It was seven years ago that I first wrote about James O’Keefe and Project Veritas. I was writing about ‘citizen journalists’ and complaining that O’Keefe was besmirching the concept. I ended the post, on a citizen-journalism site, ePluribus Media, with this: “Most at ePluribus Media are progressives, sure. But I have yet to see any citizen journalist posting here try to [use the] gross manipulations that are an O’Keefe standard. We try for realism, leaving montage to those who create the fictions we enjoy in the movie theater.” I thought O’Keefe just a passing fancy, but no. He has kept on churning, though his dishonesty is exposed with regularity. As it turned out, I would write about him with some regularity over the next few years, including in “The Citizen Journalist as Gatekeepr: A Critical Evolution” in 2012 and mentioned him briefly last summer in “The Triumph of the Lie: How Honesty and Morality Died in Right-Wing Politics.”
What O’Keefe does has bothered me for a long time. He is the epitome of ‘fake news’ while making a show of being all about honesty.
Today, perhaps, his long run may be over (don’t count on it; he’s incorrigible). The Washington Post published an article about one of his scams, “A Woman Approached The Post with Dramatic—and False—Tale About Roy Moore. She Appears to Be Part of a Sting.” The story is perhaps the clearest and most careful exposé of O’Keefe and Project Veritas that we have seen so far. It’s also an example of the value of real journalism in a milieu that sometimes seems dominated by the fake that, for me, O’Keefe and Andrew Breitbart long symbolized. Shawn Boburg, Aaron C. Davis and Alice Crites, who wrote it, should be commended. So should the staff at the paper who so ably backed the reporting.
The sting that was tried against the Post was meant to influence the Alabama senatorial election coming up in two weeks. The idea was to discredit the newspaper and the women who have come forward with stories about Roy Mooore. The article says, “The group’s efforts illustrate the lengths to which activists have gone to try to discredit media outlets for reporting on allegations from multiple women that Moore pursued them when they were teenagers and he was in his early 30s.”
Interesting, here, is a decision the paper made to break its off-the-record agreement with Jaimie Phillips, who was trying to peddle a story that she and Moore had an affair when she was a teenager. Claiming that the agreement had not been made in good faith on her part, Post executive editor Martin Baron called “this so-called off-the-record conversation was the essence of a scheme to deceive and embarrass us.”
The clear and forthright response of the Post is refreshing. Maybe this will be enough; maybe the tide O’Keefe has been riding is soon to recede.