James O'Keefe and the Myth of the ACORN Pimp

Make no mistake: Last fall, both Andrew Breitbart and James O'Keefe, with the help of Fox News, did their best to confuse people about that fact. It's true the duo seemed to purposefully push that falsehood and mislead the public and the press about the ACORN story. And more importantly, they did it to make the ACORN workers captured on video look like complete jackasses for not being able to spot O'Keefe's pimp ruse a mile away.

But the story was not true.

Fact: On the guerrilla clips posted online and aired on Fox News, O'Keefe was featured in lots of cutaway shots that were filmed outside and showed him parading around with Giles in his outlandish cane/top hat/sunglasses/fur coat pimp costume.

The cutaway shots certainly left the impression that that's how O'Keefe was dressed when he spoke to ACORN workers.

But inside each and every office, according to one independent review that looked at the public videos, O'Keefe entered sans the pimp get-up. In fact, he was dressed rather conservatively. During his visit to the Baltimore ACORN office, he wore a dress shirt and khaki pants. For the Philadelphia sting, he added a tie to the ensemble.

Instead, the '70s-era, blacksploitation pimp costume was a propaganda tool used to later deceive the public about the undercover operation. It was a prop that was quickly embraced by the mainstream media, turned into a central part of the ACORN story, and used to mock ACORN workers for being so clueless that they couldn't sniff out the obviously phony pimp.

There's no doubt the pimp costume story worked. (Raise your hand if you were duped.) My guess is if you polled Americans today, and even ones who followed the story closely last year (including right-wing partisans), at least 90 percent would say O'Keefe sat inside ACORN offices while decked out in his pimp costume.

But it's not true. At least there have not been any publicly released ACORN videos to suggest otherwise.

Read the entire Media Matters column here.