Right-wing guerrilla "journalist" James O'Keefe has been utterly discredited after publishing a heavily doctored video which falsely claims to show ACORN employees advising him to break the law while he's dressed as a '70s blaxploitation pimp.
The New York Times originally published O'Keefe's claims as if they were fact; but despite being since disproved, the Times' public editor Clark Hoyt has refused to recommend the Times actually issue a retraction. ACORN's reputation, falsely tarnished, has not been given a chance to recover.
Year after year, ACORN has worked hard registering millions of poor and middle-income voters throughout America. ACORN needs its good reputation in order to get funding and community support. When the New York Times fails to correct its mistaken reporting on O'Keefe and ACORN, it contributes to the disenfranchisement of those under-represented citizens whom ACORN serves.
We can't afford the chilling effect on democracy that will occur if we let Clark Hoyt and the New York Times off the hook. Remind them that they have an obligation to admit their mistakes honestly, by issuing a clear and unambiguous retraction.
We greatly appreciate that as Public Editor for the nation's paper of record, you've had the courage to describe James O'Keefe's behavior as "journalistically unethical". We could not agree more: O'Keefe doctored together a video which violated all notions of honesty and integrity, and with it he concocted a media narrative to destroy the reputation of one of America's foremost protectors of citizens' voting rights.
Now that you've spoken the truth about O'Keefe, we need you to go a step further and hold your own employer accountable for their part in amplifying O'Keefe's falsehoods. We recognize retractions are never easy, but it's time to take that painful step and retract those now-discredited stories which the New York Times published starting in September 2009.
We've read your recent exchanges with Brad Friedman, and frankly, your spirited defense of the Times simply doesn't persuade. The fact is, the Times fell for O'Keefe's doctored video footage, hook line and sinker. It is perhaps understandable that the Times reporting staff would fail to detect a deceiver in their midst; but having now discovered him, it is imperative that the Times disclose what stories were corrupted by this man's distortions. To fail to do this will permanently tarnish the reputation of this beloved newspaper -- at a time when, to be plain, that paper's reputation is in dire need of improvement.
Please believe us: A protracted denial of your mistakes will only amplify their negative effects, as the New York Times' inability to admit its errors becomes a media narrative in and of itself. In the long run, a straightforward and complete retraction will best benefit the Times' reputation. Please take swift action to recommend that retraction.
Keep up the great work. Look what you've accomplished!
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