The Media's Complicity: Analysis of ACORN Coverage

( The mainstream media were complicit in their coverage of the ACORN scandal. Their behavior was and continues to be an insult to democracy and journalistic responsibility as the Fourth Estate has ignored facts, engaged in one-sided sourcing, and avoided basic and inherently important journalistic questioning. 


  First, there was avoidance. Some media outlets simply ignored the story. On Sept. 15, five days after the Maryland tape was released, ABC’s Charlie Gibson said, “I don’t even know about it… so you’ve got me at a loss” and said that the story might be “just one you leave to the cables.” But, Gibson was not alone in his lack of knowledge. The New York Times did not cover the story for nearly a week. On Sept. 26, Clark Hoyt, The Times’ Public Editor, acknowledged the paper’s tardiness, but insinuated that the story was lacking in facts:

But for days, as more videos were posted and government authorities rushed to distance themselves from Acorn, The Times stood still.  Some stories, lacking facts, never catch fire…But others do, and a newspaper like The Times needs to be alert to them or wind up looking clueless or, worse, partisan itself. 


Then, there were cases of gratuitously sloppy journalism.  Some of the outlets that did cover the story simply skipped over basic interview questions. In several instances, Bertha Lewis made the false claim that the filmmakers were turned away in “dozens of cities.” In a CNN interview with Rick Sanchez, Lewis said, “…the filmmakers went to dozens of offices. They were turned away.” In a more flagrant example of corroborating untruths, Lewis reiterated her “dozens” on MSNBC, stating, “…They were thrown out of dozens of offices. And, in fact, in Philadelphia, we called the police, filed a police report.”

Similarly, Wolf Blitzer, failed to adequately question Lewis. While on his show, Lewis made the following statement: “This sort of notorious crew went around to dozens of our offices. What you don’t see are the offices that threw them out offices that filed police complaints.”

The lack of depth of these interviews with Lewis has been egregious. Upon hearing of the “dozens,” even the most unseasoned journalist would know to ask, “What were the cities where filmmakers were thrown out?” And, what about the police reports (plural) that were filed by multiple “offices”? Like Sanchez’s treatment of the “dozens,” Blitzer failed to ask for a list of cities that took such action. Lewis was granted a free pass, as no probing questions were asked about the issues in question.

On Sept. 12, just two days after the Maryland tape was made public, Lewis released a statement on ACORN’s Web site, writing, “This recent scam, which was attempted in San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia to name a few places, had failed for months before the results we’ve all recently seen.”

Following subsequent video releases, New York and San Diego were dropped from ACORN’s list of cities where the filmmakers were allegedly “turned away” and the aforementioned statement was removed from ACORN’s Web site, thus erasing evidence of inconsistency.  Big Government copied her statement and posted it in it’s entirety at the time of it’s release (notice the broken link to the ACORN website in the Big Government post). This change can also be viewed in a story published on Sept. 17 byThe Washington Post. According to the Post, “An ACORN spokesman said they were turned away in Miami, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, where workers called police and filed a report.”  Notice the missing cities.

Where were the media to catch this glaring glitch in ACORN’s own reporting? The answer: Nowhere to be found. And, it was on the same day (Sept. 17), that Lewis appeared on MSNBC to discuss the fact that “dozens” of cities turned the filmmakers away.

And who could forget the glaring corrections that were issued by The Associated Press and The Washington Post. Both the AP and the Post published stories that attributed an incorrect, racially-driven motive for O’Keefe’s decision to conduct the ACORN investigation . Fortunately, the outlets were forced to correct their journalistic faux pas. Here is the Post’s correction:

A Sept. 18 Page One article about the community organizing group ACORN incorrectly said that a conservative journalist targeted the organization for hidden-camera videos partly because its voter-registration drives bring Latinos and African Americans to the polls. Although ACORN registers people mostly from those groups, the maker of the videos, James E. O’Keefe, did not specifically mention them.


Despite the fact that Bertha Lewis’ credibility had been completely compromised on September 14th with with the release of the New York ACORN investigation (not to mention the San Diego videos released on Sept. 17), she was granted a forum with The National Press Club on Oct. 6; the conference was broadcast on C-SPAN. In that presser, Lewis used the debunked information from the Associated Pressand Washington Post articles that had since been correctedYes, the NPC gave her a platform to continue touting untruths that were previously purveyed by the supine media. She said, “O’Keefe, himself, told The Washington Post, ‘They’re registering too many minorities. They usually vote Democratic. Somebody’s got to stop them’…”

Perhaps the most perplexing media coverage – or lack thereof – surrounds a video that ACORN Housing’s Philadelphia office released back in September. On Sept. 16, a YouTube account was created and on Sept. 17, a video featuring Philadelphia Office Director Katherine Conway Russell was released.The video, which is intended to respond to O’Keefe and Giles while defending the Philadelphia office’s handling of the filmmakers went largely unnoticed by the mainstream media.

In the video, Russell describes a July meeting with O’Keefe and Giles and uses a police report filed after the filmmakers left the office as evidence that the Philadelphia office was taken aback by the prostitution story line. Aside from the fact that the series of events that lead up to the police filing described in the video lead to more questions, the police report itself does not mention anything about discussion content; the report merely claims that O’Keefe was responsible for a verbal “disturbance.”

While the media vastly ignored this important video, many outlets did delve into the police report. According to The Washington Post, “ACORN emailed a copy of a Philadelphia police report dated July 24 to The Post to verify its account that police were called and the couple was shown the door.” And concerning the Philadelphia office’s involvement, WPVI Philadelphia wrote, “…by every account, the Philadelphia office is not part of the problem.” And, WBUR-FM wrote, “…in ACORN Housing’s North Philadelphia office, the scene is far from the one seen in the videos, which were made by a conservative activist”

Here, the media takes sides without interviewing or speaking with O’Keefe and Giles. Aside from the issue of ignoring ACORN’s own video, such selective sourcing is disturbing. Nowhere in the police report is ACORN’s rejection of any subject matter mentioned, therefore the report, in itself, does not prove wholeheartedly what ACORN’s officials in that city have said.

And finally: The insinuation that the videos were creatively edited was repeated in a plethora of mainstream news media. In an opinion piece for True/Slant, Allison Kilkenny wrote,

The videos are edited very creatively — if I’m being generous — to show only the ACORN employees who engaged in shady behavior, and not the dozens of other ACORN offices from which O’Keefe and Company were ejected, and in a few cases, ACORN employees called the police on the duo.


Aside from the fact that the videos weren’t edited in any way to deceive the viewers, that dozens of offices did not dispel O’Keefe and Giles, and only one office has come forward with a report, entire audio and transcript versions of the investigations are available on, right at the top of the homepage. This falsehood (that full versions are not available) has been repeated by Lewis herself on CNN and in other mainstream outlets (and, surprise, virtually no journalist has corrected her).

The ACORN story has, once again, shown the media’s inability to fulfill its duties. The media should adequately inform the public while asking the questions needed to provide a full and robust picture of what is occurring. ACORN coverage has been biased, incomplete, and sloppily mishandled. Let’s hope the aforementioned examples help to set the record straight.

(We’re Quickly Becoming) A Nation of Idiots

Via Big Hollywood:

Michael Jackson died and the media cried. But don’t worry; they were tears of joy, not despair. After all, what better time to sacrifice journalistic integrity for the sake of high ratings and bloated ad revenues?

In the weeks following Jackson’s death, the level and scope of coverage was and continues to be mind-numbing. Sure, MJ’s death was tragic, but tragedy doesn’t warrant the widespread disengagement of American media outlets, nor does it permit the dumbing down of pertinent information. To borrow from John Ziegler, the obsessive coverage of Michael Jackson’s death is yet another glaring symptom of the malpractice that is all too common amongst today’s media elite.

It’s no surprise that CNN and others are jumping on the bandwagon. Jackson’s collapse and subsequent death fueled increased viewership and network interest. According to CNN co-founder Reese Schonfeld:

“Jackson’s death brought all sorts of new viewers to the cable news networks, and it’s obvious that most of them turned to CNN. CNN is still seen, by most people who are not news junkies, as the place to turn to for news they really care about.”

Schonfeld went on to say the following:

“It’s unfortunate that the news they seem to care about is the death of an entertainer, no matter how great, when there are things happening in the world that will affect them and their children much more significantly.”

So, Schonfeld is hypocritically rejoicing over increased ratings while his network abandons world events to cover the life of a man who has had and will continue to have little viable impact on society. He’s basically saying, “How tragic that people care about such irrelevant information, but hey – our ratings are through the roof!”

Railing against citizen love for the unimportant, while praising the effect such coverage has over CNN’s bankroll is nonsensical (from a journalistic perspective, at least). And this is only one example. CNN surely isn’t the only network at fault, as plenty of others have joined in and reneged on their responsibility to the American people.

In their classic spirit when dollar signs come into focus, the media abandon reporting the news that actually affects Americans in order to capitalize on the revenues they can expect from their self-perpetuated campaigns, with “All Michael Jackson, All the Time” being the most recent narcissistic example.  Frankly, it’s embarrassing and fraudulent. The Fourth Estate has become the court gesture – and that’s being kind.

But, it’s not only the media who are at fault. U.S. citizens – led by members of my own generation – have continued to fuel the fire. Eric Holder was way off base when he called Americans a “nation of cowards.” What he should have called us was a nation of idiots (please note the sarcasm here, as I’d rather watch MSNBC than give Holder’s comment credence — and that’s saying something).

Many young Americans are so blind to the domestic and international issues that will surely impact their world, that they’d rather fawn over a pop legend they never knew, than confront the important issues that directly impact their lives.  Why expend the energy needed to understand the difference between a deficit and the national debt when you can watch the mainstream media slobber over the advertising revenues they receive from exploiting the death of a former super star? It’s shameful.

CNN and other related outlets should have the nerve to report real news, as should the American people crave the information that will lead to greater transparency and personal betterment. Here are some events we missed out on during the MJ hooplah:

  • Vice-president Joe “Gaffetastic” Biden said, “”We misread how bad the economy was,” a statement that should have sent the globe spinning. Instead, it quickly faded as the media contemplated which doctor should be blamed for MJ’s death.
  • Calls for a second stimulus began to surface (although anyone who was paying attention to Obama’s budget would have noticed billions budgeted for another potential “stimulus” back in April).
  • After the unprecedented connection that was established between Americans and Iranians, the media essentially abandoned the Iranian election story as Iranians continued to fight and protest in the streets of Tehran.
  • The media showed wreathes and memorials set for MJ, while American soldiers sacrificing their lives overseas went unnoticed. After all, how would the American people know of their sacrifices without a media body committed to relaying such pertinent information? Lt. Brian Bradshaw died the same day as MJ and his aunt had this to say in response to the media’s outlandish coverage: “Mr. Jackson received days of wall-to-wall coverage in the media. Where was the coverage of my nephew or the other soldiers who died that week?” Good question.

Beyond my complaining, it is important to note that the media have a responsibility to serve as a check on our government. Each outlet is intended to add value and context to the democratic process. Whether it be inherent political bias or the abandoning of real news for elevated ratings, the media are continuously abandoning the American people. The only question that remains: Is there any turning back?