The first rule of holes is: stop digging. Today, James Rainey, the egg still fresh on his face, is digging furiously, with a column titled Guerrilla stings of ACORN don’t meet standards of journalism.
Where to start? How about with the part Rainey apparently made up:
So what sort of creature does this make O’Keefe? I don’t disagree with his observation in a previous interview with The Times that he follows the mold of filmmaker Michael Moore, using confrontation to get at his version of the truth.
In an e-mail, O’Keefe told me that Rainey’s statement is a “complete fabrication” that “borders on defamation as Moore uses apparent fancy cutting and pasting to make subjects look bad.” O’Keefe says Rainey’s statement “warrants a correction.”
And indeed, a search of the L.A. Times‘s archives reveals exactly one piece that uses the terms “Michael Moore” and “O’Keefe.” That would be Rainey’s column from today:
I have written Rainey to ask for a link to the source of this alleged quote, but as far as I can tell, the source is Rainey’s nether hind region. If he documents otherwise, I will let you know.
In the same column where he has seemingly made up a quote from O’Keefe, Rainey insults O’Keefe, haughtily proclaiming of Giles’s and O’Keefe’s stings: “sorry folks, please don’t call this journalism.” Rainey then whitewashes the nature of Lavelle Stewart’s statements of her willingness to aid and abet Giles’s and O’Keefe’s purported underage prostitution ring. Here it’s worth quoting Rainey at length. Note how he begins by portraying himself as the victim:
Alinsky recommended, among other things, relentless and persistent attacks on an enemy, giving no quarter, with the “conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other.”
I’ve managed to get caught up in such a drumbeat myself in recent days by suggesting in that September column that the video stings couldn’t be fully understood without more context.
Poor baby. No, you embarrassed yourself by uncritically reporting an ACORN worker’s assertions without checking with Breitbart, Giles, or O’Keefe.
I provoked particular wrath by writing about the videographers’ visit to another ACORN office in L.A., quoting Lavelle Stewart, a fair housing coordinator there who told me she had not offered any direct assistance to the “prostitute.”
Stewart said back then that she tried to redirect the young woman — who described being abused by her pimp — to a neighboring agency that helps the victims of violence.
The latest video, taken during an August visit to the ACORN office on South Grand Avenue, shows Stewart guiding Giles toward a door down the hall from ACORN, labeled Program for Torture Victims, an agency that focuses on aiding the victims of state-sponsored terror but that maintains a referral list for other abuse victims.
But that’s not all the video shows. It also shows an apparently untroubled Stewart listening to the undercover duo’s unsavory and inappropriate schemes. At one point, the ACORN worker suggests that Giles might seek a business arrangement with porn magnate Larry Flynt. At another, responding to O’Keefe’s query, Stewart seems to puzzle over how he might hide the source of his “girlfriend’s” prostitution income.
“Seems to puzzle over”? Mr. Rainey, it goes much further than that, as you well know. As O’Keefe said to me: “her willingness to do independent research to help us get our underage prostitution business started was not mentioned in Jim’s column.”
Watch the video. Giles and O’Keefe tell Stewart that they are trafficking in 14- and 15-year-old girls as prostitutes, and that O’Keefe might want to use the profits to find a political campaign — but he doesn’t want to have a paper trail. Stewart specifically offers to do “research” for the couple on that issue: “That’s the research that I would have to do, to find out how we could do that, without it being so in the open. There are ways, people do it all the time.” This active offer to help goes beyond Rainey’s watered-down portrayal — and contradicts her assertion to Rainey that she offered no assistance.
When I called Stewart to ask why she would offer such suggestions, she said that the duo kept persisting and that she had groped for a way to satisfy them enough to get them to leave.
Viewers of the video will doubtless reach varying conclusions about Stewart’s credibility and the dynamics in the office that day. But, clearly, the new video helped reinvigorate the campaign of embarrassment.
Ah, but Mr. Rainey. You asked Lavelle Stewart in September if Giles and O’Keefe had declared that they were running an underage prostitution ring — and if she had offered to help them. She told you she had not — but in fact, she had. And you would have learned that if you had simply contacted Giles, O’Keefe, or Breitbart. Speaking of which:
I regret that I didn’t get through in September when I tried to obtain O’Keefe’s response to Stewart’s comments. He said he didn’t receive the e-mail I sent via the website that posts his videos.
This is laughable, and Rainey’s claim that he tried to contact O’Keefe is suspect. Nobody at BigGovernment.com can find any evidence of the alleged attempted contact. Rainey didn’t say in his column that he tried to contact O’Keefe, which is what journalists usually do when they try to contact someone. And when he did a hatchet job on Jill Stewart, Rainey didn’t try to contact her. These facts cast doubt on Rainey’s claim to have contacted O’Keefe.
But even if we were to accept at face value his claim to have tried, his method of attempting to contact O’Keefe was pathetic. Rainey is on Twitter (@LATimesRainey) and so is O’Keefe (@JamesOKeefeIII). You want to know how hard it is to find O’Keefe on Twitter? Put in “James O’Keefe” into the search box and he is the top result. And yes, O’Keefe was on Twitter back in mid-September, when Rainey wrote his column. O’Keefe also forwarded me an e-mail from L.A. Times writer Robin Abcarian back in March 2009. She reached him on Facebook!
Amazing, the ways there are to contact people . . . when you really want to.
Either Rainey is lying, he is incompetent, or he didn’t really want to get O’Keefe’s side.
Rainey owes us a link to O’Keefe’s comparison of himself to Michael Moore — or he owes O’Keefe a correction. He owes his readers a column that doesn’t whine and whitewash the facts.
And Big Media owes the public an investigation of ACORN. But if Rainey’s column sets the standards for “journalism” in Big Media, then don’t hold your breath.
UPDATE: This is rich. Rainey is apparently claiming that O’Keefe made the statement to an L.A. Times reporter — it just wasn’t published. Here is his Twitter message to O’Keefe sent moments ago:
I’m sure you recall telling that to robin abcarian in your interview w her. She has a record of it.
Well, Abcarian’s story has no trace of it — so Rainey must be talking about something she didn’t publish. Since Rainey is demanding O’Keefe’s unedited video, I think we need to see Abcarian’s unedited notes. I have sent Rainey a Twitter message requesting that, and will be contacting Abcarian as well.
UPDATE x2: More on Rainey’s defense in this post.