On ABC's Good Morning America, Andrew Breitbart falsely suggested that the ACORN employees in James O'Keefe's videos “help[ed] set up a prostitution ring in every single office.” In fact, several ACORN employees either refused to help O'Keefe -- in one such case, O'Keefe has admitted as much -- or contacted the police following their encounters with him.
Breitbart falsely suggests ACORN “help[ed] set up a prostitution ring in every single office”
From the June 1 edition of ABC's Good Morning America:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (co-host): As you know -- and you did, I have to give you credit for this. On ACORN you did expose people doing things they shouldn't do, although Jerry Brown points out that they didn't -- you didn't show any illegality by ACORN. What is --
BREITBART: Is it illegal to help set up a prostitution ring in every single office? If that isn't illegal, then maybe perhaps we should create some -- not helping -- they get federal money. Al Franken voted against ACORN, the census was delinked by the White House by way of the Treasury Department and executive -- it's part of the executive office. What he exposed caused a lot of damage and there are -- they have political enemies that want to send a message to citizen journalists around the world not to join the James O'Keefe bandwagon.
ACORN employees in L.A., Philadelphia, and San Diego either refused to cooperate with O'Keefe or called the police
O'Keefe admitted L.A. worker “would not assist us obtain a house for our illegal activities.” In a video released November 16, 2009 -- more than two months after Breitbart's BigGovernment.com website began posting videos in which O'Keefe and Hannah Giles posed as a pimp and prostitute in ACORN offices -- O'Keefe states that a Los Angeles ACORN worker identified as Felix Harris “was the only ACORN employee in our nationwide investigation who would not assist us obtain a house for our illegal activities.” O'Keefe states during the video that his interaction with the worker occurred on “August 17, 2009.”
Philadelphia ACORN employee Katherine Conway Russell contacted the police following O'Keefe's visit. ACORN has publicly released a July 24, 2009, Philadelphia police report stating that an ACORN employee complained to police that O'Keefe had created a “verbal disturbance” at ACORN's office.
Russell can be seen holding police report in O'Keefe's October 21, 2009, video. O'Keefe's video shows footage from Russell's September 17, 2009, YouTube video in which she made statements about O'Keefe's and Giles' visit to the Philadelphia ACORN office. Russell said that following O'Keefe's visit, “We called the police and filed this report.” In his October 21 video, O'Keefe does not dispute that ACORN filed a police report about his visit. Media Matters obtained a copy of the police report and confirmed that it is on file with the Philadelphia Police Department.
ACORN spokesman calls O'Keefe's video “concocted,” says Philadelphia police report “proves our clear understanding of this scam that was being portrayed.” In response to the October 21 video, ACORN spokesman Scott Levenson told Fox News: “This is another example of Fox Entertainment treating concocted video as if it's actually news. ... The police report we filed contemporaneously proves our clear understanding of this scam that was being portrayed.”
San Diego ACORN official also reported duo to police following encounter. In a September 22, 2009, article, The Associated Press reported that California police said an ACORN worker contacted them about “possible human smuggling”:
Police say a worker with the activist group ACORN who was caught on video giving advice about human smuggling to a couple posing as a pimp and a prostitute had reported the incident to authorities.
National City police said Monday that Juan Carlos Vera contacted his cousin, a police detective, to get advice on what to with information on possible human smuggling.
Vera was secretly filmed on Aug. 18 as part of a young couple's high-profile expose.
Police say he contacted law enforcement two days later. The detective consulted another police official who served on a federal human smuggling task force, who said he needed more details.
The ACORN employee responded several days later and explained that the information he received was not true and he had been duped.
CA attorney general: An “ACORN worker in San Bernardino caught on to the scheme and played along with it.” In the video of Giles and O'Keefe's visit to the San Bernardino, California, ACORN office, ACORN organizer Tresa Kaelke gives them phony advice on how to run a brothel and also claims, among other things, that she murdered her ex-husband. During the evening on September 15, 2009, ACORN issued a statement calling the video of O'Keefe and Giles' interactions with Kaelke an “obvious set of lies and manipulations.” Kaelke stated of the conservative activists who filmed her: “They were not believable. ... Somewhat entertaining, but they weren't even good actors. I didn't know what to make of them. They were clearly playing with me. I decided to shock them as much as they were shocking me. Like Stephen Colbert does -- saying the most outrageous things with a straightface.” In an April 1 press release, California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced the results of his office's investigation into the ACORN videos and noted that an “ACORN worker in San Bernardino caught on to the scheme and played along with it, claiming among other things that she had murdered her abusive husband. Her two former husbands are alive and well, the Attorney General's report noted.”
Investigations have cleared ACORN of criminal wrongdoing
New York City prosecutors “cleared ACORN of criminal wrongdoing” because O'Keefe and Giles “edited the tape to meet their agenda.” A March 1 New York Daily News article entitled, “B'klyn ACORN cleared over giving illegal advice on how to hide money from prostitution,” reported:
Brooklyn prosecutors on Monday cleared ACORN of criminal wrongdoing after a four-month probe that began when undercover conservative activists filmed workers giving what appeared to be illegal advice on how to hide money.
While the video by James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles seemed to show three ACORN workers advising a prostitute how to hide ill-gotten gains, the unedited version was not as clear, according to a law enforcement source.
“They edited the tape to meet their agenda,” said the source.
Independent review found “no evidence that action, illegal or otherwise, was taken by any ACORN employee on behalf of the videographers.” In his December 7, 2009, “Independent Governance Assessment of ACORN,” former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger (D), who was hired by ACORN to conduct an inquiry in part into the videos, wrote:
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.
DOJ appeal of funding ban on ACORN does not allege videos show illegal activity. In an appeal filed December 17, 2009, asking a federal court in New York to review a decision that lifted a congressional ban on federal funding to ACORN, the Department of Justice noted Harshbarger's assessment of ACORN's “longstanding management weaknesses” and “internal potential for fraud” as a basis for the appeal; DOJ's appeal did not allege that ACORN employees shown in the videos engaged in any illegal activity.
CA attorney general: "[S]ome members of" ACORN “engaged in 'highly inappropriate behavior,' but committed no violation of criminal laws.” In his April 1 press release, Brown said that the videos show “some members of the community organizing group ACORN engaged in 'highly inappropriate behavior,' but committed no violation of criminal laws.” The press release added: " 'A few ACORN members exhibited terrible judgment and highly inappropriate behavior in videotapes obtained in the investigation,' Brown said. 'But they didn't commit prosecutable crimes in California.' "