Fox News reports Thursday that the New York Communities for Change – the group formerly known as ACORN – is scrambling to do “damage control” after Fox reported the group’s involvement in the Occupy Wall Street protest.
According to Fox, the group has fired staff, shredded reams of documents and instructed workers to “blame disgruntled ex-employees for leaking information in an effort to explain away a FoxNews.com report last week on the group’s involvement in Occupy Wall Street protests.”
Fox News adds:
NYCC also is installing surveillance cameras and recording devices at its Brooklyn offices, removing or packing away supplies bearing the name ACORN and handing out photos of Fox News staff with a stern warning not to talk to the media, the sources said.
One NYCC source reportedly told Fox the group is “doing serious damage control right now.”
In late October, a Fox News report identified ACORN as one of the groups behind the Occupy Wall Street protest, saying the group is paying staffers to participate in the protest.
That report was corroborated by a Wall Street activist who told Big Government the group is paying people up to $100 per day to protest.
After Fox’s initial report, two staffers were fired when NYCC officials suspected they were the source of the leaks.
“One was fired the day the story came out, the other was fired on Friday. (NYCC senior staff) told everyone that they were fired because they talked to you,” a source told Fox, although NYCC spokesman Scott Levenson denied the charge.
Fox added that NYCC’s organizing director, Jonathan Westin reportedly told staffers in a meeting they could be fired, sued or arrested for talking to the press and denied allegations the group pays people to protest.
“‘That’s the story that we’re sticking to,’” Westin reportedly said, one source told Fox.
But staffers contested Westin’s denials.
Jana Winter writes:
“It was pretty funny. Jonathan told staff they don’t pay for protesters, but the people in the meeting who work there objected and said, ‘Wait, you pay us to go to the protests every day?’ Then Jonathan said ‘No, but that’s your job,’ and staffers were like, ‘Yeah, our job is to protest,’ and Westin said, ‘No your job is to fight for economic and social justice. We just send you to protest.’
“Staff said, ‘Yes, you pay us to carry signs.’ Then Jonathan says, ‘That’s your job.’ It went on like that back and forth for a while.”
During the meetings, NYCC Deputy Director Greg Basta provided Westin with the copied photos of Fox News reporters to hand out to staff members, the source said. Basta told staffers they might be asked about the article when out in communities working on campaigns or when calling people by phone, the source said.
“They told us if people bring up the article, we’re supposed to say the source and all the stuff in there came from a disgruntled ex-employee who’s not working with us anymore.”
Westin, however, denied anyone was fired for talking to the press, and denied handing out pictures of Fox News reporters.
“I have been?” he responded. “No, I don’t think I have been. That wasn’t me.”
Winter writes that Westin “deflected a question” about allegations that staffers were told to blame the initial report on “disgruntled staffers.”
Westin also repeatedly said the group does not “pay people to protest.”
Staffers told Fox News the organization is cracking down on phone use and socialization while monitoring staffer’s behavior.
“Now there’s no texting in the office, no phone calls in the office. They tell us to take our phone calls out into the waiting room where there’s an intercom, and then they turn on the intercom to hear our conversations. They’re installing new cameras and speakers around the building so they can hear everything.
“It’s almost like working at Fort Knox,” one staffer said.
On Wednesday, NYCC board member Jean Sassine issued a statement calling Fox News “the enemy” and reaffirming the organization’s committment to liberal activism.
If you like this article, you can follow Joe on Twitter @jnewby1956, visit his Facebook page, or click the Subscribe button to receive email updates when a new article is published.