Out of Context: The James O'Keefe Story

One of the subjects of self-styled journalist James O'Keefe's most recent series of heavily edited smear videos reportedly says that her comments were taken out of context. The accusation is consistent with O'Keefe's history of producing distorted videos, which he then promotes with deception and lies.

Teacher reportedly says O'Keefe video distorted her comments

Video uses video snippets of union teacher to attack NJEA. A portion of O'Keefe's video is based on audio snippets of Passaic, New Jersey, special education teacher Alissa Ploshnick supposedly “brag[ging]” at a New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) conference about the difficulty of firing tenured teachers.

New Jersey teacher reportedly says her comments were taken out of context. An article in the Newark Star-Ledger reported Ploshnick's claim, according to an NJEA spokesman, that she was taken out of context. From the Star-Ledger article:

One union member featured prominently in the video, Passaic special education teacher Alissa Ploshnick, was “apoplectic” when she learned of the videos, [NJEA spokesman Steve] Wollmer said, and is also consulting an attorney.

Wollmer said an undercover videographer bought her a drink, and talked about going out to dinner, to get her to open up. He then took her comments out of context, Wollmer said, to make it sound as if she was joking about how hard it is to get a tenured teacher fired.

The video included a clip of her saying “once you get that third year, it's like 'Schwing!'”

“He was offering her both romance and a glass of wine to get her to open up,” Wollmer said. “The guy's flat-out sleazy.”

O'Keefe videos regularly feature “highly selective editing” that strips comments from context

Law enforcement officials criticize O'Keefe's “highly selective editing of reality.” In 2009, O'Keefe and fellow conservative activist Hannah Giles produced several videos purportedly implicating ACORN employees. Three separate investigations cleared ACORN workers of any criminal wrongdoing, and a December 22, 2009 report by the Congressional Research Service stated that California and Maryland criminal laws may have been violated by the undisclosed taping done by O'Keefe. California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown, Jr. pointed out that the videotapes were “severely edited by O'Keefe.” In a statement, Brown said, “The evidence illustrates ... that things are not always as partisan zealots portray them through highly selective editing of reality. Sometimes a fuller truth is found on the cutting room floor.” Likewise, a March 1 New York Daily News article reported that “a law enforcement source” said of O'Keefe and Giles: “They edited the tape to meet their agenda.” A March 2 New York Post article, headlined “ACORN set up by vidiots: DA,” reported of O'Keefe and Giles' ACORN tapes: “Many of the seemingly crime-encouraging answers were taken out of context so as to appear more sinister, sources said.”

O'Keefe's BigGovernment video omits relevant clip in claiming that “Census supervisors” were “systemically encouraging employees to falsify information on their time sheets.” In a ten-minute video posted on BigGovernment.com in June 2010, O'Keefe stated that he had been hired as a Census worker and attended two days of training. He said, “What I found were Census supervisors systematically encouraging employees to falsify information on their time sheets.” The video includes clips of census leaders, who according to O'Keefe, “didn't seem to have a problem with the discrepancy” of the hours recorded on his time sheet versus the hours he claimed to have worked. O'Keefe omitted a clip that was later aired by ABC, which shows a census leader emphasizing the importance of accurately reporting on miles driven by census enumerators.

Friend of O'Keefe reportedly objected to past transcript distortion. A September 18, 2009, New York Times article reported that Liz Farkas, a college friend of O'Keefe's while at Rutgers University, said she “grew disillusioned” after O'Keefe asked Farkas to help deceptively “edit the script” of a video involving a nurse at the University of California at Los Angeles.

O'Keefe uses lies and distortion to produce and promote his videos

O'Keefe falsely claimed that ACORN tapes were a “nationwide ACORN child prostitution investigation” that implicated many ACORN employees. Discussing the ACORN videos, O'Keefe falsely claimed that the video campaign was a “nationwide ACORN child prostitution investigation” implicating many ACORN employees. But in at least six of the eight heavily edited videos produced by O'Keefe and Giles and distributed by Andrew Breitbart, either the activists did not clearly tell the ACORN employees that they were planning to engage in child prostitution; or the ACORN employees refused to help them or apparently deliberately misled them; or ACORN employees contacted the police following their visit.

Breitbart and O'Keefe withheld exculpatory LA ACORN video for two months. For more than two months after Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment.com website began posting videos in which O'Keefe and Giles posed as a pimp and prostitute in ACORN offices, O'Keefe and his cohorts withheld video that directly contradicted what they said the videos showed. In September 2009, Giles and Big Government editor-in-chief Mike Flynn had both falsely claimed that every ACORN office O'Keefe and Giles visited had offered to help them. Also during September 2009, both Breitbart and O'Keefe were asked directly by reporters whether any ACORN offices had refused to help; Breitbart and O'Keefe chose not to disclose the existence of a tape that showed at least one ACORN worker who refused to help. In a video released November 16, 2009, O'Keefe finally acknowledged that a Los Angeles ACORN worker they filmed in August 2009 “would not assist us obtain a house for our illegal activities.”

O'Keefe pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal charge of entering Senate office under false pretenses. As reported by The Times-Picayune on May 26:

The four defendants who were arrested in January in Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in the Hale Boggs federal complex in New Orleans pleaded guilty Wednesday morning in federal court to entering real property belonging to the United States under false pretenses.

Magistrate Judge Daniel Knowles III sentenced Stan Dai, Joseph Basel and Robert Flanagan each to two years probation, a fine of $1,500 and 75 hours of community service during their first year of probation.

James O'Keefe, as leader of the group and famous for posing as a pimp in ACORN office videos, received three years of probation, a fine of $1,500 and 100 hours of community service.

O'Keefe reportedly planned to “seduce” and publicly humiliate CNN reporter. In an article posted at CNN.com, investigative reporter Abbie Bourdeau reported that when she arrived for an interview with O'Keefe, she was informed by O'Keefe's colleague Izzy Santa that O'Keefe planned to lure her aboard a boat where he would secretly record his attempts to “hit on her” using “strawberries and champagne.” Boudreau reported that a document she obtained suggested O'Keefe would also use props including a “condom jar,” Viagra, pornography, a ceiling mirror, and “fuzzy handcuffs.” The document explained the motivation: “The joke is that the tables have turned on CNN. Using hot blondes to seduce interviewees to get screwed on television, you are faux seducing her in order to screw her on television.” O'Keefe later claimed that he had been “repulsed” by the scenario laid out in the document when it was presented to him, and that it did not represent his actual plan for the interview, which he described as follows:

In my version, the reporter was never going to be placed in a threatening situation. She would have had to consent before being filmed and she was not going to be faux “seduced” unless she wanted to be. If a CNN reporter would be willing to engage in such a folly, it might even be more newsworthy than Rick Sanchez's firing. (CNN also has Elliot Spitzer on payroll. He's done more outrageous things than anything I've ever gotten in my in-box).

The sexually explicit document CNN is now “reporting” on was never going to be implemented as written. She saw how I was dressed that day, with my usual blazer and collared shirt. In the document she reported as being “authentic,” I was supposed to have been dressed with my chest exposed, slicked backed hair, with gold chains. That ought to have been a red flag the document was not a reflection of my true intentions. Ms. Boudreau was never going to be put in the bizarre situations outlined in the document CNN reported. There were no mirrors, sex tapes, blindfolds, fuzzy handcuffs, posters of naked women, or music. Sorry, you were not going to see my face saying the words “Bubble Headed Beach Blonde who comes on at 5” into a video camera. Those are Don Henley lyrics - and we know, thanks to Chuck DeVore, how much Henley loathes parody.