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Controversy surrounds ACORN videos

September 15, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Controversy is surrounding hidden-camera videos targeting the activist group ACORN.At the San Bernardino office, an ACORN worker appears eager to help a couple posing as a prostitute and pimp. But the organization says the videos don't tell the whole story.

The videographer targets ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), an organization that helped President Obama get elected. Several members in Miami are under investigation for alleged voter fraud. But the videos portray a much darker picture. Wednesday night, ACORN officials say that picture is a manipulation.

A national sensation is set off by a series of videos. A photographer, James O'Keefe, with a hidden camera, and a female companion, go to the San Bernardino ACORN office.

The video shows an ACORN worker who appears willing to help O'Keefe in his run for congress, and in a way he suggests to fund it: teenage prostitution.

"I ran a service," says the ACORN worker. "Yeah, Heidi Fleiss was my hero. I have some experience in how not to get caught."

Now ACORN fights back about what they say you don't see on that video or in similar encounters taped by O'Keefe across the country.

A visit was also paid to the Los Angeles ACORN office.

"They were turned away," said Millicent Hill, Los Angeles ACORN office. "The individual saw right through it and said, 'Please go away. We're not going to discuss this with you.' They were turned away."

They were also turned away by ACORN in San Diego, National City, Philadelphia. And the outfits -- the photographer dressed like a pimp, and the woman so scantily clad. That's not how they dressed here, says ACORN.

Instead it was a young man who said he was attorney trying to help a young woman fleeing from her pimp. ACORN says the conservative Web sites aren't posting that information.

"Did they investigate the other side before they put that news blurb on the air, that stink bomb -- excuse my expression," said Hill.

ACORN has locally helped hundreds of people find affordable housing and fight foreclosures. But Wednesday, all services were shut down. Hate calls are coming in.

"What I have heard about ACORN in the past week makes me want to puke," said one caller on the office answering machine.

As legislators call for an investigation, ACORN cautions against a rush to judgment.

"We are doing positive work. See the good things we are doing," said Hill.

ACORN has ordered top-to-bottom training. Employees will be learning about how to respond to questionable inquiries. While offices remain open, no programs are operating.

The people they serve may not be getting help from them for at least another week.

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