September 16, 2009
3:40 PM

CONTACT: Media Matters for America

Jess Levin (202)

Fox News Caught in a Smear: Media Matters Calls for Accountability Following Shameful Omission During ACORN Reports

WASHINGTON - September 16 - Today, Media Matters for America highlighted the fact that Fox News repeatedly broadcast and promoted a shocking but entirely fictitious claim made by San Bernardino ACORN employee Tresa Kaelke that she murdered her former husband.

Media Matters also released a video of its own, titled, "Caught in a Smear," which can be viewed here.

"This is journalistic malpractice, plain and simple," said Eric Burns, president of Media Matters. "A reporter right out of J-school would have taken the two minutes necessary to call the San Bernardino Police Department and verify Ms. Kaelke's statements. But that never occurred to anyone at Fox News before the network ran with the story. This kind of shameful work raises serious questions about the legitimacy of the entire campaign currently being waged against ACORN."


On September 15, Fox News' Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity both broadcast Tresa Kaelke's assertion, recorded on a hidden camera, that she had killed a former husband.

Both made a point of highlighting the statement. On the September 15 edition of his show, Beck played the clip and then said, "She never spanked her kids, but she did shoot her husband dead." Later that night, Hannity played the same clip before adding, "Specifically, now, she goes into this scenario about her husband and the killing of him."

The following morning, on September 16, Fox News' Gretchen Carlson repeated the allegation, saying, "She killed somebody? Despite this, some lawmakers want to keep funding the group." She later claimed that the husband was still alive, "according to ACORN."

However, the San Bernardino Police Department itself has now confirmed that Kaelke's claim was untrue. A department statement released on September 15 reads:

"The San Bernardino Police Department is investigating the claims made regarding the homicide. From the initial investigation conducted, the claims do not appear to be factual. Investigators have been in contact with the involved party's known former husbands, who are alive and well."

Furthermore, Kaelke has said that when she made the claim, she was seeking to deliberately mislead the undercover videographers, Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe, of whom she was suspicious.

"They were not believable," Kaelke is quoted as saying in an ACORN press release. "Somewhat entertaining, but they weren't even good actors. I didn't know what to make of them. They were clearly playing with me. I decided to shock them as much as they were shocking me."

Kaelke's remarks have thus far been largely ignored by Fox News.


Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

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