ACORN, reeling from scandal after two journalists secretly recorded members in four cities discussing illegal activity, moved to save its reputation and guard against future "indefensible actions" by suspending key operations pending a probe.
"We have all been deeply disturbed by what we've seen in some of these videos," said ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis. "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."
Lewis said that, "as a result of the indefensible action of a handful of our employees," the organization will halt to any new intakes into ACORN's service programs until completion of an independent review.
Staff members who deal directly with the public will be trained anew and the issues raised by the videos, shot by a pair of independent journalists in four cities, will be reviewed, Lewis said..
The journalists, James O'Keefe, 25, and Hannah Giles, 20, posed as a pimp and a hooker to catch ACORN workers in Baltimore, Washington, Brooklyn and San Bernadino, Calif., helping them plot illegal ways of getting around laws regarding income reporting. The pair even claimed at one point they were running a brothel with underage illegal immigrants, but the outrageous claim drew no moral judgment from ACORN staffers.
ACORN has won millions of dollars in local, state and federal grants for a wide range of social services. But the organization has also been accused of voter fraud and shady financial practices. In Brooklyn, where a staffer was recorded telling the pair how to hide their illegal income in order to get a mortgage, District Attorney Charles Hynes has announced a probe of ACORN.
The U.S. Census Bureau cut ties with the group earlier this week and the Senate on Monday voted overwhelmingly to block the Housing and Urban Development Department from giving millions in grants to ACORN.