James O’Keefe III, the founder of Project Veritas, is under fire yet again after The Washington Post alleged that it caught one of his undercover stings in progress.
On November 27, The Post published a story saying a woman named Jaime T. Phillips came forward alleging that Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama Roy Moore impregnated her when she was a teenager and helped her get an abortion. However, several holes were found in her backstory, and subsequent interviews led reporters to Project Veritas.
The Post claims that Phillips was an operative for the organization, and her goal was to embarrass and discredit the newspaper. Phillips’ story was determined to be false by the newspaper, and various media reports accuse Project Veritas of having her come forward in an effort to discredit previous reporting of sexual misconduct allegations against Moore.
This came after The Post published a story weeks before, documenting four women’s stories of sexual misconduct committed by Moore. He’s since vehemently denied the allegations placed against him and has vowed to stay in his Senate race against Democrat Doug Jones.
Post reporter Aaron Davis, who co-authored the most recent article, approached O’Keefe outside his company’s office November 27 in Mamaroneck, New York. That was after a woman, believed to be Phillips, walked inside the office. O’Keefe refused to answer questions, saying: “I am not doing an interview right now, so I’m not going to say a word.”
Following the confrontation, O’Keefe released a video, which has been deemed to be heavily edited, showing Davis walk away from questions regarding the ethics of his workplace.
The Post continued to inquire O’Keefe about the subject matter, and he repeatedly declined to answer questions in the full video.
This certainly isn’t the first instance that O’Keefe has been accused of fabricating a story in an effort to expose corruption and bias. He’s been involved in numerous incidents in previous years —
one leading to criminal charges — that have led to many speculating the legitimacy of evidence.
Here’s what you need to know about O’Keefe and Project Veritas:
1. O’Keefe Founded Project Veritas to Expose Liberal Bias in Media & Corruption
O’Keefe founded Project Veritas in an effort to expose liberal bias in the media. The organization’s mission says it’s to: “Investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct in both public and private institutions in order to achieve a more ethical and transparent society.”
The basis of the organization is to launch various investigations using undercover journalists and expose corruption.
“Our goal is to inform the public of wrongdoing and allow the public to make judgments on the issues,” it states on the company’s website.
One month prior to the launch of Donald Trump‘s presidential campaign, the Trump Foundation donated $10,000 to Project Veritas, and O’Keefe was in attendance at the final presidential debate.
“We have a multi-million dollar budget and the cost of this video series alone is way up there. The donation Trump provided didn’t impact our actions one way or the other,” a statement from Project Veritas said.
According to records obtained by The Daily Beast, Project Veritas, a nonprofit organization, raised $4.8 million in 2016 — O’Keefe makes about $240,000 per year.
2. O’Keefe Attended Rutgers & Once Tried to Get the Dining Hall to Ban Lucky Charms Cereal
O’Keefe was born in New Jersey and is the oldest of two children. His father had a career as an engineer and his mother worked as a physical therapist. Growing up in Westwood, New Jersey, his home was conservative, “but not rigidly so,” his father told NJ.com in 2009.
In high school, O’Keefe was active in arts, theater and writing and “thought seriously about a career in journalism,” his father told the publication. He also attained Eagle Scout status and was accepted into Rutgers University in 2002. He majored in philosophy at the college and started writing a column for the university’s student newspaper. While at the school, he founded a conservative student newspaper called, Rutgers Centurion, which was supported by a grant from an organization.
One of O’Keefe’s first acts at his newspaper was an undercover “sting” at the Rutgers dining hall, where he and other writers demanded the banning of Lucky Charms cereal from dining halls because it offends Irish Americans. He went undercover and interviewed several officials, who were cordial and willing to look into the matter. The cereal was never taken off the menu at the dining hall.
3. O’Keefe Worked for a Leadership Organization After Graduation, but Was Let Go After 1 Year
The Leadership Institute was founded in 1979 to provide training in campaigns, fundraising, grassroots organizing, youth politics and communications, its about me page on its website said.
At the organization, he traveled to colleges to train students who aspired to be journalists or work on political campaigns. He encouraged them to start conservative independent newspapers. However, after one year working for the Leadership Institute, he was let go.
Leadership Institute President and Founder Morton Blackwell called O’Keefe “very effective and very enthusiastic,” but they had no choice but to let him go. That’s because, as Blackwell said, organization officials felt that O’Keefe’s works as an activist threatened their nonprofit status by attempting to influence legislation.
4. O’Keefe Posed as a ‘Pimp’ in an Effort to Take Down ACORN in 2009
Throughout his career, O’Keefe has been accused of producing and intentionally misleading people by editing secretly-recorded videos and audio files. A few of his targets include Senator Mary Landrieu and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), an advocacy organization for people with low and moderate income.
O’Keefe’s investigation into ACORN was arguably his best-known work. It happened in September 2009, when he and a co-worker published recordings produced with a hidden camera. Hannah Giles, who worked with O’Keefe, posed as a prostitute, and he pretended to be her boyfriend. The operation was in an attempt to get damaging quotes from ACORN employees.
O’Keefe posed as Giles’ “pimp” and admitted to employees that he was looking to purchase a home to run as a brothel. O’Keefe dressed in a “pimp” outfit on several TV interviews, but it was later determined that he wore conservative street clothes while filming inside the ACORN offices.
A 2009 article by The Washington Post quoted O’Keefe saying that he targeted ACORN “for the same reasons that the political right does: Its massive voter registration drives.”
The videos featured six low-level ACORN employees and were recorded in six cities. In several of the videos, which were publicized through Fox News and Brietbart.com, employees told O’Keefe and Giles how to avoid tax evasion and child prostitution detection by authorities. Some of the employees contacted authorities immediately after the pair left.
O’Keefe “selectively edited and manipulated” many of the interactions he had with ACORN employees, the California Attorney General’s office and various others concluded.
“O’Keefe stated that he was out to make a point and to damage ACORN and therefore did not act as a journalist objectively reporting a story,” the California Attorney General’s office said.
There was no evidence of criminal misconduct committed by ACORN employees in the videos, investigators found. But after the videos were publicized, Congress investigated and voted to defund federal funding for the organization. However, the resolution was nullified in a 2010 federal court ruling.
In March 2010, ACORN announced it was closing its offices and disbanding due to the loss of funding as a result of the undercover videos.
5. O’Keefe & Others Were Arrested & Charged With Entering Federal Property Under False Pretenses in 2010
Another controversy arose in January 2010, when O’Keefe and several of his colleagues were arrested and charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony. The incident took place at the office of Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu. O’Keefe and three of his colleagues dressed as telephone repairmen and sought to investigate complaints that she was ignoring phone calls from her constituents amid a fierce debate regarding President Barack Obama‘s healthcare bill.
In May 2010, O’Keefe and the others pleaded guilty to the charges and were sentenced to three years probation, a $1,500 fine and 100 hours of community service.
One year later, O’Keefe and others were involved in another controversy with National Public Radio. It happened on March 8, 2011, when there was set to be a congressional vote on federal funding for NPR. O’Keefe released a video showing a private discussion with NPR Senior Vice President for Fundraising Ronald Schiller and his associate Betsy Liley. In the videos, the NPR employees were shown meeting with a Muslim charity called the Muslim Education Action Center under the pretenses that it wanted to donate $5 million to NPR. Those people were actually citizen journalists affiliated with O’Keefe.
During the meeting, the representatives from the “charity” claimed they were affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Schiller compared those affiliated with the rising Tea Party as Islamophobic and “seriously racist, racist people,” appearing to say that NPR would be better off without the federal funding.
Schiller ended up losing his job because of O’Keefe’s investigation, and it was later determined that the tapes were presented in a misleading way.
“There was certainly a lot there for conservatives and people of faith and Tea Party activists to be bothered about — but we felt like that wasn’t the whole story,” The Blaze Edtior Scott Baker said to NPR. “There were a lot of other things said that may have been complimentary to conservatives and to people of faith and Tea Party activists in the same conversations.”
In the tapes, O’Keefe describes the faux Islamic group’s website as saying “the organization sought to spread the acceptance of sharia across the world.” The tape also left out Schiller telling the men from the organization that “donors cannot expect to influence news coverage.”
“There is such a big firewall between funding and reporting: Reporters will not be swayed in any way, shape or form,” Schiller said in the unedited tape.
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