James O’Keefe, 33, considers himself an undercover sting artist of sorts. He founded Project Veritas in Mamaroneck, a New York suburb, that grew from nothing to an outfit considered one of the largest undercover “reporting” groups, a darling of the far-right. They see him as a hero for exposing the left by any methods, ethical or not, but to mainstream journalists, he’s generally reviled as a partisan mercenary and hack.
Now he seems to be looking for support from the very journalists he has alienated, as he claims to be evolving toward an apolitical watchdog group. At the same time, he aligns with people like ultra-extremist Alex Jones, who he sees as an ally in the fight to “hold the side accountable that won’t hold itself accountable.” It couldn’t be more contradictory.
Note that this is one of the people James O'Keefe calls an important ally in that Politico profile that hit today. https://t.co/BlA6lihmSx
— Gary Legum (@GaryLegum) May 4, 2018
Most recently, Project Veritas rose to infamy after a failed attempt to discredit the Washington Post with a sting that backfired and only reinforced the Posts’ credibility and integrity. Even conservatives in the media said he was “hurting the conservative movement.”
Consider this quote by Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center:
“Once again, O’Keefe is grandstanding & hurting the conservative movement. I’m glad the Post outed him.”
Now he’s allowed POLITICO access to Project Veritas’ inner workings, and it becomes clear in their at times comical report that O’Keefe faces a crossroads where his organization seeks credibility, but likely won’t be able to escape the right-wing biased leanings that O’Keefe has cultivated over many years, not to mention the sometimes questionable practices that have brought numerous lawsuits and even put O’Keefe in jail.
The Project seems doomed to collapse, like a house of cards, as even O’Keefe knows.
Politico has an inadvertently hilarious story on James O'Keefe premised on the idea that he really just wants to be a non-partisan journalist. https://t.co/3rjycNxxwT
— Will Sommer (@willsommer) May 4, 2018
Despite being one of the most hated men in media for the questionable techniques and ethics, accusations of selective editing, and partisan conservative leanings, he’s kept at it, knowing he isn’t well-respected.
Tim Alberta, a journalist from POLITICO wrote:
“When I asked why he thinks mainstream journalists aren’t sympathetic to him, the normally mild-mannered O’Keefe turned heads in the room. ‘Because,’ he growled, ‘they fucking hate me.'”
POLITICO outlines his long history, where he scored quite a few hits, and some hilarious and interesting misses. Although he’d like us to believe he wants to build a legacy of undercover reporting, the lack of funding it takes and constant threats of lawsuits make that a dying niche for those not similarly backed by conservative billionaires intent on manipulating America to their will.
He’s received funding from the Mercer family, the Koch brother’s network, and even Donald Trump, who he met with multiple times personally.
Now, O’Keefe is paradoxically seeking more mainstream respect from journalists at a time when he admits to having “numerous undercover operatives” tasked with penetrating political campaigns as midterm elections approach, and how are we to forget –he’s been funded by Trump. That doesn’t bode well for any real journalist, as Trump seems intent to destroy the credibility of any journalist that criticizes him.
O’Keefe’s new book, American Pravda, is described as “a Trump-inspired attack on the ‘fake news’ of the mainstream media”
One of O’Keefe’s successful stings unsurprisingly went after Trump’s nemesis, Hillary.
His work was cited by Trump in the final presidential debate, which O’Keefe attended as his guest. His work had exposed Scott Foval of American United forChange, and Robert Creamer, co-founder of Democracy Partners, and consultant to the DNC. The two were caught speaking on camera about schemes to aid voter fraud and to incite violence at Trump rallies. Their careers were ended as a result, and the New York Times shared the story.
He may see Project Veritas as “one-third CIA, one-third James Bond, and one-third Mike Wallace,” but to the rest of us, he’s seen more like the muckraking project of Trump and his billionaire supporters.
In the end, the operation is threatened by widespread rejection from journalists who report the truth and refuse to use unscrupulous methods.
Ironically, Project Veritas also faces the threat of infiltration from moles intent on besting them at their own game.
It looks like the house of cards is at a tipping point, and without right-wing billionaires to keep it propped up, it would have imploded long ago. When Trump leaves office, will it serve as a death knell?
Featured image: James O’Keefe via Wikimedia Commons