A federal jury found last week that the methods used by Project Veritas in the group’s 2016 sting operation on progressive consulting firm Democracy Partners were unlawful, further tarnishing an organization notorious for its undercover gotcha videos. The ruling confirms what watchdogs have been saying for years about founder James O’Keefe and the nefarious tactics he employs, even as right-wing and even some mainstream media have irresponsibly treated Project Veritas videos as legitimate sources.
On September 22, a jury declared that O’Keefe’s operatives had unlawfully recorded the consulting firm in the leadup to the 2016 election, and that those same operatives had fraudulently identified themselves in the process of infiltrating the group. O’Keefe says he will appeal.
Much like in the group’s other sting operations, Project Veritas operatives had used false identities to secure meetings and an internship with Democracy Partners. Evidence for the trial included emails written by O’Keefe showing that he had offered cash bonuses to any employee who could provide content that implicated Democracy Partners in committing voter fraud, along with court documents detailing a voter fraud scheme that operatives attempted to plan within Democracy Partners.
This verdict serves as a damning indictment of O’Keefe and his legacy. The tactics condemned in the Democracy Partners verdict mirror those that Project Veritas has employed for years in its theatrical crusades and smear campaigns, which have included concocting fake stories and schemes and arranging dates and other personal meetings under false identities. This should put to bed any of the organization’s claims that it operates as a legitimate journalistic enterprise.
While the actions undertaken by Project Veritas against Democracy Partners have resulted in its most substantial legal backlash so far, the group has a long and storied history of similarly outlandish stunts. In the past few years alone, the group has:
- Apparently attempted to give The Washington Post false sexual assault allegations against then-Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore in 2017.
- Spurred a woman’s arrest by editing a video to give the appearance that an act of voter fraud was being committed.
- Launched a campaign to push COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, often bypassing bans on affiliated accounts.
- Released secretly recorded tapes of an ABC news anchor making reasonable criticism of the network, resulting in his suspension and subsequent removal from political coverage.
- Accused a public official of back-dating mail-in ballots, even though the source recanted his claims.
- Caused harassment and threats of violence against multiple educators and school officials.
Less than a year before this week's verdict, mainstream outlets and press rights groups had rushed to defend Project Veritas after O’Keefe and some of his associates were raided by the FBI to investigate the theft of President Joe Biden’s daughter Ashley Biden’s diary. Several outlets echoed O’Keefe’s own claims that his journalistic rights had been violated. This positive attention only served to validate his claim that he’s a journalist.
Some outlets have bolstered Project Veritas by covering their smear campaigns as though they're legitimate stories, even as they acknowledge questions about the group's methods. O’Keefe’s methods even earned him a truth award from an organization run by Ed Martin, then a CNN contributor.
Project Veritas is an organization built on deceitful tactics that lack journalistic merit, and last week’s finding should demolish any shreds of credibility it retained with mainstream media.