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In Their Zeal To Change Subject From Health Care To ACORN, Fox News Overlooks Issues With Gotcha Video

Reported by Ellen - September 11, 2009 -

As Media Matters reported, Fox News followed in lockstep with Glenn Beck in making ACORN, rather than health care, their top story of the day, yesterday (9/10/09), one day after President Obama delivered his major address on health care reform. Media Matters counted at least 17 segments on six programs devoted to airing and discussing portions of a video made by anti-choice zealot James O’Keefe who specializes in using deceptive practices to trick his targets into embarrassing themselves. In this case, O’Keefe and partner Hanah Giles posed as a pimp and prostitute looking for tax advice from ACORN’s tax preparation service. O'Keefe said his goal was "posing the most ridiculous criminal scenario we could think of and seeing if they would comply.” Predictably, Sean Hannity was so enthusiastic about the prospect of smearing ACORN – and President Obama along with it – that he failed to tell the “we report, you decide” network’s viewers that the filmmakers reportedly went to several ACORN offices, where their ploy was unsuccessful, before finding someone to fall for their scheme. Hannity also failed to mention O’Keefe’s background, including the fact that he admits to using the tactics of Saul Alinsky, the radical Fox is always throwing in President Obama’s face. Instead, activist O’Keefe was presented as an “independent filmmaker.” With video

As Foxnews.com reported, an ACORN spokesman has said that O’Keefe’s film crew “tried to pull this sham at other offices and failed.” How many times did O’Keefe try his charade before he found someone who took the bait? We never learned. Hannity never even bothered to tell his audience about ACORN’s response to the video. It certainly wasn’t for lack of airtime. The video was discussed repeatedly during the show, including a “Fox News alert” at the start. I’m sure all that attention for the film had nothing to do with the fact that Obama’s health care speech was very enthusiastically received by the public nor that another 6 advertisers – bringing the total to 62 – have reportedly pledged not to advertise further on the Glenn Beck show.

Instead of revealing O’Keefe’s background or the context and history of his video, Hannity described it as an “undercover investigation conducted by filmmaker James O’Keefe.”

On hand to promote the video were Andrew Breitbart and Michael Flynn whose new website claims to be dedicated to fighting big government. Yet it has devoted about 90% of its two pages to attacking ACORN.

First, Breitbart preened about the supposed importance of this gotcha by sneering, “Congratulations to 60 Minutes and CBS for having the guts to take on ACORN.” Gee, Andrew, do you think that maybe they thought there might be more important issues to cover – like health care reform? Funny how I didn't see much, if any, coverage on your site about that.

Breitbart went on to brag about the two “intrepid” investigators, and described O’Keefe as “well on his way to being one of the great journalists.” Except, Andrew, “great journalists” usually report their complete findings – like how many times they visited ACORN before they found a taker. Breitbart, who should know something about journalistic ethics either doesn’t or pretends otherwise. “He (O’Keefe) went into ACORN thinking that there was gonna be something like this and he certainly found it… Every step of the way these (ACORN) people… participated and upped the ante, and I’m just here to tell you that James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles are heroes for doing this because we all knew that this is what happens at ACORN, to a degree.”

Nice little wiggle words, “to a degree,” there, Andrew. I mean, we could say that we know that withholding information from the public is what happens whenever Breitbart goes on the air, to a degree.

Hannity, never at a loss for his own self-importance, announced that the show would later go into the “criminal issues.” But somehow nobody ever got around to mentioning the potential criminal liability of those great journalists because it's a crime in Maryland to record someone without their permission.

Meanwhile, Hannity and Flynn lamented that ACORN gets “millions of dollars” from the US government. Funny, ACORN received $13 million from the Bush administration and I never saw anyone, in more than 5 years of watching "fair and balanced" Fox News have a care about that.

Flynn also ignored that O’Keefe and Giles may now be criminally liable. Instead, he insisted that ACORN owed them an apology (for saying they had engaged in “gotcha journalism,” which, by their own admission, they had) and also suggested that ACORN should thank them “for rooting out these employees.” Yeah, and I think Breitbart should be thanking me for helping him root out his journalistic transgressions.

Sure enough, Hannity soon used the issue to start up his McCarthyesque witch hunt against Obama, who, even Hannity would have to admit, had absolutely nothing to do with this incident. But that didn't stop Hannity from suggesting otherwise. “We had a media that ignored Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn and Rev. Wright and Pfleger. We had a mainstream media that… ignored (Van) Jones, we have Eric Holdren (I believe Hannity meant John Holdren), we have Cass Sunstein. We have a lot of radicals surrounding this president.”

Kind of like we have a lot of bigots surrounding Hannity?

“But (Obama) was once the lawyer for them,” Hannity accused. “Does this connect back to the President of the United States in your mind?” he asked Breitbart.

Breitbart said he would not “get into how this relates to the president” and then he did exactly that. “What we’re seeing here, though… is more of an outrage against the mainstream media… They didn’t vet this president… or the people who are running this government and, quite frankly, taking it over… Now we understand what a community organizer is, period.”