Fox Host Calls Out James O'Keefe And His Track Record Of Misleading Supporters On Issues Like Abortion
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ThinkProgress has identified a $10,000 donation from the Donald J. Trump Foundation to Project Veritas, the 501(c)(3) organization run by discredited conservative activist and videographer James O’Keefe.
O’Keefe has a long history of engaging in criminal, misogynistic, ethically dubious, and bizarre behavior related to his video stunts. He has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of entering a government office under false pretenses; sought to set up a video “sting” in which he would lure a female CNN reporter onto a boat filled with sex toys and attempt to seduce the reporter on camera; and had to pay a former video target $100,000 and publicly apologize in a legal settlement. O’Keefe’s videos often make a big splash, but they fall apart under scrutiny by reporters and state investigations.
The Trump campaign has used O’Keefe’s latest dubious and heavily edited videos to support its baseless claim that the election is “rigged” against the Republican candidate, and O’Keefe attended the final presidential debate on October 19 and pushed his videos in spin room interviews after the debate. But as ThinkProgress explained, Trump may have a more direct connection to O’Keefe’s new videos through a $10,000 donation his private charitable foundation made to O’Keefe’s Project Veritas in May 2015, barely more than a month before he officially became a Republican candidate for president. Project Veritas’ affiliated 501(c)(4) organization Project Veritas Action, which is more free to engage directly in political matters, is the group that released this week’s videos. From ThinkProgress:
Trump claimed the videos exposed that a violence at a March Chicago rally was a “criminal act” and that it “was now all on tape started by her.”
Trump neglected, however, to mention his own connection to the videos, released by James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas tax-exempt group. According to a list of charitable donations made by Trump‘s controversial foundation (provided to the Washington Post in April by Trump’s campaign), on May 13, 2015, it gave $10,000 to Project Veritas.
Project Veritas Action, a group run by discredited right-wing videographer James O’Keefe, recently released two heavily edited videos purporting to reveal that Democratic operatives aligned with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign were “rigging the election.” O’Keefe is refusing to release the unedited footage his undercover operatives shot -- something his groups have routinely done in the past -- citing a need for journalistic integrity while simultaneously hinting that he had purposely edited the footage to “paint a specific picture.”
O’Keefe released his latest edited videos on October 17 and October 18 and then almost immediately began complaining that mainstream news outlets were ignoring his efforts due to “fear of retaliation” from a future Clinton administration. Several media figures were quick to point out that O’Keefe’s refusal to release unedited footage from the undercover videos made it difficult for reporters to vet and accurately report on the purported stings, and that O’Keefe’s past track record of misleadingly editing footage make these latest videos even less credible. ThinkProgress reported this afternoon that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s private charitable foundation gave $10,000 to O’Keefe’s Project Veritas about a month before Trump declared his presidential candidacy, adding further unanswered questions about the videos’ legitimacy.
O’Keefe’s response to criticism was to argue that journalists never reveal “raw unedited materials” because “it’d probably paint a different picture.” His reaction seemed to simultaneously suggest that:
(a) he, like other journalists, would never reveal “unedited materials” (though he has before), and
(b) if reporters like himself did release those materials, they would reveal selective editing (like his materials have before).
In the post-debate spin room last night, O’Keefe again reiterated his claims that no “journalists” release their “raw, unedited notebooks” and that his refusal to release the raw footage from his latest video series is no different. Media Matters president Bradley Beychok captured O’Keefe’s explanation to Majority.FM’s Sam Seder, in which O’Keefe also appears to admit that his role as a “journalist” includes piecing the videos “together to tell a specific story”:
SAM SEDER: Are you going to release the full footage of your tapes?
JAMES O’KEEFE: Why don’t you ask all these journalists here if they’re going to release their full, raw, unedited notebooks?
SEDER: But it’s a different--
O’KEEFE: No, listen. Sam--
SEDER: James, you have to admit it’s a different thing--
O’KEEFE: Is it? Is it? Is it?
SEDER: Undercover video where it’s been shown, I mean, there were several reports that showed during the, that you have edited tapes in such a way to prove your--
O’KEEFE: Name one edit I’ve made. I want you to name right now, for your audience, name one specific edit I have made. Because I can debunk every one of those reports. Go ahead.
SEDER: Well, I mean, I haven’t [unintelligible].
O’KEEFE: OK, well I would like you to get back to me.
SEDER: But you can debunk that by releasing that video. Why wouldn’t you release all the video?
O’KEEFE: Because no journalist in their right mind would ever release their raw notebooks and if they did, Sam--
SEDER: Well, it’s not a notebook. It is caught on camera.
O’KEEFE: Let me tell you something: No journalist ever releases the raw, and the reason, and if they did, if all these journalists released the raw, you would see a different story. They piece words together to paint a specific portrait.
SEDER: So you paste the words together to paint--
O’KEEFE: No. I have video. I don’t just have words. I have video.
SEDER: Are you saying you did piece it together to paint a picture?
O’KEEFE: That’s what journalism is. Journalism is telling a story. And I will stand by every single edit. I will go to -- I will be in contempt of court to protect my undercover reporters because I’m standing for something greater than myself. I’m standing for the right of citizen journalists. No one here would ever dare release their raw. No one would.
Project Veritas routinely released hours of raw footage for a number of its alleged stings until mid-2014. O’Keefe says the group stopped doing this because “they’ll manufacture reasons why it’s doctored/fake.” In actuality, O’Keefe’s raw footage -- whether released seemingly voluntarily or not -- has repeatedly revealed egregious instances of selective editing over the years.
Project Veritas first made national headlines in 2009 with a series of heavily edited videos purporting to show staff members of the now-defunct nonprofit ACORN engaging in criminal behavior. Subsequent investigations revealed that the workers had engaged in no illegal activity, and that O’Keefe had employed “highly selective editing of reality.” He later had to settle a case filed by an ACORN staff member who was fired because of the edited videos, paying the man $100,000 and issuing a public apology.
O’Keefe’s own unedited footage negated a 2011 attempt to tell a specific story that an NPR executive had called members of the Tea Party “racist.” In reality, the executive had been quoting someone else; that part was conveniently edited out. “How quickly things seem to fall apart when James O’Keefe is the person who put them together,” concluded the Columbia Journalism Review. Washington Post writer Michael Gerson explained that O’Keefe had “manufactured an elaborate, alluring lie.”
Raw footage from a 2012 undercover video similarly disproved O’Keefe’s story that local officials in New York state were agreeing to waste taxpayer money on a fake company that dug holes and filled them up again. Instead, the footage just showed officials trying to be courteous to actors they believed were constituents in an absurd, manufactured situation.
O’Keefe stopped releasing his own unedited footage in May 2014, shortly after Media Matters used the raw footage from an edited Project Veritas video purporting to expose “Hollywood’s War On U.S. Energy” to debunk the video. O’Keefe’s group had cut parts of a secretly recorded conversation mid-sentence to paint a certain picture that two environmental producers were accepting funding from foreign oil interests; the unedited footage revealed they were actually discussing something completely different.
This May, Project Veritas Action released raw footage on YouTube for a video series purporting to show “voter fraud” committed by Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in New Hampshire, when prompted to do so by the state’s attorney general. At the time, O’Keefe made similar claims about journalistic integrity. This is how the group’s press release ended (emphasis added):
In order to assist the State of New Hampshire with their investigation of voter fraud and other election-related irregularities, PVA is releasing the raw footage associated with all three videos to Governor Hassan and the Attorney General she appointed, as well as making the footage available to the general public on a YouTube channel.
“When Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said that ‘sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants,’ he probably didn’t envision viral YouTube videos,” said PVA President James O’Keefe. “These videos provide ample evidence of criminal behavior to assist the state in the immediate investigation of electoral malfeasance. Hopefully, those caught engaging in voter fraud will receive the swift hand of justice. Likewise, the videos spotlight a significant legislative problem which could have easily been avoided if Governor Hassan hadn’t vetoed last year’s residency bill.”
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Weeks before Election Day, convicted criminal James O’Keefe has come forward with a new set of heavily edited video tapes that he claims prove the conservative myth of widespread voter fraud. Republican nominee Donald Trump is already incorporating the charge into what appears to be his campaign’s closing argument -- that he is the victim of a “rigged” election system, and the only way he can lose is if the election is stolen from him.
Halfway through October, it is clear that Trump is reading from campaign CEO and Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon’s playbook.
O’Keefe, the right-wing videographer behind the nonprofits Project Veritas and Project Veritas Action, is currently rolling out a series of videos based on footage captured by undercover operatives who wore hidden cameras while interviewing Democratic political operatives. The heavily edited videos focus on the Democrats discussing efforts to have activists disrupt Trump events and discussing a proposal -- made by the O’Keefe operatives filming them -- to engage in a voter fraud plot.
O’Keefe has a long history of engaging in criminal, misogynistic, ethically dubious, and bizarre behavior related to his video stunts. He has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of entering a government office under false pretenses; sought to set up a video “sting” in which he would lure a female CNN reporter onto a boat filled with sex toys and attempt to seduce the reporter on camera; and had to pay a former video target $100,000 and publicly apologize in a legal settlement.
O’Keefe’s videos often make a big splash, but they fall apart under scrutiny by reporters and state investigations. His past work attempting to document the ease of voter fraud is no different. In 2012, Project Veritas released videos that O’Keefe claimed proved “widespread voter fraud” in several states and the District of Columbia. But the videos did not show any instances of voter fraud -- or voting at all. Instead, the videos showed actors almost committing a crime by attempting to obtain the ballots of other people under false pretenses, and they accidentally illustrated how difficult it would be to commit actual voter fraud. O’Keefe claimed that another video showed voter fraud in North Carolina, including “ballots being offered out in the name of the dead” and “non-citizens voting." But the “dead” voter from the video was not actually dead, and the “non-citizen” in the video had become a U.S. citizen decades earlier.
Media outlets were able to point out O’Keefe’s deceptive edits because Project Veritas previously released unedited raw footage from its hidden camera stings. The group has not done so for its latest election projects. Instead, media outlets reporting on the videos are relying solely on the snippets of video and the context that O’Keefe provides.
That matters because O’Keefe’s two latest videos edit down footage from undercover operatives working over a period of several months into 34 minutes of narrated video purporting to show progressive operatives “rigging the election.” “The editing raises questions about what was said and what may come out later,” as The Washington Post’s David Weigel pointed out.
As Time magazine’s Philip Elliott noted following a review of the videos, “Without the full context” omitted by the O’Keefe videos, “it’s impossible to know” what one operative meant in a quote featured in one of the videos, and that “there’s no way of telling if that person said what the tape purports” in another case. He says that exculpatory information showing operatives refusing to engage in voter fraud appears to have been excised; he notes that while some such commentary remains, it comes “long after viewers are convinced they are watching Watergate unfold in real time.”
That’s the review from a reporter who is viewing the tapes skeptically. No such skepticism is in evidence at the launching pad for the videos: Breitbart News. The right-wing website, which has been among Trump’s biggest boosters, received the exclusive on the first the videos O’Keefe released this week and has produced several stories on the allegations.
Trump has been mired in a downward spiral for the past several days, repeatedly claiming that the election has been rigged against him by the media and voter fraud. His claims have been rejected across the spectrum, including by Republican election lawyers and officials who have described the allegations as “unfounded” and “irresponsible” and said they could have “a destabilizing effect on the orderly administration of the election.”
The Trump campaign -- headed by Bannon, who is on a leave of absence from his job running Breitbart News -- has clung to O’Keefe’s videos as evidence that its candidate is actually right about the election being rigged. Bannon himself was investigated by Florida prosecutors earlier this year following a report that he “was registered in a home in Miami that he rented for his ex-wife.”
Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway claimed during an interview on Fox News’ Hannity that the voter fraud video shows that “Donald Trump was ahead of his time. … He's been talking about this for the last couple days. People have been criticizing him. He has no evidence. And here we see it goes right to the top.” Campaign surrogate Newt Gingrich said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) should call on the FBI to open an investigation.
At a speech yesterday, Trump highlighted O’Keefe’s video on activists disrupting his rallies. It seems likely that he will use the “voter fraud” video to bolster his bogus claims of a rigged election at tonight’s final presidential debate.
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Self-described “guerilla journalist” James O’Keefe is threatening a “big release” of “behind close doors” video footage he claims will target Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign. But media shouldn’t buy O’Keefe’s “reporting.” Since 2009, he has repeatedly pushed misleading and doctored “undercover” videos and embarrassed himself while attempting to launch sting operations targeting government agencies, media outlets, and liberal organizations and institutions.
Since 2009, self-described “guerilla journalist” James O’Keefe has repeatedly embarrassed himself while attempting to launch undercover stings targeting government agencies, media outlets, and liberal organizations and institutions.
James O’Keefe Accidentally Details Plans To Infiltrate Progressive Philanthropist’s Organization On Its Own Voicemail
Conservative media darling James O’Keefe accidentally detailed his plans to infiltrate and smear progressive organizations on the voicemail of Dana Geraghty, an employee of liberal philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, continuing a string of embarrassing missteps in his attempts at undercover stings.
After leaving Geraghty a voicemail claiming to be “Victor Kesh,” a “Hungarian-American who represents a, uh, foundation,” O’Keefe held “a meeting about how to perpetrate an elaborate sting on Soros,” unaware that his phone was still connected to Geraghty’s voicemail. During the call, O’Keefe outlined plans to send an “undercover” operative posing as a potential donor to the foundation in a project he named “Discover the Networks.” O’Keefe’s plot involved using an English orthopedic surgeon with “a real heavy British accent” to secretly film Soros-linked progressive organizations. He later admitted that “some of us just forget to hang up the phone.The New Yorker continued:
The accidental recording reached farcical proportions when Kesh announced that he was opening Geraghty’s LinkedIn page on his computer. He planned to check her résumé and leverage the information to penetrate the Soros “octopus.” Kesh said, “She’s probably going to call me back, and if she doesn’t I can create other points of entry.” Suddenly, Kesh realized that by opening Geraghty’s LinkedIn page he had accidentally revealed his own LinkedIn identity to her. (LinkedIn can let users see who has looked at their pages.) “Whoa!” an accomplice warned. “Log out!” The men anxiously reassured one another that no one checks their LinkedIn account anyway. “It was a little chilling to hear this group of men talking about me as a ‘point of entry,’ ” Geraghty says. “But—not to sound ageist—it was clear that these people were not used to the technology.”
Though O’Keefe’s latest smear attempt has already failed, it continues his tradition of trying -- and failing -- to use deceptive tactics and edited undercover videos to dishonestly attack progressives. O’Keefe previously targeted the Clinton campaign for legally selling a t-shirt, which he described as money laundering. O’Keefe also attempted to lure CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau onto a boat with “props” like a “condom jar, dildos, posters and paintings of naked women, [and] fuzzy handcuffs” and previously pled guilty to “misdemeanor charges of entering federal property under false pretenses in connection with an attempted video sting at the office of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.”
O’Keefe is best known for his “sting” videos of ACORN, in which he claimed his highly edited tapes were a “nationwide ACORN child prostitution investigation” that implicated ACORN employees. Three separate investigations cleared ACORN workers of criminal wrongdoing, and in 2013, O’Keefe and his video partner Hannah Giles agreed to pay an ACORN employee they had smeared a $150,000 settlement.
Media outlets should consider O’Keefe’s latest botched attack on progressives before they consider promoting his future work.
On January 25, a grand jury assembled by the Harris County District Attorney's office in Texas cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing related to the deceptively edited videos of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and instead indicted two CMP members, most notably its founder, David Daleiden. Right-wing media has attempted to distract from Daleiden's indictment by reviving an old -- and since debunked -- claim that a prosecutor in the district attorney's office who had affiliations with Planned Parenthood created a "conflict of interest."
The Center For Medical Progress' Website Did Not Originally Label Its Employees As "Citizen Journalists"
On January 25, David Daleiden, the founder of the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP), was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a government record and a misdemeanor charge of violating the "prohibition of the purchase and sale of human organs" for the actions he took to manufacture smear videos of Planned Parenthood officials. Daleiden has a history of working with conservative groups on anti-choice campaigns.
Conservative activist James O'Keefe has once again overpromised and underdelivered. This time, he claims his latest sting operation found Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign breaking the law, when in reality all that happened was the purchase of a t-shirt.
O'Keefe's Project Veritas Action accused the Clinton campaign on September 1 of allowing a Canadian tourist to launder money, in the form of allowing a t-shirt to be purchased.
In the video representatives of the Clinton campaign at a campaign event point out to a woman from Montreal that that the campaign can't take contributions from anyone who isn't American. An undercover activist from Project Veritas then makes the purchase on behalf of the Canadian.
As The Washington Post's Dave Weigel points out: "There are just two catches. One: No one's ever thrown the book at an American for purchasing merchandise from a campaign, then giving it to a foreigner as a gift. Two: The person who takes the Canadian's money and gives it to the Clinton campaign is the Project Veritas Action journalist."
Weigel further notes, "Daniel Pollack, the director of communications at Project Veritas, argued that the on-camera swag exchange was part of a Clinton scandal continuum, comparable to the stories about foreign businessmen donating to Bill Clinton's foundation and expecting something from Hillary Clinton's state department."
O'Keefe held a press conference September 1 to promote the video, where journalists reportedly asked him "Is this a joke?"
O'Keefe's crew has reportedly already made multiple other attempts to sabotage the Clinton campaign.
Project Veritas last month released a video showing their operative undercover with the Clinton campaign, discussing the registration process and whether they can register people who don't support Clinton.
A Clinton campaign staffer is then shown telling the Project Veritas operative that they will register anyone who asks, regardless of their presidential preference. As Time reported, "Nothing in the video shows the Clinton campaign violating the law, or the campaign's own policy. But Veritas claims, nonetheless, that the campaign is 'skirting the law' by first asking whether potential voters are supporters before making the registration offer. This approach to training volunteers is standard operating procedure across field campaigns, according to a Republican field staffer, who requested anonymity."
Time reports that in addition to the t-shirt scheme, Project Veritas operatives approached the campaign and attempted to pass a cash donation to volunteers and interns while another told the campaign they wanted to illegally funnel donations through a third party.
These failure-laden sting attempts continue O'Keefe's pattern of using deceptively-edited videos, childish costumes, and sometimes committing crimes, in a futile campaign to attack the left. Even Fox News hosts have been embarrassed for O'Keefe, telling him to "give it a rest."
This act is getting tired.
In recent years, conservative activists, under the guise of renegade journalism, have been churning out undercover "sting" videos supposedly capturing reprehensible behavior by their mostly liberal targets. Those targets have included low-level workers at ACORN, a fundraiser at National Public Radio, and now officials at Planned Parenthood, among others.
The activists release a series of videos in an effort to build a big takedown story, and the press usually plays along. Meanwhile, activists coordinate with right-wing media players and members of Congress to generate simultaneous outrage over the clips.
The problem for the activists, and the problem for journalists who excitedly treat the clips as news, is that the videos invariably turn out to be doctored, filled with deceptive edits, and missing context in an effort to manufacture scandal.
The whole cycle has become a media cliché, but it's one that conservative partisans cheer. And they're cheering again this month as the Center for Medical Progress releases edited clips to claim Planned Parenthood officials have been caught discussing how the organization "sells the body parts of aborted fetuses" and "haggling" over prices for "baby parts."
Both incendiary videos have been proven to omit crucial context undermining their central claims.
While some outlets have done a good job calling out the deceptive nature of the campaign against Planned Parenthood, too many veer into a he said, she said construction while writing up the allegations. (See the front page of yesterday's New York Times, for example.)
Commentary's John Podhoretz was impressed by the roll-out:
This Planned Parenthood video drip-drip-drip is the first time anyone has properly followed the Andrew Breitbart playbook since his death.
-- John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) July 21, 2015
Podhoretz was likely referring to the ACORN sting videos that Andrew Breitbart's site helped roll out in 2009, as the conservative media waged war on a nonprofit group that helped poor people -- a war waged via dishonest undercover clips that captured James O'Keefe and his sidekick, Hannah Giles, famously getting advice from ACORN workers in various field offices on how prostitutes could skirt tax laws. The ACORN videos that the press went bonkers for were built around the fundamental lie that O'Keefe entered the ACORN offices dressed like a cartoonish pimp and workers still counseled him. They were also bolstered by deceptive editing.
California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown, Jr. pointed out that the videotapes were "severely edited by O'Keefe." According to a 2010 New York Daily News article about an investigation into O'Keefe's sting at a Brooklyn office, "a law enforcement source" said the conservative activists had "edited the tape to meet their agenda."
In 2011, O'Keefe released a set of sting videos to expose NPR's supposed liberal bias. It featured fundraiser Ron Schiller having lunch with two potential (albeit fake) Muslim donors and Schiller making disparaging comments about Republicans and Tea Party members. It was soon revealed that the tapes had been highly edited and done so in a way to make the Schiller comments seem more damning than originally believed. (In the short term, the videos worked -- NPR's CEO was forced to resign.)
The anti-choice group Live Action rolled out a series of undercover videos in 2013 claiming to catch Planned Parenthood conducting "illegal and inhuman practices." Like the others, the Live Action videos were dishonestly edited to improve the story activists wanted to tell.
Let's put it this way, when conservative activists release an undercover sting video that doesn't rely on dishonest editing to manufacture its point, it will be their first.
But the dismaying part is the formula works in the short term because too much of the media, drawn to the heat and the light of agitated conservative outrage, almost immediately types up the tapes as news despite the fact that for six years running, the established record shows that these types of tapes are regularly debunked. (Joining some other outlets that have called out the spin, a New York Times editorial this week cut through the ambiguities and declared the clips to be part of a larger, deeply dishonest smear campaign.)
Does the press honestly believe these tape releases aren't carefully choreographed by conservatives? Meaning, the press seems to treat as news that the tapes generate outrage within the conservative media and the Republican Party.
From the New York Times last week: "The video spread rapidly over social media and was discussed on talk radio."
But there are clear indications that the outrage was planned in advance, so why is the ire considered newsworthy?
In fact, we now know at least two key Republican congressmen who expressed outrage at Planned Parenthood last week were shown the first sting video weeks earlier -- and did nothing with the information. Apparently not wanting to step on the media roll-out, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) -- a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus and chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee -- and Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) both sat on the information contained in the video and only sprang into action after it was released to the press.
After the right-wing's NPR video was proven to be misleading in 2011, some reporters conceded that activists releasing bogus clips have the advantage because the press doesn't want to slow down and ask questions about whether the clips are dishonest or not.
But how many times does the same script have to play out before journalists refuse to star as actors in orchestrated, far-right attack campaigns?