NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t



FRESH AIR: New Yorker writer Jane Mayer discusses conservative activist James O’Keefe’s latest botched sting operation, and the new kind of political opposition research O’Keefe pioneered. MORE

NEW YORKER: On March 16th, a foreign donor who identified himself as Victor left a voice message at the offices of the Soros-funded Open Society Foundations. Then he forgot to hang up the phone, and the machine recorded “Victor” and his staff describing what sounded like an entrapment scheme. This week, James O’Keefe, the conservative activist whose undercover videos have embarrassed Planned Parenthood, NPR, and ACORN, outed himself as the caller, and apologized to his supporters for the failed operation. On “The New Yorker Radio Hour,” The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer goes through the voice-mail James O'Keeferecording to see what it tells us about O’Keefe’s methods and the scope of his ambitions. “What needs to happen,” he says, “is someone other than me make a hundred calls like that.” MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: Federal officials charged four men on Tuesday with plotting to tamper with the telephone system in the New Orleans office of Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana. One of the men was a conservative activist who gained fame last year by secretly recording members of the community group Acorn giving him advice on how to set up a brothel. All four of the men arrested Monday in New Orleans, each in his mid-20s, were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony, according to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana. If convicted, the four would face sentences ranging from a fine to 10 years in prison. The political activist was James O’Keefe, 25, who has gained renown in conservative circles by poking fun at the left through pranks and undercover video. MORE

PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY: There’s an old joke that goes like this: A pimp and a pros­ti­tute walk in­to an ACORN (As­so­ci­ation of Com­munity Or­gan­iz­a­tions For Re­form Now) of­fice and ask for ad­vice set­ting up a brothel and smug­gling in un­der­age Sal­vador­an girls to whore out for fun and profit. The punch­line is the pimp and the pros­ti­tute were in fact a pair of twentyso­mething right-wing me­dia pro­vocateurs armed with a hid­den cam­era.

Over the sum­mer O’Keefe and Giles vis­ited an un­dis­closed num­ber of ACORN of­fices on the East and West coasts—in­clud­ing Phil­adelphia. While the Philly of­fice didn’t take the bait, ACORN of­fice work­ers in Bal­timore; Wash­ing­ton, D.C.; Brook­lyn; San Bern­ardino and San Diego did ap­pear to of­fer a sym­path­et­ic ear and help­ful ad­vice, in­clud­ing how to dis­guise il­leg­al in­come from the IRS and where the best places are to smuggle il­leg­als across the bor­der.

Fox News thought this joke was very funny—not so much haha funny, but con­ser­vat­ive agenda-ad­van­cing, score-set­tling, Demo­crat-hurt­ing, Obama-bash­ing funny—and so they re­peated the joke across the full spec­trum of their broad­cast plat­form, rolling out a new gotcha video every day for al­most a week. It was, among oth­er things, a po­tent an­ti­dote to the mo­mentum the pres­id­ent was gain­ing for his health care re­form ini­ti­at­ive in the wake of a per­suas­ive and well-re­ceived call for ac­tion be­fore a pimp1-copyjoint ses­sion of Con­gress.

Hours be­fore Obama ad­dressed Con­gress and the na­tion on Sept. 9, Glenn Beck took to Fox’s air­waves and teased the ACORN stink bomb he was plan­ning to drop on the fol­low­ing day’s pro­gram: “To­mor­row—to­mor­row, things change,” Beck prom­ised. “I think things change a lot for those in power. The tides are about to turn, and that will be on to­mor­row’s broad­cast,” Beck hin­ted omin­ously, adding: “Trust me. Every­body now says they’re go­ing to be talk­ing about health care. I don’t think so.”

The next day Fox de­voted 17 seg­ments on six pro­grams— Fox & Friends; Amer­ica’s News­room; Hap­pen­ing Now; Live Desk; Glenn Beck; and Spe­cial Re­port —to the ACORN gotcha foot­age, which soon went vir­al on the In­ter­net. Even­tu­ally the scan­dal­ous story mi­grated to the more cent­rist pre­cincts of main­stream me­dia and soon even the real­ity-based com­munity of the great Amer­ic­an middle was in on the joke.

The fal­lout was al­most im­me­di­ate: The U.S. Census Bur­eau an­nounced it was sever­ing ties with ACORN, as did the IRS, which had pre­vi­ously partnered with the or­gan­iz­a­tion to provide free tax pre­par­a­tion ser­vices for the poor. The House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives voted 345-75 to de­fund ACORN. Smelling blood in the wa­ter, Re­pub­lic­ans went on the warpath and Demo­crats ran for cov­er—in­clud­ing Rep. Allyson Schwartz and Rep. Joe Ses­tak, two demo­crats whose dis­tricts in­clude Phil­adelphia, who voted to de­fund. Even Pres­id­ent Obama, who once provided leg­al rep­res­ent­a­tion to a co­ali­tion that in­cluded ACORN in a case re­gard­ing en­force­ment of Illinois’ Na­tion­al Voter Re­gis­tra­tion Act, called for an in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to the grass­roots group.

Bank of Amer­ica, whose part­ner­ship with ACORN Hous­ing began in 1990 and helped make 55,000 low-in­come people first-time homeown­ers, an­nounced that it too was sever­ing ties with ACORN.

With little more than a re­por­ted $1300, grandma’s fur coat, a mi­cro mini-skirt, a few lead­ing ques­tions, a lot of nerve and a hid­den cam­era, O’Keefe and Giles did what the Bush White House, Karl Rove, the Gonza­lez-era Justice De­part­ment, a dozen fed­er­al pro­sec­utors, Fox News, John Mc­Cain, Sarah Pal­in, Sean Han­nity, Rush Limbaugh, and the en­tire right wing blo­go­sphere had been try­ing un­suc­cess­fully to do for years: drop a pois­on pill in the Olympic-?sized pool of good deeds ACORN has done for the poor and the dis­en­fran­chised in the course of its nearly 40-year his­tory. Ac­cord­ing to the polit­ic­al Gei­ger coun­ters of every par­tis­an stripe, ACORN was of­fi­cially ra­dio­act­ive.? MORE