MEDIA: The Nutcracker Strikes Back!

[Artwork by ALEX FINE]

BY JONATHAN VALANIA On Tuesday, Big, the conservative web site behind the ACORN hooker sting videos, issued a press release that reads in part:

After suing, Mr. O’Keefe and Ms. Giles in Maryland over the release of the Baltimore tapes, ACORN has issued public statements denying any wrongdoing in its Philadelphia office and lying about what happened there. Mr. O’Keefe and Ms. Giles are now prepared to respond.According to Mr. Breitbart, “ACORN representatives claim James and Hannah were kicked out of Philadelphia. They also said publicly that unlike Baltimore, Washington D.C., Brooklyn, San Bernardino and San Diego, James and Hannah never even mentioned prostitution before they were told to leave. James and Hannah will be joining me to set the record straight. After Wednesday, everyone will know what really happened in Philly.

The press release goes on to announce a press conference that was held Wednesday morning at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. featuring James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles (who pretended to be the pimp and the prostitute in the videos) and Andrew Breitbart, the conservative operative behind Big I have been told by a reporter who attended the press conference that, for the most part, only representatives from the right wing image4_1.jpgmedia (Washington Times, Fox News) were called upon to ask questions, most of which could be characterized as softballs. Questions that could be characterized as hostile or skeptical were deflected by Breitbart and, ultimately, went unanswered, citing ACORN’s lawsuit against Breitbart/O’Keefe/Giles for violating Maryland’s two-party consent laws.

Concurrent with the press conference, Big Government posted a heavily-edited version of the hidden camera footage of O’Keefe and Giles visit to the offices of ACORN Philly. In a voiceover, O’Keefe promises to run the complete undedited footage, but it never appears in the video. What we do get is a version of the footage that includes O’Keefe’s and Gile’ leading questions and innuendos, but mutes the responses of Katherine Conway-Russell, the ACORN Philly rep that met with O’Keefe and Giles, to those questions. A disclaimer cites ACORN’s legal action as the reason for muting Conway-Russell’s audio. Minus Conway-Russell’s audio and the complete unedited version of the tape, it is unclear to me that this proves anything at all. Nor does it refute any of the facts stated in the PW cover story I wrote about ACORN Philly.

I asked Ian Phillips, legislative director ACORN Pennsylvania, who works out of the ACORN Philadelphia office and as such has become de facto spokesman for ACORN Philadelphia on the hooker-sting video, to respond to the video:

There seem to be 3 main things they needed to correction: 

On not dressed like a pimp/purporting to be a pimp (per Katherine):
O’Keefe refutes this by saying he had on white pants and a satin tie.

Whether this dress constitutes standard pimp attire, I will leave to the experts.  Nonetheless, it is in marked contrast to how he appears when appearing on numerous Fox shows (Hannity), with a derby, bug-eyed glasses, a fur coat and even a cane.  In even their edited tape there seems to be no reference to him being a pimp, or her pimp, but merely a boyfriend trying to help her out of a dangerous situation.

On the amount of minutes spent in office (Neil Herrmann, Phila. Head Organizer stated they were in office for a ‘few minutes’; Katherine always stated she believed it to be between 20-30 minutes):
O’Keefe and Giles claim to have been in the office for 32 minutes.  They claim to have videotape for 26 minutes and additional audio after that.

This is a bizarre semantic argument.  But on the face of it is appears also to be untrue.

Their edited video claims to have entered the Philly ACORN office at 9:30am (their timestamp lists 9:58 as they cross the street).  Yet, O’Keefe called Ian Phillips on his cell phone at 9:40 (who told him not to come in), not yet in the ACORN Housing office.  They thank the receptionist (who appears to be ignoring them) on the way out (last timestamp lists 10:25)

It is unclear how this proves that ACORN or Katherine acted “criminally”.  Katherine recalls the first part of the conversation as a rather lengthy description of how to improve one’s credit and ACORN Housing’s first time home buying program.

On being ‘thrown out’ of “kicked out” (per various spokespeople, not Katherine):

It is unclear how the edited tape proves or disproves this.  There is simply O’Keefe voicing over saying it didn’t happen, and referencing the amount of time as proof.

Another argument over semantics here.  Katherine, in her video on ACORN Housing’s website, said that she attempted to get rid of them by giving them a flyer and telling them she had another meeting (the second-time successfully).  If one’s definition of ‘kicked out’ is a physical act or threat of a physical act then no, that did not occur.  It is a well known and common technique to get rid of someone by handing them something and telling them to read it over and/or call back with questions, which is what Katherine does.  This makes sense given two aggressive questioners especially.


All of the points they attempt to make are in the context of an edited video made originally on July 24th.  All of the points they attempt to make are tangential to the accusation that ACORN is a ‘criminal enterprise’.  On our own semantic point, what laws did our counselor break in Philadelphia, or even in previous cities (even when using O’Keefe’s own transcript, see attached).  However, it is clear that they recorded Katherine without her consent and then used those tapes with malicious editing to attempt a character assassination, as they did against front-line staff in other cities. Their acts are clear-cut felonies in several of the states they visited. 

The facts of the Philadelphia story remain the same (and the ACORN story for that matter see attached transcript analysis):

1)  O’Keefe did not represent himself as he has claimed.

2)  The police were called immediately in response to the suspicious activity.

3)  Katherine did not fill out any paperwork, offer illegal advice, or misrepresent ACORN Housing programs to the fraudsters.


How O’Keefe and Giles Lied to the Public About ACORN 

October 2009

1.  Transcripts reveal that O’Keefe and Giles said they needed ACORN’s help to protect Giles from a violent pimp—but they carefully edited this out of their videos[1].    O’Keefe and Giles used clever editing and voiceovers to hide a key fact that the transcripts show to be true in each case: In each office, the duo claimed that 20-year old Hannah was being threatened by a violent, abusive pimp. They pleaded for ACORN to help protect the prostitute (and in some cases underage girls as well) from the pimp by helping her get a place to live.  O’Keefe and Giles edited this out of the video given the news media and the public, but neglected to remove it from the transcripts. 

Remember, for example, the tape of the NY ACORN worker advising the prostitute to hide money in a tin can, presumably to evade taxes? The transcript shows it was so the pimp “can’t get it from you if he wants to come and rip up the place.”  And the prostitute told the loan counselor that her pimp had all these 13, 14,15 year old girls from El Salvador and that’s what—I need to protect them like I know what its like and I have to protect them and like give them somewhere to live.[2]

2. While their press releases claim they were posing as a “prostitute and a pimp,” the transcripts show that O’Keefe consistently introduced himself as Giles’ boyfriend trying to protect her.[3]  While we have seen videos of O’Keefe’s ridiculous “pimp” get-up, with Chinchilla cape, hat, and walking cane, these are all outdoor visuals.  In the actual videos in the offices, every view of O’Keefe shows him dressed in normal casual business attire.   

3.  In each of the cases, the ACORN staff advised the prostitute to pay taxes, not to evade them.  They correctly advised, as any tax lawyer or properly trained tax preparer would have, that the IRS requires taxes to be paid even on income from illegal activities, but does not require disclosure of the illegal activity itself, which is why taxpayers can select any of a number of vague codes rather than fully describe the income source. [4]

4. The San Diego office reported the duo to the police.  In the San Diego office, where O’Keefe/Giles raised the topic of smuggling underage prostitutes across the border, the ACORN worker called the police.[5]  In an interview with Sean Hannity, Hannah Giles even exaggerates what happens by inventing a quote out of whole cloth saying that the ACORN employee stated his “people have experience getting people across the border.”

5. The San Bernardino video was a scam on the duo.  In the San Bernardino office, the ACORN worker, finding their stories ridiculous, met them with her own outrageous tales.  The ACORN worker spins tales of a sordid past, including murdering her husband.  While Giles and O’Keefe had the tapes for a month before releasing them, they never conducted any kind of check of the claims.  Within 24 hours of the videos’ release, the police had confirmed that no such murder had taken place, and that the worker’s two ex-husbands were alive and well.  San Bernardino resident Jim Miller, who lives near ACORN’s office and is also featured in the video giving business advice, said he thought the “whole thing was a preposterous production.”[6] 

6. Child prostitution claims are applied to several of the videos, with no evidence in the transcripts.[7]  While the New York and Washington DC[8] videos are each given the title by O’Keefe of “ACORN Child Prostitution Investigation,” in fact, in neither of these cases do the duo claim they are planning to engage in child prostitution, and no advice is given.  In New York, Giles states that her abusive pimp is bringing girls over and she wants to protect them and give them a home to escape from the pimp.  Of course as mentioned above, in San Diego, the police were notified, and in San Bernardino, the whole video was seen by the employee for the farce that it was. 

But these fundamental distortions – unnoted by media who simply accepted the heavily edited tapes at face value – were made precisely because they profoundly affect the instinctive reaction that we all have in watching these tapes, just as they affected the response and tone of the ACORN employees whose instinct was to help protect a 20-year old woman from violence.

[1] DC transcript p. 11; NY p. 17; Baltimore p.8-9, 14-15; San Diego p. 5-7, 8; San Bernardino p. 7-8 from

[2] NY transcript p.28 from

[3] DC transcript p. 4-5; NY p. 3; Baltimore p. 2-3; San Diego p. 1-3, 7; San Bernardino p. 1 from

[4] DC transcript p. 6-8; NY p. 5, 7; San Diego p. 12; from

[5] On page 25 of the San Diego transcript on, the ACORN employee also makes clear that he would work with the District Attorney or Prosecutors based on the story they present, until O’Keefe insists that he can’t have law enforcement involved.

[6] Inland woman caught up in national controversy over ACORN, Tuesday, September 15, 2009, By DUANE W. GANG and JOHN ASBURY, The Press-Enterprise

[7] DC and NY transcripts – all pages.

[8] DC Transcript P. 9, NY p. 28 from


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