James O'Keefe

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James O'Keefe

James E. O'Keefe III is a right wing activist and video provocateur who engages in deception when talking to his targets - who are largely not public figures - and deceptive and context-stripping editing, to present his targets unfavorably. See also his organization Project Veritas in Sourcewatch.

Controversies

Project Veritas Served with Restraining Order, Latest 'Sting' on AFT Blocked

Michigan Circuit Court Judge Brian R. Sullivan granted the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan's request to bar James O'Keefe's Project Veritas from releasing information gained through a possibly illegal sting over the summer of 2017.[1]

According to the Intercept, "political operative Marisa Jorge posed as a University of Michigan student interested in becoming a teacher and applied for a summer internship with the teachers union. (Verney, the Project Veritas executive director, said he knows Marisa Jorge, but wouldn’t confirm or deny whether she works for the organization.) Jorge was hired as an intern in May, and over the course of three months, she gathered information that exceeded the scope of her duties, the lawsuit alleges. For example, she showed a particular interest in employees who were disciplined for inappropriate sexual interactions with students. On more than one occasion, the lawsuit alleges, Jorge was found sitting alone in other employees’ offices, accessing information she had no right to."[1]

"The lawsuit accuses Jorge of fraudulent misrepresentation, trespass, eavesdropping, and theft. It also accuses Jorge and Project Veritas of conspiring to infiltrate AFT Michigan, gather and copy proprietary information, and disseminate that information to paint the union group in a false light. By granting a temporary restraining order, Sullivan has indicated his belief that the allegations are more than likely to be true and that the benefit of barring the defendants from disseminating the information Jorge collected outweighs the harm of suppressing her speech. The injunction will stay in place for at least 14 days, and the case is set for a hearing on October 5."[1]

O'Keefe had no comment when The Intercept asked him about the restraining order.[1]

Botched Sting on Washington Post, O'Keefe Tries to Prove that Post Reporting on Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore was "Fake News"

In 2017, the Washington Post reported, in a detailed and well sourced account, that U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore had had a sexual encounter with a 14 year old girl, when he was a 32 year old adult and an Alabama Assistant District Attorney. The story was labeled "fake news" by Moore and President Donald Trump, but ultimately sank the candidacy of Moore. [2]

Shortly after this report, the Washington Post was approached by a woman, Jaime Phillips, who falsely claimed that Moore impregnated her as a teenager. The Post quickly determined that her story was full of holes and that she was likely working with Project Veritas. The Post turned the tables on her in a spectacular sting operation caught on camera and can be accessed here. [3]

Politico later described this incident as "the biggest flop of O’Keefe’s career. Denunciations rained down, including from comrades on the right. He took it hard. Friends describe the New Jersey native as maniacally driven and extremely sensitive to criticism, and several said the botched Post job was the lowest they’ve seen him—lower even than his 2010 incarceration following the failed attempt to discover telephonic misdeeds in the Louisiana office of then-Senator Mary Landrieu." [4]

O’Keefe Accidentally Revealed Plans To Infiltrate Philanthropist’s Organization On Targeted Employee’s Voicemail

On March 16, 2016 James O'Keefe contacted the offices of Open Society Foundations -- a nonprofit that promotes democratic rights internationally -- under the name "Victor Kesh" and left a voicemail in which he expressed interest in collaborating for the promotion of "European values."[5] O'Keefe botched the sting attempt when he failed to hang up the phone, discussed the sting with someone else while still recording the voicemail, and revealed his identity to Open Society Foundations by accessing his target's Linkedin page while logged on to his own profile. O'Keefe admitted defeat several months after the sting attempt, stating in an interview with Breitbart that he was "forced to abandon an ambitious undercover investigation into billionaire left-wing financier George Soros."[6] He stated in the same interview that the objective of the sting had been to find out "what the Soros foundation is doing in Eastern Europe." According to The New Yorker magazine, recently-appointed Veritas board member Matthew Tyrmand "is a thirty-five-year-old Polish-American investor who is an informal adviser to Poland’s right-wing nationalist government."[5]

After Osama Bin Laden Border Crossing Stunt, Even Fox News Suggested O’Keefe “Give It A Rest”

In August 2014 James O'Keefe released a video of himself dressed as Osama Bin Laden in a purported attempt to show the ease at which a terrorist could cross into the United States via the Mexican border. The video was quickly debunked, the area O'Keefe claims to have crossed includes a "well-patrolled road that runs parallel to the river" and other obstacles that did not appear in the video. O'Keefe discusses border security with Hudspeth County, Texas, Sheriff Arvin West, who laments how politicians in Washington fail to address the real problem and do not allow border agents to "be on the border." "The sheriff is famous for arresting celebrities, from Willie Nelson to Fiona Apple, whose pot-filled tour buses use the nearby stretch of Interstate 10; he's been found guilty of illegally arresting an El Paso police officer and violating his civil rights; and he has a reputation for being a right-wing and anti-immigrant media hound who calls President Obama 'full of shit,'" Adam Weinstein wrote.[7]

On the August 8, 2014 edition of The Five, Fox News host Eric Bolling derided the video by O'Keefe, saying that his political stunts are "what's not helpful" to the debate on border security and that he should "give it a rest."[8]

Botched Sting Attempt on Open Society Foundations

On March 16, 2016 James O'Keefe contacted the offices of Open Society Foundations -- a nonprofit that promotes democratic rights internationally -- under the name "Victor Kesh" and left a voicemail in which he expressed interest in collaborating for the promotion of "European values."[5] O'Keefe botched the sting attempt when he failed to hang up the phone, discussed the sting with someone else while still recording the voicemail, and revealed his identity to Open Society Foundations by accessing his target's Linkedin page while logged on to his own profile. O'Keefe admitted defeat several months after the sting attempt, stating in an interview with Breitbart that he was "forced to abandon an ambitious undercover investigation into billionaire left-wing financier George Soros."[9] He stated in the same interview that the objective of the sting had been to find out "what the Soros foundation is doing in Eastern Europe." According to The New Yorker magazine, recently-appointed Veritas board member Matthew Tyrmand "is a thirty-five-year-old Polish-American investor who is an informal adviser to Poland’s right-wing nationalist government."[5]

Botched Sting on the Center for Media and Democracy

In 2014, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), the publisher of Sourcwatch was the target of a botched sting by the O"Keefe crowd.

Known O'Keefe associate, Ryan Sorba followed CMD director Lisa Graves around Netroot's Nation trying to secure an interview. Then, a few weeks later, "CMD was approached by Latoya Johnson, an African American woman who said she was interested in making a film on dark money election spending and its impact on the African-American community. Because CMD is an expert on the spending of the Koch brothers and other phony "issue ad" groups in the electoral campaign cycle, she was keen to have CMD onboard."

"Ms. Johnson's real name, CMD soon found out, is Ruth Bryant White. In 2008, the Las Vegas resident ran for president as an independent on a platform of corporal punishment and the deportation of immigrants. She was CEO of Breaking News Journal, a not entirely successful attempt to operate a right-wing media empire on a shoestring budget." Read the full story published by CMD. [10] [11]

Later CMD obtained a Project Veritas IRS 990 and discovered that Wisconsin dark money man Eric O'Keefe director of Wisconsin Club for Growth and a subject of a campaign finance corruption probe in Wisconsin that CMD had reported on extensively, gave O'Keefe $50,000 the year that CMD was targeted. [12]

ACORN

"Mr. O’Keefe...first gained notice for secretly videotaping his exchanges with workers for the community organizing group Acorn who appeared to advise him how to avoid prosecution for a variety of unsavory activities like child prostitution."[13]

but

"O’Keefe’s incriminating ACORN video was shown to have been heavily edited—neither he nor Hannah Giles were actually in pimp and prostitute get-up when they spoke to ACORN employees, for example—and no criminal prosecutions of ACORN followed. While not letting ACORN off the hook for showing “terrible judgment” in the video, California’s then-attorney general Jerry Brown noted after an investigation into the tapes and the organization that “sometimes a fuller truth is found on the cutting room floor.”"[14]

NPR's Bob Garfield noted to O'Keefe,

"You lie to get into - the offices. You lie, subsequently, about the lie you told to get into the offices. You edit the pimp shot into the trailer to create the illusion that you were somehow wearing it during your sting. You go on television wearing the same pimp outfit and let interviewers observe, uncorrected, that that’s what you were wearing when you confronted the ACORN employees."

Attempt to bug U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu's office results in criminal charges

O'Keefe "faces federal criminal charges in an alleged plot to bug the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). Federal investigators charged that James O'Keefe was among four men who created a ruse to enter the lawmaker's downtown office, saying they needed to repair her telephones. O'Keefe used his cellphone to take pictures of two men involved in the Jan. 25 plot, according to court records unsealed Tuesday. Those men, Joseph Basel and Robert Flanagan, are accused in an FBI agent's sworn affidavit of impersonating telephone company workers, while O'Keefe and another man, Stan Dai, are accused of aiding the plot.[15]

Alleged seduction attempt

O'Keefe "allegedly tried to "punk" CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau by luring her on to a boat and seducing her...in front of hidden cameras."[16]

Smear Campaign Re: Teachers

"a video, produced by O'Keefe's Project Veritas, titled "Teacher's Unions Gone Wild."...features attendees of a New Jersey Education Association conference at a hotel in August. Unaware they were being recorded, those at the conference were captured on tape in a number of compromising or indelicate moments..."[17]

One outcome: a 9-day suspension for a teacher who'd earlier thrown herself in front of a van to protect her students, suffering broken ribs, a fractured wrist, a badly bruised pelvis and glass cuts in her eyes.[17]

Sting on NPR

After O'Keefe released video of an encounter between purported Muslim would-be donors and NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller, NPR head Vivian Schiller (no relation) was forced by her board to resign. As it transpired, the video had been deceptively edited.

"Glenn Beck’s conservative website, The Blaze, was first to report on discrepancies between the first edited eleven-and-a-half minute video released on the Project Veritas website and a later, unedited two-hour version.

Ron Schiller, one of the fundraisers who lunched with two people from Veritas’s fictional Muslim Education Action Center (MEAC), is hardly saved by The Blaze’s reporting. He still said what he said and he still comes across as a right fool in some ways. But crucial context was left [out]...

In the report... The Blaze addresses "whether the donors-in-disguise had made their fake Muslim Brotherhood connections clear to Schiller and Liley, contextualizes Schiller’s ‘attacks’ on Republicans (he actually ‘expresses pride in his Republican heritage’), and shows that Schiller was echoing the opinion of two top Republicans he had spoken to when describing the Tea Party as ‘racist people.’""[14]

NPR's Bob Garfield objected to the selective editing, telling O'Keefe:

"there were no fewer than six times in the raw NPR footage where Ron Schiller or his colleague took pains to tell you that, no, you cannot for five million dollars or any other sum buy coverage on NPR, you cannot influence the news organization. And yet, that is conspicuously absent. Where you edited in his amused reaction to Sharia law, he had evinced no such amused reaction to Sharia law. In fact, it had been cut from one place and dropped in another. What is that, if not obfuscation?"[18]

Mother Jones compiled a list of O'Keefe's and Andrew Breitbart's actions & outcomes as of March 2011 that can be accessed here.[19]

Relationship to the Tea Party Movement

In November, 2009, O'Keefe served as a keynote speaker before a crowd of about 4,000 Tea Party members at a rally in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. The announcer credited O'Keefe with helping end the "tyranny of the left in America." O'Keefe greeted the crowd by saying, "Pimps and ho's"[20]

O'Keefe's justification, and criticisms thereof

Investigative reporting? No.

From CJR:

"“Journalists have been doing this for a long time,” [O’Keefe] argued. “It’s a form of investigative reporting that you use to seek and find the truth.”

[CJR's response/reinterpretation:] In this case: Seek. Find. And then mold."[14]

Why O'Keefe has no legal leg to stand on

An attorney for one of O'Keefe's targets "is calling bull on O'Keefe's claims that the First Amendment protected his actions"[21]....dismantling each of O'Keefe's arguments in a legal filing.[22]

Criticism from conservatives

Gerson: like a political dirty trick

Former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson objected to O'Keefe's tactics saying

"Do we really want private citizens deceiving, taping and exposing the foolish weaknesses of their neighbors...? These tactics are not a new brand of gonzo journalism. They are a sophisticated version of the political dirty trick. Would it be citizen journalism to fool a senator’s psychiatrist into revealing demeaning information about his or her patient? Or to befriend a prominent conservative pastor, goad him into making homophobic statements, then edit, exaggerate and put them on the Internet?"[23]

Regarding O'Keefe's Landrieu attempt

After O'Keefe was charged in the "Landrieu's office" telephone scandal, conservatives distanced themselves from him. The Salt Lake City Republican Party canceled his appearance as a keynote speaker at their February 4, 2010 fundraiser. Conservative pundit Michelle Malkin wrote that exposing wrongdoing is not an excuse to break the law, and that O'Keefe's alleged actions should be taken seriously. Conservative radio talk show host Rick Moran told his listeners that it looked as though O'Keefe had ignored the requirement that journalists be objective.[24]

Find O'Keefe Staff and Associates at Project Veritas Exposed

“ProjectVeritas.Exposed” has compiled dozens of profiles of undercover operatives, funders, and other O’Keefe associates. It is a project of The Undercurrent, a political web show sponsored by American Family Voices.

"Matthew Tyrmand, a Project Veritas board member and adviser to Poland’s nationalist government; Nick Evangelista and Marco Bruno, O’Keefe’s communications aides; and Ryan Lopez, the Project Veritas documentarian, who always keeps a video camera trained on O’Keefe in public, including during some of our conversations," were listed as associates in a 2018 Politico feature on O'Keefe. [4]

Ryan Sorba and Ruth White participated in a failed sting on the Center for Media and Democracy. [25]

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

External resources

  • Dave Gilson (2011-03-31). Pimps, Lies, and Videotapes. Mother Jones. Retrieved on 2011-03-31. “(List of actions and outcomes through March 2011)”

External articles

Wikipedia also has an article on James O'Keefe. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Ryan Grim, Maryam Saleh, and Rachel M. Cohen, Conservative Provocateur James O’keefe’s Group Hit With Restraining Order, Blocking Latest Sting, The Intercept, September 29, 2017.
  2. Stephanie McCrummen, Beth Reinhard and Alice Crites, Woman says Roy Moore initiated sexual encounter when she was 14, he was 32, The Washington Post, November 9, 2017.
  3. Shawn Boburg, Aaron C. Davis and Alice Crites, A woman approached The Post with dramatic — and false — tale about Roy Moore. She appears to be part of undercover sting operation, The Washington Post, November 27, 2017.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Tim Alberta, James O’Keefe Can’t Get No Respect, Politico, May/June 2018.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Jane Mayer, "Sting of Myself," The New Yorker, May 30, 2016.
  6. Joel Pollak, "Exclusive: James O'Keefe Outs Himself in George Soros Investigation," Breitbart, May 19, 2016.
  7. Adam Weinstein, James O'Keefe Is Getting Desperate as Hell, Part MCMXVII, Gawker, August 11, 2014.
  8. Thomas Bishop, Fox News Host Isn't Amused By O'Keefe's Osama Bin Laden Border Crossing Stunt, Media Matters for America, August 11, 2014.
  9. Joel Pollak, "Exclusive: James O'Keefe Outs Himself in George Soros Investigation," Breitbart, May 19, 2016.
  10. Jonas Persson, "James O'Keefe Cronies Unveiled in Attempted Sting on CMD," PRWatch, September 11, 2014.
  11. Mary Bottari, "CMD again Target of Attack-Dog Journalism," PRWatch, August 21, 2014.
  12. Mary Bottari, "Money Trail Revealed: Did Eric O’Keefe Pay James O’Keefe for Hatchet Job on GOP Senate President?," PRWatch, January 27, 2015.
  13. Jeremy W. Peters (2011-03-11). Partisans Adopt Deceit as a Tactic for Reports. NYTimes.com. Retrieved on 2011-03-17.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Joel Meares (2011-03-15). O’Keefe Teaches Media A Lesson (Again). CJR. Retrieved on 2011-03-16. “O’Keefe’s incriminating ACORN video was shown to have been heavily edited—neither he nor Hannah Giles were actually in pimp and prostitute get-up when they spoke to ACORN employees, for example—and no criminal prosecutions of ACORN followed. While not letting ACORN off the hook for showing “terrible judgment” in the video, California’s then-attorney general Jerry Brown noted after an investigation into the tapes and the organization that “sometimes a fuller truth is found on the cutting room floor.””
  15. Carol D. Leonnig and Garance Franke-Ruta, James O'Keefe charged in alleged plot to bug Senator Mary Landrieu's office, Washington Post, January 27, 2010.
  16. Rachel Slajda (2010-09-29). Ambush Filmmaker O'Keefe Tried To 'Punk,' 'Seduce' CNN Reporter -. TPMMuckraker. Retrieved on 2011-03-16. “the executive director of ...O'Keefe's...project...told Boudreau that O'Keefe actually wanted to meet with the reporter on his boat, which he had set up into a "pleasure palace," where he would try to seduce her in front of hidden cameras.”
  17. 17.0 17.1 Eric Lach (2010-11-15). NJ Teacher Punked By O'Keefe: 'I Felt Like I Was Raped'. TPMMuckraker. Retrieved on 2011-03-22.
  18. Bob Garfield (2011-03-18). Transcript of "James O'Keefe" (March 18, 2011). On The Media. Retrieved on 2011-03-22.
  19. Dave Gilson, Pimps, Lies, and Videotapes, Mother Jones, March 31, 2011.
  20. Chad Garrison Arrested: Man Who Made Secret ACORN Videos, Spoke at St. Louis Tea Party Rally Riverfront Times/St. Louis News Blog, January 27, 2010
  21. Ryan J. Reilly (2011-03-30). Lawyer For Ex-ACORN Employee To James O'Keefe: You're No Ashton Kutcher. TPMMuckraker. Retrieved on 2011-03-31.
  22. Lawyer For Ex ACORN Employee: James O'Keefe Can't Break The Law Because He Says He's A Journalist. TPM Document Collection. Retrieved on 2011-03-31.
  23. Michael Gerson (2011-03-17). The NPR video and political dirty tricks. The Washington Post. Retrieved on 2011-03-22.
  24. Carol Leonnig Conservatives react to charges against ACORN foe, Washington Post, January 27, 2010
  25. Jonas Persson, "James O'Keefe Cronies Unveiled in Attempted Sting on CMD," PRWatch, September 11, 2014.