ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: ACORN leaders are playing defense against a barrage of criticism that’s flowed their way in recent weeks, after a series of shocking videos surfaced — including several where ACORN employees offer advice to purported pimps and prostitutes on how to avoid tax laws.
Today, ACORN officials named former Massachusetts attorney general Scott Harshbarger to lead an “independent inquiry” into ACORN’s practices.On ABCNews.com’s “Top Line” today, ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis told us that she plans to make that report public. She also said she’d be willing to appear at congressional hearings if — as some Republicans have been insisting — they are convened. “There’s no reason to do this [inquiry] if, one, it’s not going to restore confidence in our membership, our board, the people that we organize around this country,” Lewis told us. “I think everybody will see the report, and they’ll know what we did and what we have been doing, because I don’t think people really — that has gotten out, how much work we’ve been doing.” Regarding the possibility of Congress calling hearings on ACORN practices, she made clear she doesn’t want that to happen, but said: “We’ve always cooperated with folks. . . . If they see fit [to call hearings] we will do it.” Lewis said she couldn’t guarantee that more videos won’t emerge showing employees engaged in unacceptable practices, but vowed to fire them just as she has those already shown in the YouTube sensations. “I don’t care how many videos there are, I will deal with them, if I have to deal with them one by one,” Lewis said. “I think this is a strategy of sort of death by thousand cuts, but it doesn’t matter, we’ve been subjected to this for 40 years. This goes with the territory. I can’t guarantee it, but I can guarantee you this anything you [in the future] I will be on it, and I will be as tough as tough can be and do whatever I have to do to correct any mistakes that we’ve made.” Lewis said her organization would continue to operate even if federal funds are cut off. The House and Senate voted last week to bar ACORN from receiving additional federal funding, though President Obama didn’t commit to supporting that effort in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday. Lewis said ACORN gets between $2 million and $2.5 million in federal funds through various programs. “This is about 10 percent [of ACORN's budget] — anyone would hate to lose it. It’s not the amount of money, but to me this is an embarrassment, and I want to make sure that we restore the public’s faith and confidence,” she said. “We will be able to operate” without the funding, she added. Watch the full interview with Bertha Lewis HERE. We also checked in with Republican strategist Kevin Madden on President Obama’s tough choices in Afghanistan, the latest in the health care debate — and the dance moves of his old boss, Tom DeLay, on “Dancing With the Stars.” Click HERE to see the discussion with Kevin Madden.