The Romney Video: Trust, Authenticity, and James O'Keefe

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

John Fund, on a brief hiatus from lying about voter fraud, writes at National Review Online today that there's a vicious double-standard at play in the media's disparate treatment of Mother Jones' video of Mitt Romney denigrating half the country as incorrigible welfare parasites, and James O'Keefe's series of "sting" videos. "The [Mother Jones] tape was played over and over with no caveats, hand-wringing, or speculation that it might have been doctored," writes Fund, who goes on to complain that O'Keefe routinely faces accusations of video doctoring. This complaint is echoed by O'Keefe himself, who has been busily clucking his tongue about the "double standard amongst professional journalists."

That's utter nonsense. If the media did have any reasons to doubt the video's authenticity, they were quickly put to bed by the Romney campaign itself.

Salon's Alex Seitz-Wald has a good explanation here for why the Romney video does absolutely nothing to vindicate James O'Keefe and his M.O. of crafting elaborate hoaxes to trick private citizens and low-level government employees into saying foolish things. I'd add to it that O'Keefe is an incompetent liar who has been caught doctoring his videos. Many, many, many times. A good run-down of the many deceptions in his various video "stings" was put together by, ahem, Mother Jones. O'Keefe has not earned the presumption of trust. In fact, he's worked doggedly to forfeit it.

The same can't be said of David Corn, whose byline tops the Romney video stories. Yes, he writes from a progressive standpoint and works for a liberal publication. He also has decades of professional experience and a reputation for solid journalism. To put Corn and O'Keefe on the same plane is a huge disservice to the former and an unearned plaudit for the latter.

But that's all secondary to the fact that the Romney campaign never disputed the video's authenticity or questioned its veracity. Corn's first story was published on Monday afternoon, at 4 p.m. EDT. Sometime after 6 p.m. EDT, the Romney campaign put out a statement responding to the video that did not question its contents, but simply declared that "Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy." According to the New York Times, Romney himself was shown the video at 7 p.m. EDT, and they immediately scrambled to throw together a press availability at which the candidate said his comments on the tape were "not elegantly stated."

Despite all this, Fund writes:

The Romney tape appears genuine and undoctored. But it remains remarkable that mainstream-media outlets have displayed very little curiosity about it at all, despite its origins with a clearly ideological source.

Again, this has little to do with "ideology" and much more to do with trust. Corn is a journalist, O'Keefe is a performance artist. And when you consider that the campaign pretty quickly confirmed the video's authenticity, the media reaction doesn't appear quite so "remarkable."

Posted In
National Review Online
John Fund, James O'Keefe
2012 Elections
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