Accuracy in Media




Two weeks ago a New York Times reporter took exception to my article on ACORN election fraud, claiming that I had falsely characterized her two articles on Barack Obama and his ACORN connections as “contradictory.”

The email from Stephanie Strom, which was sent to our public relations representative in order to avoid a direct exchange between herself and “the writer,” demands that AIM correct the record on two points, but she has refused to allow AIM to republish her letter alongside our organization’s response. 

The original AIM column, titled “Will ACORN Steal the Election?,” states that  “In an October 22 story, New York Times writer Stephanie Strom actually contradicts her previous article in order to minimize the association between Obama and an arguably corrupt ACORN. She now characterizes the ACORN investigation as a partisan attempt to discredit Obama.”

In her October 22 column, Strom wrote

“Republicans have tried to make an issue of Senator Barack Obama’s ties to the group, which he represented in a lawsuit in 1995. The Obama campaign has denied any connection with Acorn’s voter registration drives.”

The October 22 article in question very specifically states that “the Obama campaign has denied any connection with Acorn’s voter registration drives,” she asserts in the email, and the articles appeared 12 days apart, not eleven.

Strom’s article was posted online on October 10, but appeared in an October 11 printed version. This correspondent used the latter date for comparison.  But whether or not Strom’s articles were 11 or 12 days apart does little to change the substance of her contradictory and misleading reporting.

For instance, Obama gave an ACORN subsidiary, Citizens Services Inc., over $800,000 for get out the vote projects during the primary election. This funding was originally concealed by the Obama campaign as “staging, sound, and lighting,” “advance work,” and “per diem,” etc.

Also, Strom’s October 10 story refers to Sam Graham-Felson’s blog entry, which quotes Obama as saying “Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote voter registration drives in Illinois, Acorn was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work.”

Obama’s full statement, as reported by Graham-Felson and in part by ACORN itself, reads:

“I come out of a grassroots organizing background. That’s what I did for three and a half years before I went to law school. That’s the reason I moved to Chicago, was to organize. So this is something that I know personally, the work you do, the importance of it. I’ve been fighting
alongside ACORN on issues you care about my entire career. Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote voter registration drives in Illinois, ACORN was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work.”

The first four sentences of Obama’s remarks were corroborated by an ACORN newsletter. (The google cache of the ACORN newsletter was active on October 28, but it is no longer available. The original text was reposted by a blogger here, and AIM retains a copy of the original archived web page).

The ACORN newsletter, published February 21, also states that “Obama continued to work with ACORN after he was elected to state office in Illinois and then to the U.S. Senate.”

The question remains then: was Strom aware of this when writing her October 22 article for the New York Times? It seems so.

In her first letter to AIM, she notes that her October 10 article was trying to establish that the Obama campaign was contradicting itself. In the second letter, again trying to avoid a direct confrontation with this writer but calling for a “correction,” she ends with the recognition that whether or not her article was “contradictory” is open to interpretation.

By describing this as “Republicans” trying to “make an issue of…Obama’s ties to the group” instead of exposing discrepancies between the Obama campaign’s current and past statements, Strom’s October 22 article deliberately mislead readers about this controversy.

Strom said that she hoped AIM would apply the same standards to its own writers that it does for other journalists. The standard applied by AIM in this case is for reporters to not simply regurgitate the assertions made by each campaign, but to check candidate’s statements against their records.

Strom can be reached at the New York Times through their website.




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