I recently attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in D.C., with video camera in hand, to report on the attendees. I was particularly interested in interviewing James O'Keefe, the miscreant (and accused felon) responsible for the ACORN video media hoax that The BRAD BLOG has been meticulously detailing for several weeks, including the important focus on how the mainstream corporate media (the old-media) has been had by the scam.
O'Keefe's phony "pimp" story has been debunked, but, as Brad Friedman has shown, the old-media remains remarkably reticent to admit their errors, and the publisher of the videos, O'Keefe's employer and promoter, Andrew Breitbart has been unwilling to help them off the hook. Witness the outrageous email responses from the NYTimes' Senior Editor for Standards Greg Brock and then from their Public Editor Clark Hoyt, when it was shown to them that "the paper of record" had been had -- that O'Keefe had never "visited Acorn offices...dressed so outlandishly" in the now-infamous "pimp" costume as the paper had reported, as O'Keefe had represented, and as Breitbart himself had claimed in his own column, to the public.
While I didn't get the chance to speak with O'Keefe, I did catch up with his partner in fraud, Hannah Giles. Alas, she was surrounded by a protective coterie and fled without answering any questions when one of her entourage recognized me.
But then my luck turned. I trekked to the basement to cover the "XPAC" party and found myself standing shoulder to shoulder with Breitbart, O'Keefe's promoter, publisher and employer, and owner of the website which launched the infamously damaging, misleading, deceptive and highly doctored video tapes. I had previously questioned Breitbart at a press conference at the National Press Club press last October. He's had a pretty easy ride of it since then, facing questioning only from a largely adulatory press.
Though old-media, as Brad has shown, have been remarkably reluctant to demand answers to hard questions from Breitbart -- or any of the players involved in the ACORN secret video scheme -- I felt it important to do so for a number of reasons. The results were revealing, both in Breitbart's insanely manic demeanor, and in the substantive content of his answers to my questions.
Ultimately, as I believe you'll find in the video, he reveals a lot about his own editorial judgment, professionalism and reliability -- none of it is good…
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The Breitbart/O'Keefe media fraud has been wildly successful for the pair, helping to launch Breitbart's BigGovernment.com site late last year. But, unfortunately, it's hurt a great number of innocents.
Lost in the outrage against the New York Times for having fallen for the scam without bothering to fact-check, as The BRAD BLOG has been detailing for the past several weeks, is the fact that Breitbart and his ward O'Keefe, have accomplished a despicable goal: They've all-but destroyed an organization committed to helping those Americans most in need. Real people -- thousands of children amongst them -- will suffer hardship as a direct consequence of Breitbart's and O'Keefe's mendacious and malicious hoax, and singularly partisan political agenda. When will the media get around to telling that story?
And what of the damage that disreputable propagandists like Breitbart and O'Keefe bring to the real citizen journalists in the new media -- those of us striving not to sell a political agenda under false pretenses, but rather, hoping to document facts, truth, and on-the-record positions of those who would corrupt our system through disingenuousness, self-enrichment and lies?...
A Few Thoughts on the Above Video
For most of my childhood, I grew up in foster care. I was nourished by government-provided school-lunches at government-run public schools. There, I was taught and cared for by government employees - my teachers. The physicians that treated my chicken pox were paid by the government. The people that cared about me -- my teachers, social workers and physicians -- were all government employees. And some of them were pretty remarkable.
Today, I've graduated law school and am doing work that I enjoy and (I hope) adds to the lives of others. I'm not sure I'd be here if it weren't for the teachers that recognized a young boy's ferocious appetite for knowledge, notwithstanding the constant upheaval in his personal life. If it weren't for government employees that cared and had the patience of saints, who knows where this formerly-troubled kid might have ended up?
The reason I bring this up is that ACORN works in, and with, broken communities filled with kids that are not that much different than I was. ACORN helps some of the least fortunate people in the country. The work is difficult, frustrating, emotionally draining, low-paid and often thankless. But people with big hearts, lots of hope and immeasurable persistence in the face of adversity go to work every day determined to help kids and families in need.
So when James O'Keefe dishonestly attacks the group, and perpetuates quasi-racist smears... and the media swallows his story uncritically... and then O'Keefe is treated as a hero by folks that can afford to travel across the country to attend a 3-day political wank-fest… Well… That bothers me.
Moreover, the secondary consequences of the Breitbart/O'Keefe scheme are likely to take a toll on another group who deserve far better: those of us that have committed ourselves to excellence in the progressive new media space. The old-media has demonstrated zero capacity for critical self-examination. Witness those outrageous emails from the Times editors, as published on The BRAD BLOG, offering absurd excuses for standing by demonstrably inaccurate reporting.
It wasn't just the New York Times who was had. Dozens of others old-media outlets were played as well, and have been similarly reticent at offering corrections and retractions, even now that both Breitbart and O'Keefe's "prostitute" partner Hannah Giles has admitted that his 70's-era "pimp" get-up was an add-on after-thought, used only to "pimp" the videos themselves to the public.
Once old-media comes to terms with the fact that they have been suckered by a couple of amateurish buffoons, it seems they are willing to go to any length to pass the blame and avoid taking accountability for their own failures. I hope the old-media takes some lessons from the above video, and decides to review their own failings to date, and how they might make up for it with real reporting and investigation of such clearly partisan, agenda-driven operatives the future.
In any sane world, the old-media would spend a little time navel-gazing to figure out how they were so easily suckered by James O'Keefe, Andrew Breitbart, Fox News and talk radio. But, alas, even the New York Times' "reader's representative", Public Editor Clark Hoyt has obstinately refused to recommend corrections to the Times' repeatedly error-riddled coverage.
Rather than accept responsibility, issue corrections and take steps to avoid such easily-averted errors in the future, Hoyt has instead created a false equivalency, shockingly accusing "every person in this argument" as "pushing a political agenda" -- and the broad-brush new-media, a bastion of progressive strength, is tarred as unreliable, somehow, along with it.
After Brad Friedman meticulously walked Hoyt through the inconsistencies in the O'Keefe/Breitbart story and offered definitive proof that their entire construct was a malicious hoax, Hoyt's response to Friedman was to say that Friedman, like O'Keefe and Breitbart, had an agenda and was therefore unreliable.
See the trick? Friedman spent scores of hours trying to save the New York Times from itself, proving every which way to Sunday that Breitbart and O'Keefe were dishonest hucksters. For all his efforts, Brad asked only for a correction. He asked only that the "paper of record" report accurately. But when Hoyt and the Times finally ran out of excuses and could no longer conjure remotely plausible counterclaims to Friedman's systematic presentation of hard evidence, the paper declared everyone tainted somehow (except themselves of course) and walked away from the table.
Old-media has demonstrated little capacity for distinguishing wheat from chaff in the new-media. This will likely continue, as they lump the responsible progressive new-media together with a laughably absurd rightwing electronic propaganda machine and declare everyone suspect -- even as it takes the progressive new-media themselves to help the old-media understand how they've been had by those who deceptively use the guise of "new media" and "citizen journalist" to ply their same old dishonest trade.