Everything you needed to know about the unorthodox roll out of the now-notorious ACORN sting videos was hidden in plain sight in my Sept. 7 column, “Katie Couric, Look in the Mirror.” ACORN was not the only target of those videos; so were Katie, Brian, Charlie and every other mainstream media pooh-bah.
They were not going to report this blockbuster unless they were forced to. And they were. What’s more, it ain’t over yet. Not every hint I dropped in that piece about what was to come has played itself out yet.Stay tuned.
When filmmaker and provocateur James O’Keefe came to my office to show me the video of him and his friend, Hannah Giles, going to the Baltimore offices of ACORN - the nation’s foremost “community organizers” - dressed as a pimp and a prostitute and asking for - and getting - help for various illegal activities, he sought my advice. In the past, Mr. O’Keefe created brilliant social satire that rocked his college campus and even made its way on to the talk-radio and cable-news shows, but the magnitude of his latest adventure had the potential to rock the political establishment.
I was awed by Mr. O’Keefe’s guts and amazed by the footage, but explained that the mainstream media would try to kill this important and illuminating expose about a corrupt and criminal political racket, and that the well-funded political left would go into “war room” mode, with 25-year-old Mr. O’Keefe and 20-year-old cohort Miss Giles in the cross hairs. I felt I had a moral obligation to protect these young muckrakers from the left and from the media, and to devise a strategy that would force the media’s hand.
Once the American public saw with its own eyes the grotesque, common practices of ACORN’s housing offices, Mr. O’Keefe and Miss Giles could no longer be a legitimate focus of media scrutiny. Kill the messenger doesn’t work with the American people when they realize that the message is so devastating and honest. I think the video exposed the misuse of public funds and systemic manipulation of the tax code in the name of “helping the poor.”
If Mr. O’Keefe dumped the videos on YouTube, the political powers would have killed the expose before it got traction. I half-joked that he should secretly tape pitching the major television networks exclusive use of his videos for their nightly news broadcasts. But a simpler, less controversial method proved as fruitful.
I told him that in addition to launching his compelling and stylized Web videos, we needed to offer the full transcripts and audio to the public in the name of transparency, and to offer Fox News the full footage of each video before each was released.We had to devise a plan that would force the media to see the evidence before they had enough time to destroy these two idealistic 20-something truth seekers. Mr. O’Keefe agreed to post the full audio and full transcript of his video experiences at BigGovernment.com.
Thus was born a multimedia, multiplatform strategy designed to force the reluctant hands of ABC, CBS, NBC, the New York Times and The Washington Post.
Videos of five different ACORN offices in five separate cities would be released on five consecutive weekdays over a full week - Baltimore, Washington, New York, San Bernadino and San Diego. By dripping the videos out, we exposed to anyone paying attention that ACORN was lying through its teeth and that the media would look imbecilic continuing to trot out their hapless spokespeople.
If the media, as expected, pretended that the story didn’t exist, they’d have another debacle on their hands comparable to the failure to report the shocking views of the White House’s “green jobs czar,” Van Jones. If they invested in the story, I told Mr. O’Keefe, they would do ACORN’s defense work. I told him the focus needed to be on the message, not the messenger. Otherwise, the mainstream media would attempt to direct attention away from the damaging video evidence.
The best example of this came from ABC’s anchor, Charlie Gibson. “I don’t even know about it. So you’ve got me at a loss,” he told WLS radio when asked about it. “But my goodness, if it’s got everything, including sleaziness in it, we should talk about it in the morning.” But he also said that what was seen on these videos was best left for the “cables.”
Is this not malevolent arrogance?
That evening, Katie Couric and “The CBS Evening News” cried uncle and did a story. Six days into an underground media sensation that caused the White House to force the Commerce Department to delink ACORN from the census on day two, CBS knew it could sit on the sidelines no longer. Especially since ACORN spokespeople were issuing what to me was clearly lie after lie, and CBS could only assume that more videos were coming.