Fox News racked up the ratings by tossing red meat to the right-wing racist fringe when it ran video produced by James O’Keefe, the fake investigative reporter, in which he posed as a pimp seeking help finding housing for his prostitution business from ACORN, the anti-poverty group whose clients are mostly African-American inner-city dwellers.
But newly released unedited versions of the video reveal that key sections of footage O’Keefe shot in California were omitted from Fox’s broadcast package in order to create the false impression that ACORN employees were being helpful to O’Keefe’s pimp character when in fact — and in context of the real interview — they definitely were not.
It’s a tribute to the propaganda power of Fox that as a result of its broadcasting O’Keefe’s video, ACORN, which was founded in 1970, shut down last month.
The most superficial and yet telling deception by Fox News and O’Keefe was that during his interviews with ACORN, O’Keefe was dressed as a caricature “Superfly”-era pimp and that ACORN employees were untroubled by this costume, as if they dealt with flamboyantly dressed pimps every day. While it’s true that Hannah Giles, O’Keefe’s associate was attired at the meetings as a prostitute, and O’Keefe was filmed in the Superfly outfit outside ACORN offices, when he went in to the meetings, he was wearing business-casual slacks and a a pin-striped dress shirt. (The Brad Blog has aggressively covered this deception, which corporate media reported without checking. The New York Times, in particular, has refused to correct the record on this issue.)
More significantly, another segment edited out of Fox News’ broadcast package would have clarified why an ACORN employee was so eager to learn details — their current whereabouts, etc. — about the underage prostitutes O’Keefe said he had under his control. If Fox were a legitimate news organization, a segment producer would have followed up on the interview and discovered that as soon as O’Keefe left the meeting, the ACORN employee called the cops on him. Instead, based on the deceptive video Fox aired, the ACORN employee was fired.
The unedited video also reveals that another employee who appeared to be encouraging O’Keefe in his prostitution venture was actually offering supportive words — “You can do anything. Don’t give up.” — to Hannah Giles, who was posing as a prostitute in desperate need of housing.
Based on the complete video record and an investigation into the actions of O’Keefe and Giles, California Attorney General Jerry Brown has cleared ACORN of wrongdoing in California last week. Unfortunately for ACORN, the finding was too late.
A legitimate news organization would have checked O’Keefe’s reporting. The raw footage would have been accounted for and follow up calls would have been made.
But this was not sloppy journalism. It was a highly effective tactic by a propaganda outlet for the Republican Party intended to hobble an anti-poverty group that is allied with a demographic group that Republicans revile and so votes as block for Democrats: the urban poor.
The airing of this intentionally deceptive video would have been a major embarrassment for a legitimate news outlet. But — with the exception of Rachel Maddow on MSNBC — this incident of journalistic ineptitude (or, more likely, malfeasance) has been ignored by the corporate media. Their silence is telling. They no longer take Fox seriously enough to be outraged, or even take note, when Fox News’ “journalism” is revealed to be disinformation in support of the GOP.
Similarly, the nation’s leading journalists were silent last August after a poll revealed that around 75 percent of Fox viewers said they believed as fact four key Republican lies about health-care reform — that undocumented aliens would be covered, that it was a government takeover, that it would cover abortions and that it would institute “death panels.”
The continuing silence from the American media establishment — its refusal fight back, to stand up and say that what Fox presents is propaganda, not news — is another signal that journalism as we once knew it is dying, if not dead.