Bertha Lewis is all done with apologies.
Fresh off her ACORN Apology Tour, the group’s CEO on Tuesday kicked of her new Denial Tour, charging that nearly every accusation lodged against the embattled community organizing group in recent weeks is not only false but downright racist.
And for good measure, she threw in former President George W. Bush’s adviser Karl Rove, arch villain and longtime whipping boy of liberals nationwide.
“For many years, there’ve been folks who’ve disagreed with our ideology or methodology that has gone after us,” Mrs. Lewis said in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington.
“I mean we, back going to 2004, we now see through e-mails from Karl Rove from the previous administration that ACORN itself was targeted, targeted to go after us so that we would stop doing voter registration because it was said that we were moving too many minorities to vote, changing the power dynamics on the local election and that we needed to be stopped.”
She also labeled as racist the filmmaker of the recent viral YouTube videos, which show workers from ACORN — the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — advising a man and a young woman posing as pimp and prostitute how to circumvent the law.
“These new filmmakers, [James] O’Keefe himself, told The Washington Post: ‘They’re registering too many minorities, they usually vote Democratic, somebody’s got to stop them,’ ” Mrs. Lewis said.
Even though at one point she quoted her grandmother as jokingly telling her, “Don’t let facts get in the way ‘cuz I’ve already made up my mind,” the former theater producer failed to mention that the newspaper was forced to issue a correction on the story, saying Mr. O’Keefe never said anything of the kind.
Tuesday’s speech in the First Amendment Lounge on the club’s 13th floor was proof of just how fast the hottest story in Washington can become yesterday’s news. The 75 or so chairs set out for the event were about 60 too many. Judging from the people scribbling in notebooks, there were about a dozen reporters. On one side of the small room sat a handful of people, who, if one woman’s repeated outbursts of “Amen!” were any indication, could be deemed Lewis supporters.
After a superlative self-introduction — “I’m Bertha Lewis and some of you may know me as the biggest threat to democracy in America” — she went on to make another grand charge about a vast right-wing conspiracy.
The Republican National Committee “every single day, because we’ve been inflated as the bogeyman, raises almost $2 million a day, every day. And this form of modern-day ACORN McCarthyism has got to stop. Last week, members of Congress were asked: ‘Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of ACORN?’ Everybody should take pause at that. Everybody should say, ‘Wait a minute!’ Wait … a … minute!’ ” she said, gesticulating broadly.
Having prostrated herself before the mainstream media and liberals on Capitol Hill after the infamous videos appeared, Mrs. Lewis has moved on to the next stage of damage control — denial.
“Again, an allegation, and speculation, and sort of stretching — you put two peas together and decide that you’re going to come up with a turnip,” Mrs. Lewis said when asked about one charge lodged against the group. “This is speculation, completely false,” she said of another accusation.
Now, she just has to win back support in Congress, where the House last month voted 345 to 75 to bar all federal funds to ACORN. After a decade of charges that the group played fast and loose with the rules in voter sign-up drives — ACORN has admitted that some of its volunteers submitted fake or duplicate voter registrations to state boards in Colorado, Indiana, Nevada and North Carolina — the pimp video was the last straw for many lawmakers.
But Mrs. Lewis said, “This whole voting to de-fund ACORN, it’s all sensational, but it’s unconstitutional.”
Still, if the millions of dollars in taxpayer funds dry up, the CEO vowed the group can — and will — stay afloat.
“If we lose that money, as long as there’s one ACORN member who’s willing to have a meeting in their house or one church that allows us to have a meeting in their basement, we will go on,” she said.
But first, the Denial Tour continues.
“This is sort of a ‘set-the-record-straight tour,’ or ‘let’s-get-our-story-out tour.’ People have been seeing a lot of onesidedness,” she said.
* Joseph Curl can be reached at email@example.com.