A duo posing as a prostitute and a pimp who secretly recorded themselves getting financial advice nationwide from the community organizing group ACORN conducted the sting in National City in July, an ACORN spokesman confirmed Wednesday afternoon.A 37-second clip aired Wednesday night on Fox News showed someone identified as an ACORN employee in San Diego answering questions about how to get 12 young girls across the Mexican border. A second 15-second-long clip showed the same ACORN employee asking the woman how much her services cost.Sean Hannity, the Fox News personality who aired the footage Wednesday night, called the actions crimes, but local ACORN spokesman David Lagstein said the employee’s comments in the video were taken â€œcompletely out of context.â€â€œIn their scenario, the alleged pimp and prostitute were trying to get assistance from ACORN, and he communicated that we are not able to give that assistance,â€ Lagstein said.
Similar videos shown this week featured ACORN employees giving financial counseling to the pair in Baltimore, Brooklyn, N.Y., Washington, D.C. and San Bernardino. The videos have caused a national stir and led ACORN to revamp its employee training and call for an independent review of its practices.ACORN, an acronym for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the poor in 40 states.It drew scrutiny in last year’s presidential election after allegations its employees submitted false voter registration forms. ACORN has said only a handful of employees did so in a bid to boost their pay.The activists recorded themselves on a hidden camera asking about tax and other financial issues at several ACORN offices, including how to keep young girls from El Salvador that would be part of their business off the books.
In Baltimore, the response was to claim some of them as dependents.In the footage shot in National City, a man is heard asking about the logistics of crossing the border. The ACORN employee says it’s better to cross in Tijuana than inland, explains that he has some â€œpeopleâ€ in Tijuana and then says, â€œYeah,â€ when the filmmaker asks, â€œAnd they might be able to assist in crossing the border?â€When the man and woman explain that there are a dozen 13- to 15-year-old girls who want to cross the border, the ACORN employee is shown saying, â€œI want to talk to you only right now for â€ before the aired segment ended.Lagstein, ACORN’s head San Diego organizer, said the employee would give his side of the story in the next two days.In an earlier interview, he confirmed the filmmaking duo spoke to someone in ACORN’S offices on West 35th Street site in July, but he wouldn’t say who spoke to them, how long the conversation lasted or what was said.The videos were created by activist filmmaker James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles and are being posted on BigGovernment.com, a new site launched by Internet entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart.
ACORN has terminated at least four staffers shown on the various videos and it announced Wednesday it would stop offering walk-in social services at all its offices as it investigates its processes.Lagstein said the local office sees about 1,000 people each year who want help with issues from taxes, foreclosures, home refinancing and food stamps.Fallout has been fast as the controversy widened in recent days. Friday, the U.S. Census Bureau dropped ACORN as one of 80,000 unpaid partners promoting the 2010 census. Monday, the Senate barred the Department of Housing and Urban Development from giving federal housing aid to the organization. On Wednesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called on California’s attorney general to investigate ACORN.Some Republicans are urging the Justice Department to investigate ACORN.ACORN chief executive Bertha Lewis said in a written statement that ACORN will work with its advisory council, which includes prominent supporters of President Barack Obama, such as John Podesta, president of the nonprofit Center for American Progress, and Andrew Stern,