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While Complaining About Media Bias Elsewhere, Hannity And Malkin Ignore Questions About Anti-ACORN Video's Credibility

Reported by Ellen - October 22, 2009 -

Sean Hannity and Michelle Malkin spent a good deal of time last night (10/21/09) puffing themselves up about the failures of the mainstream media to investigate what they considered important questions about President Obama’s connections, including his supposed connection (very tenuous) to the organization ACORN. Yet, the two failed their own standards in that same segment as they accepted without question the claims in the latest anti-ACORN video despite the fact that it was heavily edited and was contradicted by later statements of the ACORN employee involved. In fact, neither Hannity nor Malkin seemed familiar with any of the allegations made by the ACORN employee in her own YouTube video about the incident. With video.

The segment began with Hannity playing excerpts from a press conference held earlier in the day by James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles, the young activists who, in an effort to prove that ACORN was comfy/cozy with criminals, posed as a pimp and prostitute seeking various kinds of advice at different ACORN offices around the country. Their mentor in publicity garnering, Andrew Breitbart, was at the presser too. The press conference heralded the release of a new video which, the triumvirate claimed, proved that ACORN had lied when it reported that its Philadelphia office had rejected the bait, thrown out the couple and called the police. It’s more than just a point of contention between Team Breitbart and ACORN. The filmmakers' credibility is on the line. Giles flatly told Hannity on the September 16, 2009 edition of his television show that no ACORN office had refused to take part in her scheme. At that point, Breitbart had immediately jumped in and bolstered her story without overtly verifying it, saying, “It is interesting. There’s no places ACORN tried to state that, kicked them out based upon the premise that they were, that they were doing something nefarious.” However, the Philadelphia Daily News had already reported that ACORN had turned down Giles and O'Keefe and filed a police report. Media Matters has posted a copy of the report and confirmed that it was indeed on file with the Philadelphia police.

But Hannity somehow forgot that context during the discussion last night.

Hannity played a clip of Breitbart saying at the press conference, “ACORN has lied every step of the way. And ever since they sued these truthtellers and me, they’ve used the media to propagate a new slew of lies.”

Now that’s rich. Breitbart complained about other people using the media to lie, when he used the media to relentlessly attack ACORN while he and Giles dissembled about their work on national television. He and the "truthtellers" also presented another video without fact-checking the claims of another ACORN employee who saw through the scam and punked the punkers by telling them she had murdered her husband.

Not that that was mentioned on the “fair and balanced” network, at least not during the Hannity show. Instead, he continued by showing Breitbart saying, “They (ACORN) have lied that Hannah and James were kicked out of the Philadelphia ACORN office… They have lied that Hannah and James did not mention prostitution when they came in.”

Hannity went on to play a brief clip from O’Keefe’s 8+ minute video that just happened to back up the filmmakers’ claims. Hannity noted that this latest video had been edited and that most of the ACORN worker's statements had been muted out of the video (the filmmakers said it was for legal reasons). “Now ACORN claims the edited videos do not tell the whole story,” Hannity said, by way of "balance," “and told an ABC affiliate in Philly that workers there even called the police to have James and Hannah removed.”

But Hannity left out the fact that it has been verified that the ACORN employee filed a police report about the incident. Nobody on Team Breitbart disputed that. Hannity also either didn’t bother to investigate or else ignored the video made by the ACORN employee, Katherine Conway Russell, in which she says she did her best to help the couple until, as she put it, the questions became “strange” and she decided to end the meeting.

I watched O’Keefe’s complete video and noted several red flags and discrepancies. In a part not shown on Hannity, O’Keefe tells his audience that you can see the “unedited, continuous tape to confirm the time sequence of all these events.” But where? O’Keefe claimed he filmed for more than 30 minutes and that his batteries ran out at some point. Yet his YouTube video is about 8 ½ minutes. It was indeed obviously edited, with voiceover and footage inserted. The date on the bottom of the footage was stamped 2005. How do we know more of the sequence had not been doctored or incorrect?

Instead of having a spokesperson for ACORN or anyone to present the organization’s viewpoint, Fox News chose Michelle Malkin as the sole guest. Sure enough, Malkin added lots of new invective about ACORN, Democrats, liberals and the media but no new information or analysis about what happened at Philadelphia’s ACORN office.

Greta Van Susteren, in On The Record, which immediately follows Hannity, had Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig who offered a more skeptical review of the video. Yet that segment was not posted on Foxnews.com. Hannity and Malkin were. Fox called the video of their segment, “Corruption At Every Turn?”

“It’s clear that many of the assertions that the ACORN officials made were clearly debunked by the tape that we have seen,” Malkin sanctimoniously announced. “From what we’ve seen, it’s clear that they weren’t run out on a rail and it’s not apparent from the tape that they have released that the ACORN official was intimidated or outraged in any way. If she was, she would have called the cops then and there, which she didn’t do.” Malkin either didn’t know or didn’t care that the ACORN employee in question, Conway Russell, had said the couple had seemed normal for much of their interview and she did not become alarmed by them until later.

Then, Malkin quickly moved on to make her bigger kill. “I think the larger story here is… the continued whitewashing of the larger ACORN criminal enterprise by the mass media and the second story, of course, is the continuing operation of this criminal enterprise even now and the need to dig much further.”

Kind of funny she should say that when she had obviously just opined without bothering to check any of the facts herself.

With her customary wide-eyed contempt, Malkin spat, “Any time you challenge or threaten a left-wing enterprise like this, there will be serious legal repercussions. It’s not just Andrew Breitbart, Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe who are being threatened. There was another whistle-blower, Anita Moncrief, who was sued by ACORN and Project Vote. She was someone who served as a source for the New York Times which cut bait right before the election because they realized that continuing to pursue the story would be a quote, unquote game changer.”

Malkin must have been so intent on her smearing that she forgot a few relevant facts. Like the fact that Moncrief, who worked for Project Vote, not ACORN, was fired for stealing and had a bit of a credibility problem. Hannity must have been so caught up in the smears that he forgot to let the “we report, you decide” network’s audience know, too.

Instead, he changed the subject to the “attack” on the Fox News Channel and asked for Malkin’s thoughts on “a very different White House, a very different Barack Obama than what was presented during the campaign.”

Sure enough, Malkin had some sourpuss scorn to add. “Certainly what was presented by the stenographers and the whitewashers in the mainstream media… the political analysts as so-called news organizations (unlike the fine journalistic skills Malkin was displaying, I’m sure)… that spent most of their time deifying this man instead of probing not only his brief history in public office but of course all of the people that he surrounded himself with.”

Hannity asked, “Is he as radical as the people around him?”

Malkin answered, “Well, sure. I mean, the left-wing fish rots from the head down… I think that the ACORN story is a perfect example of how the mainstream media has covered for him.

Then, her voice rising with extra sanctimoniousness, Malkin attacked The New York Times for “covering up” the Moncrief story. “The real story to all this is how these myriad entities allowed them to shuffle money around so much that no one really knows what’s getting spent on what. That is New York Times reporter Stephanie Strom to whistle blower Anita Moncrief. They knew this was going on last October and they covered it up. Who’s a real news organization?”

I hate to burst Malkin’s sourpuss bubble. But the fact of the matter is that Moncrief testified in court in October, 2008 about her so-called whistleblowing. The hearing was covered in, among other papers, the Wall Street Journal, a sister media company to Fox. Yet a search of “Moncrief” on Foxnews.com shows nothing from that time period. If this were such an important story, where was Fox News? Somehow, their interest only piqued once they used it to attack the New York Times and, of course, the Obama administration.