The Rewards and Risks of Andrew Breitbart's ACORN Videos Strategy
Bottom line: ACORN itself has been badly hurt, but the implementation of ACORN's radical political agenda has not been thwarted, because Breitbart's focus has been on the willingness of ACORN employees to facilitate crimes like prostitution and illegal immigration instead of ACORN's corruption of America's political process and thus Obama's political illegitimacy has not been adequately demonstrated...and prosecutions for the sensational surreptitious recording so important to the success of the sex-based sting on ACORN are under consideration in more than one state.
Andrew Breitbart, "I, Jerk" (May 18, 2009): "In this day of polarized politics, it's incumbent on good citizens to be vigorously truthful. Even in the heat of battle, partisans should own up to their mistakes. Rectifying errors builds credibility. Honest self-criticism ensures a healthy debate and a healthier democracy."
Wise words by which to live in this time of "polarized politics"!
In that tersely titled article that calls to mind a Roman emperor ("I, Claudius"), Breitbart confessed that he had "messed up" when he "jumped from [his] seat....and reached out [his] right arm directing [his] middle finger in [the] direction" of "one dude [who had] raised his fist like runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos did at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics."
The impulsive Breitbart learned that he had not appreciated what really had been happening when he chose to spring into action by reading this email message:
"On 4/25/09 an event hosted by the Invisible Children called 'The Rescue' took place in Santa Monica. I shot the event. 4,000 youth marched in solidarity for the children abducted and forced to fight for the LRA in Northern Uganda and more recently in the Congo. I had felt a sense of hope in my generation's methods of activism at the event.
"I believe most people in America are in agreement that human slavery, genocide and child soldiers are a terrible thing. This event was hardly controversial. The protest marched by 'Shutters on the Beach.' After reviewing the photographs I was taking for the event and confirming the facts (you were in Santa Monica at the date and time) I realized you were flipping the protesters off. I am curious to why this is the case."
Eventually owning up to his "mistake," Breitbart wrote about his intemperate outburst and concluded: "In order to prevent my eternal damnation, and to end what has been three weeks of difficult REM sleep, please visit: www.invisiblechildren.com."
Like using human shields (for example, Saddam used several variations of the "human shield" tactic to block military action against Iraq and to manipulate public opinion during confrontations), abducting and/or putting children in harm's way as a political tactic is contemptible and protesting such actions is necessary, proper and honorable.
In "The politicized art behind the ACORN plan" (September 21, 2009), "artist" Breitbart revealed that he had foretold the "Pimp and Pro" ACORN story in a prior September article: "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.'"
In addition to discussing (disappointingly) the Van Jones resignation in racial terms ("His racist rants, his radical background and his membership in a 9/11 'truther' group made for heavy-rotation YouTube viewing that would have immediately destroyed other mere mortals if the shoe were on the right - or white - foot") and warning (perhaps wisthfully) "the mainstream media [that if it] continues down the path of covering up the sins of the Democratic Party and the Obama administration, in particular, while it continues to exert its still powerful weapons to destroy those who would dare do their jobs for them, then eventually, perhaps in the near future, those 'mobs' that have befuddled the Democratic Party at health care town halls and at tea parties will take their pitchforks to media row," Breitbart foreshadowed both the public exposure of ACORN's penchant for criminality and the liberal media establishment's egregious bias.
Knowing what the ACORN videos soon would be released, Breitbart confidentally wrote: "ACORN's.... housing division exists to fulfill an unclear mandate that has been accused of using funds to pay for political protests. If the alternative media digs further and finds out ACORN is guilty as charged, and as corrupt as its ample critics say it is, the onus is [on] those who didn't question when the Obama team decided to allocate billions to expand the group's reach."
Breitbart seemingly presciently concluded his Couric article by foreshadowing the sensational sting videos and challenging major media:
"When the next big scandal hits - and it will, and it most certainly won't come from traditional journalism - all eyes will be on 'Pinch' Sulzberger to see if he does his job.
"All eyes are on the media. We are judging them by the standard they taught us during Watergate: 'The cover-up is worse than the crime.'"
Figuratively speaking, those ACORN videos were wonderful weapons for Breitbart to wield against the liberal media establishment he too despises.
Wield them, he did.
According to Breitbart, "filmmaker and provocateur James O'Keefe came to [Breitbart's] office to show [Breitbart] the video of [O'Keefe] and his friend, Hannah Giles, going to the Baltimore offices of ACORN...dressed as a pimp and a prostitute and asking for - and getting - help for various illegal activities" and "sought [Breitbart's] advice."
That would have been in late July, after ACORN's Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. offices had been targeted but before ACORN's New York and any of ACORN's California offices were targeted.
Breitbart: "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."
Why Breitbart did not credit Ms. Giles for the idea and instead treated her as the awesome O'Keefe sidekick is not explained. For Ms. Giles, the danger probably was greater. It appears that no one hit either of the intrepid investigators, but Ms. Giles, predictably, was "hit on."
It appears that Breitbart's strategy included arranging for three more stings on California ACORN offices (Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego) on August 17 and 18, 2009 and one on ACORN's New York office (August 4).
Breitbart's read on the easily readable liberal media establishment was that it would try to ignore the "Pimp and Pro" ACORN story:
"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."
So more videos were necessary to implement Breitbart's "multimedia, multiplatform strategy designed to force the reluctant hands of ABC, CBS, NBC, the New York Times and The Washington Post."
"...force the media to see the evidence before they had enough time to destroy these two idealistic 20-something truth seekers."
"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."
In his illuminating September 21 article, Breitbart may have "hidden in plain sight" his strategy to deter possible surreptitious recording prosecutions.
Breitbart wrote in that article: "Not every hint I dropped in [the earlier] piece about what was to come has played itself out yet. Stay tuned."
If Californian Breitbart foresaw the possibility of criminal prosecutions in California (and that possibility was readily foreseeable), his strategy to avoid them seems to have been to prevail against ACORN in the courtroom of public opinion and to laud the youth and daring of the intrepid investigators in the hope of making prosecution of that unpalatable:
"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.'"
The Breitbart strategy has been devastating for ACORN itself on both the public relations and funding fronts and even embarrassing for the liberal media establishment. Ironically, however, it has permitted the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats to distance themselves (publicly) from ACORN after the "discovery" of ACORN's penchant for criminality, because a spotlight has not been put on (1)Obama's lies and ties to ACORN, (2) ACORN's corruption of America's political process and (3) ACORN's status as an unofficial arm of the Democrat Party.
Bottom line: ACORN itself has been badly hurt, but the implementation of ACORN's radical political agenda has not been thwarted, because Breitbart's focus has been on the willingness of ACORN employees to facilitate crimes like prostitution and illegal immigration instead of ACORN's corruption of America's political process and thus Obama's political illegitimacy has not been adequately demonstrated...and prosecutions for the sensational surreptitious recording so important to such success as the sex-based sting on ACORN has had are under consideration in more than one state.
Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.
Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.
The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.
Gaynor currently contributes regularly to www.MichNews.com, www.RenewAmerica.com, www.WebCommentary.com, www.PostChronicle.com and www.therealitycheck.org and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.