Topic category: Government/Politics
Was Fox News Prescient or Was Wade Rathke "Played"?
In 1970 Wade Rathke founded ACORN (originally, Arkansas Community Organizations for Reform Now, then Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) to promote his ideas of "the people rule" and "equitable distribution."
On his blog, www.chieforganizer.com, Mr. Rathke's describes himself as "the Chief Organizer of Community Organizations International (formally Acorn International), Founder and Chief Organizer of ACORN (1970-2008), and Founder and Chief Organizer of Local 100, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)."
In June 2008, after the embezzlement scandal involving his brother Dale and its cover up became public knowledge, Mr. Rathke ceased to be ACORN's Chief Organizer.
Mr. Rathke's explanation, as reported on November 1, 2009 in Philadelphia Weekly (http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/news-and-opinion/ACORN-rathke-68409357.html?page=2&comments=1&showAll=), is as follows: "Years ago we discovered, our accounting contractor came to me and said there were things that weren't adding up on the credit card. I asked our outside auditors to come in and investigate, they did so. They did a forensic audit to determine what the level of the misappropriation was, we brought in outside lawyers as well as in-house council to determine what the course of action might be. We had two choices, we could either enter a restitution side to try to get repaid or we could go with the retribution side and turn it over to the police. Both of those options, we were told from outside council, were equally legal and permissible. I brought this to the management council, the management council unanimously voted, without my participation, to go with restitution as opposed to retribution. I brought it to the executive committee, the executive committee approved that and over a period of time the money was paid back as per the terms of the agreement. That's what happened. Part of the decision, at that time, 10 years ago this all came out just as the Bush V. Gore thing was happening, so it was not a period where we felt we would be well-served if it was front page news. It came up again in the middle of 2008 and was raised to a thunder and I fully disclosed to everyone, the whole staff, as well as the whole board, but there are a couple of people that weren't happy about that. I was chief organizer, I was founder of the organization, and I tried to take the responsibility by resigning, hoping that would just prove a fundamental principle we have of accountability. There was even a small minority of people that believed we made the wrong decision by not going public at that time or whatever. I took responsibility and resigned. So that's what happened. The committee actually at first tried to not accept by resignation, but I insisted it had to be. Unfortunately it didn't seem to stop the problem. The same reason perhaps that we kept the secret internal all these years, to protect the organization like it did sort of did. Once I was gone, they lost control of the story and it certainly has not been pretty how it was handled."
On July 1, 2009, Mr. Rathke's book, Citizen Wealth: Winning the Campaign to Save Working Families, was released.
On July 28, 2009, at 6:59 AM, Mr. Rathke posted this message on his book's Facebook page: "Fox Den New York It was a different way to come into the big city. Beulah Laboistrie, a senior ACORN leader in New Orleans over the last more than 30 years, and I were bumped up to 1st class to LaGuardia..."
On September 25, 2009, Fox News's Megyn Kelly gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
On October 2, 2009, Fox News broadcast a special titled "The Truth About ACORN" that featured Wade Rathke and publicized Citizen Wealth.
The special was hosted by Fox News's brainy, blonde beauty, attorney, Ms. Kelly, and included segments from two interviews of Wade Rathke that she had conducted.
The first interview was conducted before the "Pimp and Pro" ACORN story broke; the second, after.
Did Fox News and/or Ms. Kelly know that the "Pimp and Pro" sting has been planned and begun before the first interview?
Did Fox News "play" Wade Rathke?
Seeing the answer, I emailed Wade Rathke as follows:
"Will you please identify that date [on which Fox's Megyn Kelly first interviewed you] for me?
On November 2, 2009, Mr. Rathke cautiously replied:
"frankly having read some of your pieces, i'm surprised that suddenly you are 'fact checking' with me. why do you want to know this and why is it important to you? i'm a pretty accessible guy, but i'm not sure i want to be a source for you.
"make the case, if you don't mind. if you do mind, then that's fine, too.
Having received both the courtesy of a response and a challenge, I opted to "make my case" and did so this way:
"I appreciate frankness and have no reason to mind a reasonable request.
"I have a number of sources and check facts regularly.
"I am familiar with your website and have used it as a source.
"Howard Baker famously asked those what was known and when was it known questions with respect to the Watergate scandal.
"Good questions to ask in trying to understand.
"Facts are important to me.
"I want to get them right the first time.
"Fox News lauded itself in its ACORN special for getting the first in-depth interview from you, but did not report when that interview was conducted.
"I reported that the Fox special was coming a few months in advance: The Upcoming Fox News Specials on ACORN (August 17, 2009).
"Your interview was conducted by Fox's beautiful blonde lawyer, Megyn Kelly, not Eric Shawn.
"I am curious about both when and why Megyn instead of Eric (although I assume most men would prefer to be interviewed by Megyn).
"Of course, you were re-interviewed after the 'pimp and pro' story broke.
"I am also curious as to whether either you or Megyn expected the re-interview.
Mr. Rathke promptly and helpfully replied:
"Fox filmed the book event in New Orleans on 7/23 at Octavia Books and took B-roll in the lower 9th ward, with local 100 leaders, and with me in the COI/AINT office on that day.
"When i was negotiating whether or not I would be interviewed, which originally was positioned by their producers around Citizen Wealth and its publication in late June and early July, they had no idea who would be the on-camera person. I can't remember ever having heard the name Eric and had never heard of Megyn until they decided to use her for this thing. I had no opinion and offered none.
"Because of travel restrictions on her pregnancy they ended up flying Beulah Laboistrie and me up for the interview on July 28th to New York City which took place in the library of the Williams Club (a 1st for me!).
"I read your notice of the documentary in August. I assumed you got it from Beck sources. They were livid that Beck had worked with 2 young fellows who pretended to be health care bloggers from Michigan at the book signing (fox docs filmed them as well) and he had run some sort of a squib on his show claiming it was the first 'interview' with me. if you watch the piece, as you may have, it is clearly not an interview but just some footage while I'm signing books.
"part of what i negotiated as a precondition for the interview among other things was that any footage they had with me would not be used outside of the documentary, i.e. would not be available for chop shopping by their wild commentators on Fox. so they were messing with each other i guess.
"no there was no expectation of a further interview and no agreement on one. the sting broke while i was in Canada (i've still never seen it, but at this point i've read enough that i don't have to really). i refused to discuss it but was willing to push back on some other questions they said they wanted to ask. megyn tried to push me on the videos regardless, so i don't know how this was handled on the special (if all), since it didn't run until i was in Thailand, and I haven't caught up with this either at this point.
"i was unwilling and unavailable to be in new york so the producer and the original crew came down to my office and they did some sort of feed where i answered the questions looking at the producer and heard megan on the phone in front of us asking her questions. bizarre. i don't recommend it!
That seemed to explain what the meaning of "Fox Den" on Mr. Rathke's book's Facebook page.
"Yes, I saw you signing those books.
"Your assumption that I announced the special based on Beck sources is a reasonable, but wrong guess.
"As for 'Beck' misreporting as having the 'first interview' of you, it's not the show's only false statement.
"I readily understand that you had an interest in being interviewed about your book and thus made an agreement with Fox, but, in hindsight, do you think Fox interviewed you because it wanted to focus attention on the book?
"It sure seems to me like they wanted Megyn to interview you, even if it meant flying you in and taking you to the Williams Club!
"When you wrote, 'no there was no expectation of a further interview and no agreement on one,' you only meant no expectation on your part, right?"
Mr. Rathke responded:
"i was never naive about this. i'm not a cowboy who has never been to the rodeo.
"fox wanted to interview me and to the degree our core agreement was my willingness to talk about ACORN's history -- something i have a huge interest in being properly handled and reported -- they caught me at a time where i was finally willing and able to take the risk and the documentary division was at least a small big safer.
"from the 1st conversations there were three or more names of possible interviewers they mentioned and originally i don't even remember her being on the list, but, once again, i didn't have a horse in that race and can shed no light from anything they told me on how they finally made the decision. the producer, who is the only person i was really dealing with, finally told me that her supervisors had told her it was going to be megyn, and that was that.
"as far as expectations for an additional interview, no, i meant on either of our parts. they kept thinking the show was going to run much earlier than it ended up running, and they also seemed to have continually felt that kelly might have her baby at any minute during this process. they were surprised and disappointed that the thing was pushed back because when all hell broke loose for ACORN they thought they were in focus again for viewers' interest. what they conveyed to me was disappointment that the schedule seemed to be slipping rather than fixed. i really don't have any doubt that the only reason for the last minuted addition was because the scam sting on ACORN had become front and center and they could not get any ACORN spokesperson to go on record. i think at the last minute they managed to do get someone, but they were forced to come back and take a shot at me solely because they had been turned down by ACORN's communication and pr folks before that last second deus ex machina.
I then asked Mr. Rathke whether he had come to think that Fox knew what was coming while he didn't when he was interviewed the first time:
"Wade, I don't doubt that you have plenty of rodeo experience, but naivety is not a requirement for being played. If I have it right now, the filming and interviewing for a Fox piece on your book sandwiched the sting on ACORN's Baltimore office that was the first stop on the 'Pimp and Pro' tour (July 24) and after all that investment of time, talent and treasure, Fox did not broadcast it until October 2, and then as part of the ACORN special. I have some familiarity with book promotion, particularly the book on the Duke no-rape case titled Until Proven Innocent. My understanding is that tv and radio interviews are done and broadcast as close to the book release date as reasonably possible.'they were surprised and disappointed that the thing was pushed back because when all hell broke loose for ACORN they thought they were in focus again for viewers' interest.' And some people think all the great actors and actresses go to Hollywood! Mike"
Mr. Rathke responded: "past my job classification. i've no idea."
I pressed, as follows: "Thanks to Fox, I watched your claim to have one small 'skill set.' Humility is great. But 'past my job classification' sounds like Obama's 'above my pay grade' response to the when does life begin question."
That jib elicited this from Mr. Rathke:
"you want an opinion: i doubt what you are saying is the case.
"but that's just my opinion. i have no idea how Fox and it's various moving pieces really work. i categorically think these things were disconnected, and doubt that you can prove otherwise, but whatever...you're writing a blog and advancing an opinion, and i can't prove one way or another, and neither can you, so....
"i operate with people from a position of good faith until proven otherwise despite my suspicions. none of us are immune from being played. i don't think i was played here, but who knows...what's done is done, and i still show up and work every day because there's a lot of work to be one for someone with my 'skill set.'"
I concluded our email exchange with "Thank you for sharing."
Was Wade Rathke "played"?
He's given Fox the benefit of the doubt and concluded that the answer is no, but asserted that as an "opinion," not as a fact within his personal knowledge, and that "none of us are immune from being played."
Washington Post's Perry Bacon Jr. wrote a profile of Andrew Breitbart (whose BigGovernment.com opened last September with the "Pimp and Pro" ACORN story) that is titled "ACORN video creates new conservative star" and was published on Halloween.
Mr. Bacon reported, inter alia:
"It was the 40-year-old Breitbart who masterminded the strategy of releasing the videos one at a time on his Web site, Big Government, as a way of maximizing exposure of the campaign against ACORN."
"Breitbart is also networking beyond his own sites. Before releasing the ACORN video, he alerted Fox personality Glenn Beck. Beck highlighted them on his show. Soon other media outlets were picking up the story."
What went on before those videos were released?
Was Fox News really planning to regale viewers with a documentary on Wade Rathke and his book when Ms. Kelly spent two and a half hours interviewing him in New York on July 28, 2009, four days after Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe visited the Baltimore ACORN office and surreptitiously obtained evidence of a propensity of ACORN employees to facilitate prostitution, child prostitution, child abuse, illegal immigration, bank fraud and tax fraud?
If so, why wasn't such a documentary broadcast by Fox during the summer?
If not, was it serendipitous that Fox News had that first Wade Rathke interview on hand when it invited him to be re-interviewed and put together its "The Truth About ACORN" special?
When were Fox News, Beck and Ms. Kelly first aware of the "Pimp and Pro" sting at the Baltimore ACORN office and the sensational videos?
Michael J. Gaynor
Biography - Michael J. Gaynor
Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.
Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.
The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.
Gaynor currently contributes regularly to www.MichNews.com, www.RenewAmerica.com, www.WebCommentary.com, www.PostChronicle.com and www.therealitycheck.org and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.
Gaynor's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.