We at News Hits found ourselves racing for the stash of pill bottles hidden at the back of our sock drawer and downing Valiums like they were Tic Tacs, desperately trying to keep from blowing a gasket after watching one too many commentators at Fox News launch into a vicious smear of the group ACORN last week.

And to think there's a large segment of the population out there that actually believes the garbage that spews from the mouths of Sean Hannity and his fellow Foxagandists. When it comes to honest political discourse, they make Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl look like Walter Cronkite by comparison.

Here's the real deal: ACORN — the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — advocates on the behalf of low- and moderate-income folks. To increase their clout, ACORN has made a major push to register new voters in the (often minority) neighborhoods they serve.

But there's been a problem, and it is a real one. With a focus on building the voter base in swing states that could determine the outcome of November's presidential election, ACORN has managed to register 1.3 million new voters this year. That is, people who are likely to pull the lever for Barack Obama come November. The rub is that some of those registrations have proved to be fraudulent. Alex Koppelman explained why in a piece he wrote for "The workers turning in these fraudulent registrations aren't trying to rig the election; they're trying to wring a little more money out of their employer. These workers aren't registering fake names that could really be used to show up and vote. They use cartoon characters and NFL players, and they pressure people to register twice. ... If any of these fraudulent registrations were accepted, no one would show up on Election Day to make use of them."

The controversy hit a new level when Nevada law enforcement agents raided ACORN offices in Las Vegas last week. ACORN officials decried the raid as a political stunt. But the Foxagandists launched into an orgiastic feeding frenzy, claiming that Obama and his fellow travelers in ACORN were out to steal the election.

But here's what you won't learn by watching Fox: There's a difference between false voter registrations and election fraud. The former won't swing an election, while the latter can. And election fraud is what Republicans have become very good at.

Think Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. Through a variety of maneuvers, they were able to keep potential voters — often minorities — from casting their ballots.

Now, ACORN is under fire here in Michigan as well. As the Free Press reported in September, the Michigan Secretary of State's office has turned over a number of duplicate voter registration applications to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"There appears to be a sizable number of duplicate and fraudulent applications," Kelly Chesney, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, told the Freep. "And it appears to be widespread."

But, as Christopher Thomas, the state's director of elections, told News Hits in a phone interview, even though false registrations can be a real hassle for elections officials, and sometimes real voters can have problems when their names and addresses have been wrongly used, these sorts of actions don't play a role in determining who wins or loses an election.

"I have no history of seeing bogus people voting," says Thomas. "And I don't see this as designed voter fraud that affects the outcome on Election Day."

And that's coming from a guy whose boss is a Republican.

Now, here's something else you probably don't realize if you rely on Fox to report what you really need to be aware of if you want to make decisions based on, you know, actual facts:

Last week, The New York Times reported that "tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law. ..." One of those states is Michigan, where, according to the Times, 33,000 names were removed from voting lists in August.

Land's office disputed those numbers, saying only about 11,000 names were removed, and all those purges were legitimate. When the Times requested the secretary of state turn its purge files over so that it could run a check against its list, the request was denied. Contacted by e-mail, a Times spokeswoman told News Hits the paper is sticking by its story.

Then, late Monday, we got another e-mail, this one from the Michigan ACLU, which was party to a federal lawsuit that also alleged voters names were being illegally purged.

This is what the civil rights group had to announce: "In a major victory for voting rights, a judge today ruled that Michigan's voter removal program violates federal law and ordered the state to stop illegally purging voters from the rolls."

In that case, the state reportedly was ordered to return more than 1,400 names to the voter rolls.

So, the next time the Foxagandists start frothing at the mouth about ACORN conspiring with Obama to steal this election, remember these words from Paul Weyrich, a luminary in the radical right movement that Fox News serves as a mouthpiece for:

"I don't want everybody to vote," Weyrich said at a 1980 training session for 15,000 conservative preachers in Dallas. "... As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]

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