Conservative activist and Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe is out with another video, supposedly offering up a new exposé of a common right-wing conspiracy theory: The official counts of coronavirus-related deaths are being inflated — supposedly by New York City authorities — in order to request more federal funding.
O’Keefe’s new video was promoted on Thursday by Jim Hoft, whose site The Gateway Pundit often falls for hoaxes and pushes conspiracy theories as well as smears of Democratic officials — and which has been publicly quoted by President Donald Trump. (O’Keefe was also a guest at a White House summit in 2019 on the supposed repression of conservative voices by social media platforms.)
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ InfoWars have both posted articles about this video and it may well get more attention from right-wing outlets. But there’s nothing of substance in the video, even by the usual standards of O’Keefe’s output.
O’Keefe’s infamous videos usually feature hidden cameras, followed by a “bombshell” clip that misleadingly edits 30 seconds or so of a low-level official out of context. But this time around O’Keefe didn’t even try to meet up with anyone in an official position. Instead, for the full 10-minute video, O’Keefe features snippets of interviews with four individual funeral directors (one of whom remained nameless) in New York City, all declaring their belief that deaths are being misattributed.
It’s remarkable that even O’Keefe’s sources here do not claim any inside knowledge: “This is my personal opinion,” said one funeral director, “I think, like, the mayor in our city, they’re looking for federal funding, and the more they put COVID on the death certificate, the more they can ask for federal funds. So, I think it’s political.”
Another one is quoted as speculating, “Now they’re putting everything as COVID-19, so they’re padding the numbers that are making it look like — you know, yes, we do have a lot of deaths, I’m not going to say — we have been overwhelmed with them. But you start to say, how many of them are actually COVID-19? Or are the [medical examiner] just putting it because they don’t want to go to the scene?”
And yet, O’Keefe still tried to proclaim this as a banner headline about fraud — other than his own.
“If you work in a hospital or the government, and you witness something troubling, we want you to contact us securely at Veritas Tips,” O’Keefe said in the closing sequence. It appears he may well have yet to talk to any actual employee of a hospital or the government about supposed coronavirus fraud — because they’re all too busy dealing with the actual pandemic.
Ironically, O’Keefe’s video came out the same day as an article in The New York Times — also about funeral homes. Except this one looked at how the city’s entire infrastructure for handling the dead is being overwhelmed:
While hospitals bore the initial brunt of the crisis as sick people flooded emergency rooms, the sheer volume of human remains has pushed the system for caring for the dead to its limits, too: Hospital morgues, funeral homes, cemeteries and crematories are all overflowing and backed up.
The scale of the problem was brought into sharp relief on Wednesday afternoon, when the police found dozens of decomposing bodies stashed inside two trucks outside a funeral home on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn. The owner, Andrew T. Cleckley, said he had nowhere else to put them, adding simply: “I ran out of space.”