Fox News attempted to smear a new Affordable Care Act (ACA) outreach campaign by claiming that Deepak Bhargava, the head of an organization affiliated with the effort, was involved in the manufactured ACORN video scandal. Fox's attempt to smear the campaign ignores that Bhargava left ACORN over ten years ago and was in no way affiliated with the video scandal hyped by the network.
In 2009, conservative activist James O'Keefe targeted the community organizing group ACORN with a series of deceptively-edited sting videos that attempted to demonstrate widespread criminality at the organization. The videos were widely promoted by Fox and the conservative media, and the ensuing bad publicity forced the organization to shut down. But subsequent investigations found that the group had broken no laws.
Bhargava, a former government affairs official at ACORN, is now the executive director for the Center for Community Change, a group that funds an organization named the Young Invincibles. On August 19, the Daily Mail Online reported that the Young Invincibles is partnering with the Department of Health and Human Services for a video contest to assist with ACA outreach. The article used the connection between Young Invincibles and the Center for Community Change to invoke the conservative bogeyman of the defunct ACORN:
In its heyday, ACORN's legislative agenda was managed by Deepak Bhargava, an Indian-born community organizer. Bhargava left ACORN in 2002 after holding the top government affairs position there for 10 years. He is now executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Community Change.
Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, who was among the most vocal Republicans during the 2010 battle over ACORN's federal funding, told MailOnline that the White House is risking a public backlash with its choice of partnerships.
'The fact that the Obama administration is putting a senior staffer of the now defunct and notoriously corrupt ACORN in charge of giving away cash to bribe young Americans into accepting Obamacare is cause for grave concern,' Gosar said.
On the August 20 edition of America Live, Fox Digital Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt smeared the video contest, invoking Bhargava's previous position at ACORN to suggest that he was involved in the manufactured video scandal:
SHANNON BREAM: Give us the ACORN connection here, what's that all about?
STIREWALT: Well certainly if anybody should know about the consequences that viral videos should have, wouldn't it be ACORN? ACORN is a community organizing group, a Democratic ally community organizing group, that was laid low by a viral video from a couple of conservative activists who posed as an outrageously dressed pimp and prostitute, a pair, and found help in continuing their business when they went to ACORN outlets. Those videos went viral, and poof, then they had a lobbyist who needed a job, and fortunately there is one for him.
BREAM: Well yeah, and it sounds like he is part of this whole effort. There's a connection - there's always connections in Washington, everything and everyone just about is connected - But the Center for Community Change, he's the Executive Director. They launched a side group, Young Invincibles, which does a lot of outreach to young people. There's a lot of money involved here.
However, Bhargava left ACORN in 2002, a full seven years before O'Keefe and fellow activist Hannah Giles publically tarred the organization. Even the Daily Mail Online article that attempted to drum up controversy recognized that "Bhargava left ACORN in 2002 after holding the top governmental affairs position there for 10 years."