Breitbart, ACORN Foes Release Strange Video of Philadelphia Sting

October 21, 2009 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

Big Government’s Andrew Breitbart brought ACORN videographers James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles to the National Press Club this morning for the release of a video documenting the two young conservatives’ visit to the community organizing group’s office in Philadelphia.

The rollout was simultaneously tense and celebratory, with Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) dipping into the room to offer their support. While O’Keefe and Giles refused to take questions from reporters, citing ACORN’s lawsuit against them, both addressed the media gathered in the room to claim that ACORN was lying. Breitbart–another party in the lawsuit–was the only participant who took questions, saying that he’d “given the press one month” to follow up on the ACORN videos, and watched reporters go after him, Giles and O’Keefe.

“America, ACORN lied to you,” said Breitbart. He singled out the liberal watchdog group Media Matters for special criticism. “Now that ACORN has lied to you, Media Matters, what are you going to do?”

The source of the “lie” claim was the heavily edited video, which nonetheless cast serious doubt on ACORN’s version of what happened during a July sting in Philadelphia. In September, when O’Keefe and Giles released their first batch of videos, ACORN claimed that the videographers were kicked out of the Philadelphia office after they behaved strangely. Katherine Conway Russell, an ACORN volunteer in the office, produced a police report and video statement, claiming that she answered some basic questions and referred them to a meeting, but after they asked about El Salvador (their ruse included a plan to smuggle under-age prostitutes in from the country) she told them that “they had to leave and I had other things to do.”

O’Keefe’s video contradicts some of this. But not with Conway Russell’s own words. Fearing legal repercussions, he muted her voice in the hidden camera footage, leaving only the audio of his own questions and Giles’ questions. This edited footage does have O’Keefe referring to Giles as a “prostitute” multiple times, and, according to O’Keefe, it is taken from 32 minutes of face time with Conway Russell — ACORN has maintained that the videographers were kicked out after a “few minutes.” (The full 32 minutes, said O’Keefe, would be released soon.)

The muting of the ACORN worker’s voice led to a strange presentation; O’Keefe simply told reporters what Conway Russell was saying whenever the audio cut out. Blogger Mike Stark asked Breitbart if the whole, unedited video would be released.

“James O’Keefe is the producer of it,” said Breitbart, “and since he’s in a lawsuit, I can’t have that discussion with him right now. But I would certainly be open to that possibility.”

After the meeting, Giles and Breitbart quickly headed out to Grover Norquist’s off-the-record Wednesday meeting of conservatives. Kelly Shackelford, one of the attorneys helping out Giles, stuck around to answer questions, and said that the video muting was O’Keefe’s idea. It was understandable, he said, that the two twenty-something activists would limit their liability now that ACORN was targeting them in a lawsuit.