White House Calls ACORN’s Behavior ‘Completely Unacceptable’
September 16, 2009 - 7:19 PMWhite House Spokesman Robert Gibbs had stern criticism for ACORN, whose political action committee endorsed President Obama's candidacy in 2008 and which has been a leading advocate of the president's health care reform plan.
“With regards to ACORN, obviously, the conduct we’ve seen on video is completely unacceptable. I think everyone would agree with that,” Gibbs said Wednesday.
Gibbs was speaking about videos in which ACORN officials appeared to advise a couple posing as a prostitute and pimp who said they wanted to start a prostitution ring with underage teenage girls to lie about their purported business for tax and other legal reasons.
The hidden-camera videos were shot at offices of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in Baltimore, Washington, New York and San Bernardino, Calif.
Following the release of the videos, the Census Bureau broke ties with ACORN, and the Senate voted overwhelmingly to block the Department of Housing and Urban Development from giving grants to ACORN.
“The administration takes accountability extremely seriously,” Gibbs said. “The Census Bureau evaluated and determined that this group did not meet the bureau’s standards to complete a fair and accurate count in 2010. We assure, as always, that any grantee in this administration or previous administration--the organization received grants in previous administrations--will be evaluated.”
Asked if President Obama would encourage the Democratic Party to sever its ties with the organization, Gibbs said, “We have not had that discussion.”
ACORN announced Wednesday that it will conduct an internal investigation.
“We have all been deeply disturbed by what we've seen in some of these videos. I must say, on behalf of ACORN's Board and our Advisory Council that we will go to whatever lengths necessary to reestablish the public trust,” said ACORN chief executive Bertha Lewis said in a written statement. “For nearly forty years, ACORN has given voice to communities, and gotten results. Right now, our nearly 500,000 member are working their hearts out for quality, affordable healthcare for every American and to help stop the foreclosure crisis. We must get this process right, so the good work can go forward.”
The organization will work with its advisory council, which includes prominent supporters of President Obama, such as John Podesta, president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, and Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, to name an independent auditor and investigator, ACORN’s Lewis said in a written statement.
“ACORN has a long history of serving those who most need help, and giving voice to those who have been left behind. We will take the necessary steps to ensure that ACORN functions with the highest levels of ethical standards and competence,” Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a member of ACORN’s advisory council, said in a statement.
The undercover videos prompted the firing of at least four ACORN employees. The undercover investigation was conducted by James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles and was posted on Andrew Breibart’s BigGovernment.com.
The Obama campaign boasted that ACORN’s political action committee endorsed its candidate in the Democratic presidential primary.
The Obama campaign also spent $800,000 on a get out the vote effort by Citizens Services Inc.
The organization came under fire in 2008 for alleged voter registration irregularities.
The Nevada Attorney General’s office indicted ACORN in May on charges related to how the organization paid people to sign up voters.