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Molly Butler / Media Matters

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Project Veritas’ post-O’Keefe CEO guts staff, potentially marking final chapter in the group’s chaotic history

Reports that the group’s outcast founder, James O’Keefe, is the subject of a criminal investigation came a day after news of mass layoffs

Project Veritas — the far-right political organization known for its deceptively edited videos and questionable undercover sting operations — is reportedly in crisis after CEO Hannah Giles fired much of the company’s remaining staff. These reports have come less than a year after the group removed James O’Keefe, its controversial founder, CEO, and public face. With the reported mass layoffs, Project Veritas leaves a chaotic legacy in its wake, with overhyped exposés and malignant smears against teachers and public servants undergirding the core of O'Keefe and his outlet's footprint. 

  • In the span of 24 hours, reports broke of a criminal investigation into James O’Keefe following mass layoffs of Project Veritas staff

    • On August 17, Project Veritas posted and then promptly deleted a tweet that said, “SOS Hannah Giles fired us all.” The Daily Beast confirmed that more than half of the staff was laid off, with one former staffer noting that Giles was struggling to fundraise effectively or present a coherent post-O’Keefe vision for the group. The following day, The Nation reported that O’Keefe was under criminal investigation for allegedly looting assets from Project Veritas while he was starting up a new media venture, O’Keefe Media Group. [Twitter/X, 8/17/23; Daily Beast, 8/19/23; The Nation, 8/18/23]
    • O’Keefe, who established Project Veritas in 2010, was forced out in April over concerns related to financial mismanagement, allegations of an abusive workplace, and the mounting legal threats to the group’s work. Giles was named CEO in his stead and promised to usher in “a new era,” following what she described as a “void in leadership.” [Daily Beast, 5/31/23; Daily Dot, 6/13/23]
    • During the early days of the group’s activity, O’Keefe and Giles dressed up as “a prostitute and her pimp boyfriend” to solicit financial advice from a collective of organizations providing assistance in low-income communities. A federal jury ruled in September 2022 that the tactics used by Project Veritas operatives in the group’s 2016 sting of a liberal political consulting group — tactics that mirror those used in virtually every other Project Veritas operation — were unlawful. [Rolling Stone, 2/1/22; Media Matters, 9/27/22]
  • Project Veritas’ legacy is built on smears and overhyped exposés 

    • A series of Project Veritas videos smeared a Chicago private school administrator over a secretly recorded conversation talking about the school’s sexual health course. The video mirrored a number of other Project Veritas stings against educators using LGBTQ-inclusive materials and curricula, including one story on a Connecticut principal being used as the foundation for a civil rights investigation after Project Veritas accused the school of discriminating against conservatives. [WPDE, 12/8/22; Hartford Courant, 9/1/22]
    • To circumvent the bans on both O’Keefe and Project Veritas’ Twitter accounts prior to Elon Musk’s takeover, the group joined forces with the virulently anti-trans account Libs of TikTok. Through Libs of TikTok, Project Veritas accused a teacher of attempting to indoctrinate students with “wokeness.” [Media Matters, 10/5/22; KTUL, 10/3/22]
    • In November 2021, the homes of O’Keefe and several other figures associated with Project Veritas were raided by the FBI in a search for evidence related to the group’s “alleged theft of a diary belonging to President Joe Biden’s daughter.” In August 2022, two Florida residents pleaded guilty in federal court on charges of transporting stolen property after evidence revealed that they had sold the diary to Project Veritas for $40,000 after the Trump campaign declined to purchase the materials. [Politico, 3/22/22; NBC News, 8/25/22]
    • Project Veritas was a prolific spreader of COVID-19 misinformation on social media, often partnering with other accounts seemingly to evade platform bans and content moderation policies. Videos attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci and various conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 vaccine were spread across Facebook, YouTube, crowdfunding websites, and numerous other right-wing outlets by partner accounts beyond Project Veritas’ own social media. [Media Matters, 2/4/22, 11/11/21]
    • O’Keefe maligned a California public school teacher for having LGBTQ Pride flags and an antifascist banner in a classroom. Local news outlets largely failed to properly identify Project Veritas as a right-wing activist group. The teacher was ultimately forced to resign from the school district. [Media Matters, 9/15/21; KCRA, 8/9/22]
    • Project Veritas spent a considerable amount of 2020 promoting falsehoods and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. O’Keefe created videos promoting a number of baseless conspiracy theories about mail-in voting and ballot harvesting in swing states. Several of its videos were accompanied by legal threats and harassment campaigns against individuals and organizations targeted in them. [Media Matters, 1/4/21, 10/9/20]
    • Project Veritas secretly recorded a conversation with veteran ABC News correspondent David Wright which was subsequently edited into a bad-faith push to have the correspondent fired. In the video, Wright expressed some milquetoast grievances about broadcast journalism that Project Veritas edited to give the appearance that Wright was complaining about his own employer and criticizing ABC’s coverage. Wright was ultimately suspended by ABC News. [Media Matters, 2/26/20]
    • A Project Veritas operative spent months attempting to infiltrate The Washington Post by planting a fake story about then-Senate candidate Roy Moore. The operative was attempting to tip a story accusing Roy Moore of sexually abusing a minor, with the same operative attempting to plant the story in other Washington, D.C., and New York City-based outlets. [The Washington Post, 11/29/17]
    • O’Keefe attempted to accuse Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign of money laundering, when in reality the campaign was selling t-shirts and other merchandise. At a press conference to hype up the much-touted expose, journalists reportedly scoffed at O’Keefe, with one asking him if the video was “a joke.” [Media Matters, 9/1/15; Talking Points Memo, 9/1/15]
    • A Texas judge threw out a complaint from GOP officials based on a 2014 Project Veritas video that accused the group Battleground Texas of election interference. The prosecutors charged with investigating O’Keefe’s assertions called the video “little more than a canard and political disinformation.” [Media Matters, 4/7/14]