It’s funny because it’s true.
As we reported earlier, Rachel Maddow is rolling out what appears to be a series of segments digging into California Attorney General Jerry Brown‘s report on the unedited James O’Keefe/Hannah Giles ACORN tapes. One of the funnier details in that report is the bit of chitchat at the end, where ACORN receptionist Tresa Kaelke, already hip to O’Keefe’s ruse, tells him he resembles Princess Diana.
The report clears up a few other things, too, like the discrepancy we noted earlier about when San Diego ACORN employee Juan Carlos Vera called authorities. Check it out after this video of Kaelke’s exchange with O’Keefe:
It’s great that the unedited tapes have come to light, and that Maddow is using them to get at the truth, but before we go any further, I’d like to note that this should all be moot. Even before these tapes were released, even before the New York Times finally issued a correction about the fundamental deception at the heart of this story, this work product should have been roundly rejected by responsible journalists. The mainstream media’s embarrassment at possibly losing a “scoop” led them to mention flaws in O’Keefe’s reporting, then completely ignore them.
So, all of this is icing on the proverbial cake.
Aside from the deceptions pointed out by Maddow, Brown’s report also clears up the discrepancy over when San Diego ACORN employee Juan Carlos Vera called authorities. In September, the Associated Press reported that Vera had waited 2 days before calling his cousin, a detective. According to Brown’s report, telephone records show that Vera called the same day:
Immediately after the couple left, Vera telephoned his cousin, Detective Alejandro Hernandez, at the National City Police Department. He left a voicemail message for Detective Hernandez stating that some “crazy people” were in his office providing information. Vera did not explain the substance of the conversation and did not make reference to prostitution or human smuggling on the message. He asked his cousin to call him back. (Interview with Vera; Vera Phone Records, at p. 4 [reflecting a 2-minute call to Detective Hernandez’s cell phone at 6:40 p.m.]; Detective Hernandez Phone Records, at p. 132 [reflecting a call to voicemail at 6:45 p.m.].)
The report also notes that O’Keefe tried 3 times to get Vera to give fraudulent tax advice, and Vera ignored him. As Maddow reported, he kept the conversation going to try and get information to turn over to authorities.
As for Kaelke, we reported months ago that she was wise to O’Keefe’s game, and Brown’s report confirms this:
Kaelke told police investigators that she realized that this was a scam and decided to play along. (San Bernardino Police Report, Detective Baumgartner, dated September 15, 2009, at p. 1.) Kaelke told O’Keefe and Giles that ACORN would not approve of their business or of her giving them advice, but that she personally supported legalizing prostitution. (San Bernardino Tr. 2-3, 5, 14-15, 37.) She claimed Heidi Fleiss was a personal hero. She told them that she used to be a prostitute and gave them tips on keeping the business a secret. She suggested they set up the business as a massage parlor and sell vitamins as a cover. (San Bernardino Tr. at pp. 17-23.) When they expressed concern that neighbors might notice the underage El Salvadoran girls, she suggested they call the place a “group home.” (San Bernardino Tr. at p. 35.) When the group was discussing the abusive nature of pimps, Kaelke said she had killed her abusive ex-husband. She told a story about how she set up a self-defense claim by going to battered women shelters before the murder. (San Bernardino Tr. 26-27.)
Kaelke has stated that none of her claims were true and she was playing along with what she perceived as a joke. (San Bernardino Police Report, Detective Baumgartner, at p. 1.) At one point during the conversation she said, “if I didn’t know better and I don’t but I would think this is a total set up.” (San Bernardino Tr. 33.) Both of Kaelke’s former husbands are alive and have reported to law enforcement that Kaelke never attempted to harm either of them.
Finally, the report details how, in Los Angeles, an ACORN worker turned them down flat three times, before finally making a vague offer of assistance when O’Keefe and Giles refused to relent.
Now, there are some who will point out, correctly, that the LA ACORN employees should have reported the pair to police, but it is also worth noting that O’Keefe and Giles concocted a story that included violent gangsters and criminals. In poor communities especially, law enforcement is not known for its ability to protect those who report crime.
This report, and these tapes, only cover the ACORN tapes from California. The Brad Blog has requested that Brown’s office release the other tapes. There’s no telling what will be on those, but the revelations in the California investigation are, themselves, enough to end the career of any legitimate journalist. Unfortunately, in this brave new media world, outright lies aren’t quite the offense that shooting a pilot for a rival network is.
Have a tip we should know? firstname.lastname@example.org