I would not go see the film "Borat: Cultural Learnings of
America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" because I found more
cruelty than humor in deliberately exposing unwitting civilians to the easy
ridicule of smug sophomores.
Now the right has its own Borat-style entertainment. Equipped
with a video camera, conservative activists James O'Keefe, 25, and Hannah
Giles, 20, sought the answer to this question: "What if a 'prostitute' and
her alleged law school boyfriend walk into ACORN seeking housing for an
underage brothel to fund his future congressional campaign?"
The answer, they discovered, was that some of the folks who work
at ACORN (the left-leaning Association of Community Organizations for Reform
Now) were overly adept at looking the other way even after O'Keefe and
Giles told them that Salvadoran girls as young as 12 would be working as
prostitutes in their brothel.
One ACORN worker told the couple they could list the under-aged
prostitutes as dependents "because they live in your house, especially if
they're under 16." Some organizers emphasized that it was not their job to
judge others. A Baltimore worker tried to sign up the couple as dues-paying
ACORN has reacted by charging that the videotapes were
"doctored" and charged O'Keefe and Giles with trolling for damning material.
ACORN also claims the couple is not airing tape from offices where they were
shown the door. The Philadelphia Daily News, for example, reported that the
local ACORN office kicked out O'Keefe and Giles and filed a police report.
On Saturday, ACORN chief organizer Bertha Lewis said in a
statement that she would not defend actions of the now-fired workers. She
also charged that O'Keefe and Giles broke the law "and we will be taking
legal action against Fox (News) and their co-conspirators."
But what of CNN and other new organizations that have reported
on this story? The prank is paying off. On Friday, U.S. census director
Robert M. Groves terminated the bureau's (nonpaying) partnership agreement
On Monday, the Senate voted 83-7 for a measure by Sen. Mike
Johanns, R-Neb., to prohibit granting federal housing funds to ACORN.
California Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer yes,
Barbara Boxer voted for the measure.
This is progress. As recently as March, however, the Senate
tabled an amendment banning federal funding for ACORN which has received
$53 million directly from Uncle Sam since 1994 despite several state
investigations into ACORN voter registration. Last year, ACORN was forced to
acknowledge that election officials rejected 400,000 of the 1.3 million
people the group had tried to register.
Congress should pass a measure ending federal funding for ACORN,
and President Obama, who represented ACORN in a 1995 lawsuit, should sign
But I won't join those who are hailing the enterprising O'Keefe
and Giles for doing the sort of work "60 Minutes" should have done. But
there was so little fact-checking in this exercise that Fox News' Glenn Beck
ran a video in which a San Bernardino ACORN organizer said she had killed
her husband when she had not.
Conservatives, beware. Any activist can grab a camera, head for
a church or a campaign, and record some stupid quotes. When they do and
they will the right will complain that it is wrong to brand a cause by
the careless comments of a handful of disciples.