Bertha Lewis: in defense of ACORN in the face of scandal

October 6, 2009

Bertha Lewis, chief executive officer of ACORN, went to the National Press Club today to “set the record straight” about her scandal-hit community organizing group and accused Republicans of making the liberal organization a “boogeyman” as a way to raise funds. USA/

“This form of modern-day ACORN McCarthyism has got to stop,” she told reporters.

Her first words set the stage.

“I’m Bertha Lewis and some of you may know me as the biggest threat to democracy in America,” she said.

“And most recently, some of you may know me as the head of an international brothel network,” she continued.

“So I thought this would be a good opportunity to reintroduce myself. I am Bertha Lewis, CEO of ACORN.”

The most recent scandal to strike ACORN was the secret filming by conservative activists of employees allegedly giving tax and housing advice to a couple posing as a pimp and a prostitute trying to set up a prostitution ring.

“It made my stomach turn over, it just made you sick,” Lewis said.

The employees were fired, but she said some of them were women who thought they were doing the right thing and “thought they shouldn’t be judgmental.” ACORN is suing the makers of the tapes.

ACORN also made headlines last year when Republican groups seized on allegations of voter registration fraud to accuse it of trying to push the election in favor of Barack Obama.

Lewis said the group itself turned over suspicious voter registration cards to authorities and that in the last presidential election there was not one ACORN-registered vote cast that was fraudulent — “Not one Mickey Mouse, not one Donald Duck, not one New York Jet, or any other fraudulent person.”

And then there was also a scandal involving the founder’s brother who is accused of embezzling nearly $1 million. Lewis says the founder was fired and stories that the embezzlement was $5 million were untrue and based on two disgruntled former members of ACORN’s board of directors.

Last month Congress approved legislation that would cut off federal money to ACORN.

“We didn’t have government funding for years. We may not have government funding in the future,” Lewis said. “If we don’t, ACORN will still go on.”

What do you think? Is ACORN being subjected to modern-day McCarthyism as Lewis says? Will the organization bounce back from the scandals?

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Reuters/Molly Riley (ACORN rally in Washington March 2008)


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Yes, what the republicans have done to ACORN is modern day McCarthyism, and I do not know why they have not taken action against the right wing-nuts.

ACORN will survive. It is the republican party and “conservatism” that [hopefully] may not.

Posted by Pam | Report as abusive

Modern Day McCarthyism? Sorry, but since when is exposing a corrupt group of people as corrupt equal to falsely charging someone with trying to undermine the USA?

I do not understand how someone can stand up, and defend voter registration fraud, using the excuse that no actual vote fraud took place.

I do not understand how someone can stand up, and defend an ACORN worker’s decision to help someone commit tax fraud.

I do not understand now someone can stand up, and defend an ACORN worker’s willingness to go along with a child prostitution plan.

Posted by DS | Report as abusive

It is so sad that conservatives can only see the worst in ACORN and liberals can’t see the problems at all. It is a fact that the ACORN employee felt at ease in assisting a client to import 13 year old girls from central america for white slavery. The fact that similar situations were happening in other offices with other employees points to a culture within ACRON that we need to address. The way to address this problem is not by shooting the messenger.

Posted by Greg Hubert | Report as abusive

Pam, you’re an idiot. ACORN did this to themselves and the only thing saving this organization from complete ruins is fairly obvious.

Posted by Chuck | Report as abusive

the founder of Acorn was asked by an interviewer why although his organization had been fighting to get the national minimum wage recognition installed, Acorn refused to pay their own employees minimum wages,until they were going to be sued by the state of California.He was also asked that although he also founded the services union seiu when the Acorn employees asked if they could unionize they were refused.This is socialism, the leaders are only after their own interests,don,t be fooled by their compassionate promises, they only use their minions to get them the power that they thirst.In USSR the ordinary people had desperate living conditions but behind the scene their leaders lived in absolute luxury.If they could investigate the personal finances of the congressional democrats when they entered congress and how much they were worth after just several years it would be an embarrassment.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

Sorry but so called “right-wing nuts” do not take government moneies and then promote child slavery!

Posted by DAVID | Report as abusive

How dare that Republican party for infiltrating ACORN and staffing it with individuals who think pedophilia and prostitution are acceptable. It would take one of those ol’ Republicans to be able to find someone who could listen to a plot to bring in children to be exploited in the sex industry and not even blink an eye. Thank God there are organizations like ACORN to help expose such people.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

Launching lawsuits and denigrating filmakers as “conservative activists” smacks of “shoot the messenger syndrome” This is odd behavior for a group seemingly staffed by “liberal activists”, who appear to be avoiding responsibility for many legal problems of their own making relating to massive voter and money frauds, are facing criminal complaints in multiple states and have a political agenda of their own.
It seems to me ACORN would be better off if they concentrated on cleaning up their own internal problems as they were advised to do by their own lawyers over a year ago.
Claiming that voter fraud was unimportant because they were caught is not good enough.

Posted by William | Report as abusive

Acorn started out with good intentions but that was long ago. Now this group should be shut down. In the least stop getting public funds. Our government should stop throwing tax payer money away. If this group can stand on it’s own let them. We should not be forced to fund it. The way I see it is the voters will speak in 2010 and 2012.

Posted by old oak tree | Report as abusive

Didn’t want to be “judgemental” about promoting teenage prostitution? Wow.

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive

Sometimes the voters are no longer here to speak.Franklin got elected by just under 400 votes.In that county Acorn registered 43,000 votes.I don,t know if Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck turned up there? But lets be fair they cannot be everywhere.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

OK, Reuters moderators, try this one-

Conservatives in the media continue to push the phony “ACORN voter fraud story, but they’ve failed to come up with a single incident of any actual voter fraud committed by the “left-wing extremists.”
A popular conservative author and media darling actually committed voter fraud in Florida, but the liberal media has yet to cover that story, even as they go wall-to-wall with misleading reports claiming that ACORN is committing massive “voter fraud” on behalf of the Democrats.
When GOP operative James Tobin was actually found guilty of jamming Democratic ‘Get out the Vote’ phone lines in 2002 by orchestrating an election day phone-jamming operation against New Hampshire Democrats, the non-stop media coverage was drowned out by the sound of crickets chirping.
GOP outfit Sproul and Associates was charged with shredding Democratic voter registration forms in a number of states. They were paid more than $8 million dollars by the RNC, who tried to hide the expenditures in 2004.
The head of Young Political Majors, a Republican voter registration outfit in California, pled guilty to illegally changing thousands of registrations from Democratic to Republican, assuring that those voters would not be able to vote in their Democratic primary.
This, of course, is a very different situation from ACORN where it was a handful of workers who were accused of registration fraud, and defrauding ACORN themselves, before being turned into officials by ACORN themselves.
In the meantime, while thousands of voters were unable to cast votes at all thanks to the hard work of Sproul and Associates, the New Hampshire Republican Party, and Young Political Majors, there is not a single allegation of any actual voter fraud having been committed by, or at the behest of ACORN. ACORN is, however, guilty of registering 1.3 million low to middle income voters, who tend to vote Democratic, and thus, they continue to be the target of phony, baseless attacks from the dying GOP.

The seeds for this hoax were planted long ago, by the GOP, not by ACORN. The Rosetta Stone for the modern day GOP “voter fraud” hoax— meant only to keep legal voters from being able to cast a vote at all — was Conservative Founding Father Paul Weyrich’s 1980 speech to 15,000 Baptist preachers in Dallas, Texas. Weyrich instructed his fellow conservatives, including Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell, who were also there:

“I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

This has been the Republican election strategy ever since.

Posted by getplaning | Report as abusive

that is it steve,i was wondering why the dismissed workers were not sueing for wrongful dismal they were really undercover republican agents,wow steve you are smart.It might be the same ones who are getting dressed up as mickey mouse and donald duck and signing the registration forms at the different poll stations for acorn.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive