The bullies of broadcasting.

Most of us have been victimized by bullies at some point in our lives; usually on the school playground.  Even as adults, we also may be victimized by corporations that use their money, resources and power to force us to pay a fee or back down from a situation in which we feel wronged by the company.  There may be no better example of corporate bullying than the constant attacks on ACORN which were aired by Fox News Channel and its right-wing pundits. 

ACORN stands for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now; and for many years the organization stood up for homeless and the working poor to help them find jobs and housing.  As a minor part of its charter, the organization also helped register voters.  And since many of these new voters voted for Democrats, that incensed the Republican Party and its conservative zealots.

You may remember that, for several years, conservatives angrily accused ACORN of election fraud, and they were frustrated when no state, county or local investigation uncovered any wrongdoing.  Then, last year, the wingnuts found their opportunity.  A young freelance “journalist” approached Fox News Channel with a series of videos that purported to show ACORN employees advising a young woman posing as a “prostitute” and O’Keefe posing as her ”pimp” to lie about her profession and launder her earnings.  Fox News Channel pounced on the gift it had been presented.  For months Fox reveled in showing the James O’Keefe-produced videos.  Indeed, the network practically had it on a continuous loop that played every day for months. 

As a result of the publicity, several of the ACORN employees shown in the videos were fired.  In addition, Congress voted to suspend funding for the organization and ACORN collapsed.  Meanwhile O’Keefe was hailed as a hero for revealing the real “truth” about the organization.  Even when O’Keefe was later arrested for entering a Congresswoman’s office under false pretenses, allegedly to install an illegal wiretap, O’Keefe was still revered by Fox and its conservative audience.

I believe that Fox News Channel not only owes ACORN an apology and equal time for the retraction.  It probably should face charges for libel.  You see, investigators in New York and California, where the alleged incidents took place, have debunked the O’Keefe videos as a hatchet job done with some slick editing. 

Upon investigating the incident in Brooklyn, the District Attorney found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by ACORN.  And, as first reported on The Rachel Maddow Show, California Attorney General, Jerry Brown, concluded that O’Keefe edited his footage to make it appear that an ACORN employee was agreeing to assist the smuggling of prostitutes into the U.S. from Mexico.  The raw footage showed that the ACORN employee was actually trying to elicit more information from the pimp played by O’Keefe in order to help the police intercept the smuggling operation.  Indeed, the employee called the police shortly after O’Keefe left his office.

It seems that the only real scandal is that O’Keefe’s version of the story was so readily accepted and aired by Fox News Channel without corroboration or a thorough investigation.  But that’s what bullies do.