by Conor Friedersdorf
There's a guy named Juan Carlos Vera. He worked at an ACORN office in San Diego, California. One day, James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles walked in with a hidden video camera, and pretended to be a pimp and prostitute. They asked for help smuggling underage girls across the Mexican border so that they could work in a brothel. Confronted with what appeared to be a sex trafficking plot, you'd hope that someone would play along, get as much information as possible, and call the police. And guess what? That's exactly what Mr. Vera did! Unbeknownst to O'Keefe or Giles, he called his cousin, a police officer, shortly after they left his office.
Perhaps you know what happened next. Having cut his teeth editing The Drudge Report and its notoriously misleading headlines, Internet entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart published the ACORN videos, which fooled me at the time I praised them, and even encouraged Breitbart to pressure attorneys general into investigating the organization. I've never felt like such a fool. Some of the ACORN tapes reflect very badly on that organization, but taken as a whole, they are misleading in a lot of ways.
The San Diego ACORN video was particularly misleading.
Put another way, Andrew Breitbart published videos that made an innocent man look as if he was complicit in a plot to traffic underage girls across the border. Granted, he didn't do this on purpose. Still, it happened. And it cost the guy his job:
A man fired from ACORN's San Diego-area office for discussing human smuggling with a fake pimp and prostitute reported the incident to police two days after it happened, according to information released by the police. Juan Carlos Vera was fired by ACORN after a videotape was aired on Fox News showing him discussing with a couple posed as a pimp and a prostitute the best ways to smuggle underage prostitutes into the U.S. from El Salvador.
"It's better if it's in Tijuana," Vera is heard saying in the video. "Because I have a lot of contacts in Tijuana."
But police said in a press release that Vera reported the incident to his cousin, a detective with the National City Police Department. Vera worked in ACORN's National City office. The detective contacted a federal task force that deals with human smuggling, and an officer from the task force asked for more details.
So Breitbart is factually wrong. He is also still insinuating than an innocent man was willing to be complicit in the transnational smuggling of underage prostitutes. All this seems like a story to me! Something that would be of interest to folks on the press beat like Howard Kurtz or Jack Shafer or others. And shouldn't all the press outlets that wrote about the ACORN tapes from San Diego note this development? I'd even say that conservative publications that value informing their readership more than having a good relationship with a powerful ideological ally like Breitbart should report on this story. But do such publications exist?
If Breitbart has evidence that the California AG's report is wrong, he should come forward with it. If not, he should apologize for tarnishing Vera's reputation and costing him his job. Absent one or the other, can anyone defend him?
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