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Democracy in Crisis: James O’Keefe and Project Veritas have no claim to the word ‘truth’


Illustration by Blair Gauntt

Project Veritas, the creepo undercover right-wing sting team run by James O’Keefe, spent months trying to fool The Washington Post into printing false accusations against theocrat and alleged pedophile Roy Moore in order to undermine the real allegations made by women that he was sexually inappropriate with them when they were minors. Moore, a twice-deposed former judge, is the only man alive who might make Jeff Sessions and Luther Strange, the two previous occupants of the Alabama Senate seat he is vying for, look almost normal.

Jaime Phillips, the woman falsely claiming that Moore impregnated her when she was underage and then urged her to have an abortion, was spotted by Post reporters walking into the offices of Project Veritas. They confronted her on cameras of their own.

The Washington Post seems to want a Nobel Prize for vetting a source correctly,” O’Keefe later said in response.

On the same day that the Post story broke, prosecutor Jennifer Kerkhoff introduced a Project Veritas video into the trial of the first six of the 193 people to be charged under the federal Riot Act for protesting during the inauguration.

It came during the testimony of an undercover officer who infiltrated a Jan. 8 meeting in a church where various groups coordinated Inauguration Day activities. Kerkhoff asked the officer if he recorded the meeting and he said that his supervisors told him not to. But, he said, Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) later obtained a video of the same meeting.

It was filmed by a Project Veritas operative. And here’s where it gets really fucked up. We don’t know how much the Project Veritas video was edited.

“I’m not aware of any edits or anything,” Kerkhoff said in court. When the judge asked her who provided the video to the MPD, she replied: “A third party.”

Even worse, we don’t know how many Project Veritas operatives were in the room, saying things that may have colored undercover officer Bryan Adelmeyer’s perception of the events. So it taints his testimony as well. Despite the Veritas in its name, O’Keefe’s organization is built on deceit — and may in fact lose non-profit status in New York because he failed to disclose his criminal record for using false premises to enter a federal building. In an attempted Watergate/Bob the Builder cosplay sting in 2010, he tried to gain access to the office of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana by pretending to be a telephone repairman.

By contrast, Alexei Wood, a photojournalist who is one of the defendants in the current trial, is almost radically transparent about the livestream video, which occupied much of the motion hearings over the past several months, that he filmed during the protest.

“I didn’t do anything wrong. I livestreamed myself from beginning to end, and the entire world can decide whether I incited a riot,” he said. “It’s out there for the whole world to decide, and I’m glad it is.”

The government, on the other hand, is not only using Project Veritas’ unauthenticated video, but they actually edited the videos in order to obscure the identity of the still-unknown Project Veritas operative, as if he were an officer.

This is further evidence of the deep connection between law enforcement, government officials and right-wing movements. We know that an MPD communications officer provided a list of names of the defendants to far-right conspiracy site Got News. And video captured by Drew Ambrogi, a steering committee member of the D.C. activist organization No Justice No Pride, shows a U.S. Park Police officer in D.C. ordering a protester to follow the orders of a militia member because “he works for me.”

Two of the officers who testified in the trial were from D.C.’s 7th district. The officers who raided the home of a man based on his alleged presence in the Project Veritas video were also 7th district.

In July, an officer from the guns and drugs “powershift” unit of the 7th was photographed wearing — and may have designed — a t-shirt with a grim reaper, white-power symbols and “Powershift,” “Seventh District,” “MPDC” and “let me see that waistband jo” — this last a reference to searching inside the underwear of citizens in “jump out” corner-clearing drug busts.

These D.C. guys seem to have the same view of policing as Trump, who urged officers to be violent with suspects — or at least not to shield their heads when putting them into a car or van. And Trump, of course, also tweeted false, O’Keefe-esque videos from Britain First in an attempt to stoke up anti-Muslim sentiment, or as Sarah Huckabee Sanders put it, “elevate the conversation.”

So it is no surprise that federal prosecutors in D.C. are willing to stoop as low as O’Keefe to further their antagonism of protest.

The last time O’Keefe tried so hard to sting the media, it involved dildos, hair grease, a boat and a CNN reporter, Abbie Boudreau, who never got on the boat, causing the explosively bad idea to backfire.

He was later accused by one of his own operatives of drugging her when she refused his romantic overtures and then enlisting an army of right-wing trolls, including her former friend Andrew Breitbart, to harass her when she tried to expose him.

But, as Moore’s campaign shows, that’s the way the far right works now. If you’re on their side, they will defend almost anything. A couple weeks ago, I wrote a story for The New York Times arguing that Charles Manson was alt-right. “Charles Manson wasn’t the inevitable outgrowth of the Sixties. If anything, he was a harbinger of today’s far right,” the Times op-ed page tweeted with a link.

Laura Ingraham, the far-right radio host, tweeted a response. “‘Far right’? You mean ‘right so far,’ as in @realDonaldTrump has been right so far abt how to kick the economy into high gear.”

Ingraham’s tweet is the perfect emblem of the senseless mass prosecution of protesters. It is senseless.

And maybe that is why Trump retweeted it.

Baynard Woods is a reporter at ‘The Real News.’ Email baynard@therealnews.com. Twitter @baynardwoods. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 233.


About The Author

Baynard Woods

Baynard Woods editor at large at the Baltimore City Paper. Tips to democracyincrisicolumn@gmail.com. Twitter @demoincrisis. Podcast every Thursday.

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