax evasion"). In at least one encounter (at a Baltimore ACORN office), the pair seemed to first insist that Giles was a dancer, not a prostitute.

In the case recounted in the March 2 Times story, the transcripts show that O'Keefe did not portray himself as a pimp to the ACORN workers in Brooklyn, but told them that he was trying to help his prostitute girlfriend. In part of the exchange, O'Keefe and his accomplice seem to be telling ACORN staffers that they are attempting to buy a house to protect child prostitutes from an abusive pimp.

Throughout the months the Times covered the story, it made a major mistake: believing that Internet videos produced by right-wing activists were to be trusted uncritically, rather than approached with the skepticism due to anything you'd come across on the Web. O'Keefe and the Web publisher Andrew Breitbart refused to make unedited copies of the videotape public, and with good reason: A more complete viewing, as the transcripts show, would produce a much different impression.
The videos were in fact a hoax, and the Times was duped. Its readers deserve to know as much--and ACORN, which suffered serious political damage as a result of the false stories, deserves an apology.

FAIR concludes with an ACTION item, including Hoyt's email address and phone number (, 212-556-7652) urging readers to: "Encourage New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt to recommend that the paper investigate the ACORN videos and produce a report that clarifies the record."

Earlier this month, ACORN launched its own campaign to "demand accountability" from the NYTimes and other media outlets that have similarly misreported the story, following The BRAD BLOG's weeks-long exposé of the hoax.

As noted in FAIR's action alert, the former MA Attorney General Scott Harshbarger found [PDF] last December, in an independent report which was highly critical of the group for organizational failures, that there were no illegalities or pattern of criminality by ACORN or its employees seen on the well-publicized, highly-edited, heavily-overdubbed, secretly-taped videos released last year, though Harshbarger did note that O'Keefe and Giles may have broken the law by secretly video taping the low-level ACORN and ACORN Housing employees.

The BRAD BLOG detailed a number of Harshbarger's overlooked findings in an essay yesterday and we also recently highlighted how one of the most apparently-stunning moments on the video tapes was, in reality, not at all what it was presented to be by the rightwing hoaxsters when compared to their own unauthenticated text transcripts.

Last week, in another setback for the GOP's anti-ACORN agenda, Kings County, NY, District Attorney Charles J. Hynes found "no criminality" in the videos taken at the Brooklyn ACORN offices as he announced the end of his five-month probe. Officials from his office decried the videos as "'highly edited' splice jobs" and declared "they edited the tape to meet their agenda."

Yesterday, a federal judge determined that Congress passed --- and President Obama signed --- an unconstitutional bill of attainder, when they attempted to withhold federal funding from the community organization last fall as the scam video tapes were presented (and mis-represented, over and over and over and over again) to the public.

In her finding, granting permanent injunctive relief to ACORN, U.S. District Court Judge Nina Gershon also slammed Congressional lawmakers for having rammed through the unconstitutional defunding measure without trial or even the minimal due process of holding a single hearing at which ACORN might have been able to present much of what the public has only recently learned about the hoax tapes --- even as the New York Times still refuses to report on that hoax.

To date, in addition to the NYTimes, none of the media outlets whose repeated and inaccurate misreporting that we've highlighted to date --- including the Baltimore Sun, CNN, New York Post, Washington City Paper, Washington Times, Philadelphia Daily News, NPR, and Dallas Morning News --- have issued corrections, retractions, or apologies for that coverage to our knowledge.

Read, and take action on, the FAIR report here...

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