In the summer of 2016, I stopped by the Westchester, New York, offices of Project Veritas on my way to Long Island, there to speak about my just released book on TWA Flight 800.
Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe and I had an in-depth conversation about the state of American journalism that James, my fellow Mick and Garden Stater, decided to record for posterity. In light of O’Keefe’s resignation from the enterprise he founded, I thought the conversation useful to re-watch.
I came away with renewed respect for what O’Keefe had accomplished. In the course of a career of less than 15 years, he has become inarguably the century’s most consequential journalist.
As we discuss in the video, O’Keefe accomplished what he did under circumstances superstar reporters of yesteryear never had to face.
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, for instance, were everyone’s heroes. They had a major newspaper backing them, lesser media fawning over them and the Washington establishment egging them on.
Few today realize that Woodward and Bernstein succeeded by missing the real story, namely the subversion of both the courts and Congress to destroy an enormously popular president.
Richard Nixon had won 49 states in 1972, but the one state he did not win was the deep state. Still seething over Nixon’s exposure of communists in the Truman administration, Alger Hiss most notably, permanent Washington had its revenge.
For those interested in the true story, I would highly recommend Geoff Shepard’s definitive book on the subject, “The Nixon Conspiracy.”
Unlike Woodward and Bernstein, O’Keefe had no allies and no resources when he started Project Veritas in 2009. Then just 25, and working off his credit cards, O’Keefe adapted an old genre, undercover reporting, to new technology, namely hidden cameras.
Long protected by the legacy media, the corrupt $2 billion leviathan called ACORN proved pathetically vulnerable to O’Keefe and partner Hannah Giles.
Establishment media proved just as vulnerable as did ACORN. At the time, they had no defense against the undeniable video evidence that O’Keefe, with a generous assist, from Andrew Breitbart, presented – other than to attack O’Keefe.
As a result of the sting, Congress defunded ACORN, and Barack Obama had to disown the organization despite his own prior relationship with it.
From the beginning, though, establishment Republicans and their media were always wary of O’Keefe. They were happy to celebrate his successes but were quick to abandon him if things went awry.
Soon after his ACORN success, O’Keefe and three others were arrested by the FBI on trumped up charges for a half-assed sting on the offices of then Louisiana U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
The media had not had so much fun since Nixon was kicked out of Washington. In fact, they took to calling the affair “Watergate Jr.” Until he found his footing, O’Keefe made other errors. Pioneers inevitably do.
Those who today say that “James O’Keefe is Project Veritas” may not know that just 12 years ago, O’Keefe literally was Project Veritas. His 2013 book, “Breakthrough,” sheds some useful light on what that felt like:
On the darkest day of my life to that point, I found myself in a pew at St. Gabriel the Archangel Church in Saddle River, New Jersey. To get there, I drove a car that didn’t even have a starter in it. That’s how wrong it had all gone: 26 years old, living at home, stuck in Jersey, mired in debt, abandoned by my allies, estranged from my friends, unable to sleep, unwilling to eat, my career in tatters, crushed by the weight of it all, and praying not for a miracle, but just some relief.
Whatever their motives, and they may be honorable, Project Veritas board members just cut the heart out of their organization along with its cultural memory.
O’Keefe will rebound. He has before. Being the head of a $20 million organization was not his real calling anyhow. Journalism is. No one knows the subject better.
O’Keefe will, however, likely change strategy, The legacy media have responded to Project Veritas’ increasingly damning stings by retreating deeper into their own rabbit holes.
Project Veritas’ recent Pfizer exposé was seen by some 25 million people and counting, and the media ignored it altogether. If their audiences remain ignorant, so be it.
O’Keefe left on a high note. In no small part through his own efforts, he has left the major media, the New York Times most notably, in ruins, the ACORN of journalism.
Media brass would do well to read O’Keefe’s 2022 bestseller, “American Muckraker.” It might just remind them of the importance of a profession they have long since abandoned.
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