An Interview With James O’Keefe
Last week, I was pleased to get the opportunity to interview James O’Keefe of Project Veritas. Over the last couple of years, James O’Keefe has turned out to be the single best investigative journalist in America. He goes after powerful targets the mainstream media won’t touch because it’s liberal, he exposes the media’s hypocrisy, and he gets results. What follows is a slightly edited transcript of our conversation.
Your latest sting focused on guns. Tell us about that.
We did an expose on the issues in Westchester County, New York where journalists at the Westchester paper were publishing the names of law abiding gun owners in New York State. So in order to measure the courage of their convictions, we went to the homes of these anti-gun journalists and asked them to advertise to the general public that they, in fact, live in a house which is gun free. We were unable to find any reporter or editor who was willing to live up to the strength of their convictions and no one would post the sign on their lawn.
For people who maybe aren’t as familiar with your work as I am, set your humility aside very briefly and give us a short rundown of some of your biggest undercover operations and the results.
Well, Dave Weigel at Slate did say we were the most effective journalists in 2012 and they’re not a conservative publication. Salon.com in the past has said, “watch out,” that these people know what they’re doing and they’re able to visually communicate fraud and due diligence issues in a very entertaining, viral way.
So we are loved by people who appreciate our work and we’re revered by the people who hate us. Our 2012 work was mostly on voter fraud. We’ve also exposed a lot of corruption at major taxpayer-funded institutions like NPR, ACORN and things like that. Some of these stories have actually landed on the desks of the Attorney General or Congress and have caused a lot of major change.
Other than your – the sting that made you famous to begin with – the one you did with Hannah Giles on ACORN, what do you think your biggest one is? What’s your number two and number three, do you think?
Andrew (Breitbart) told me before he passed that he thought that the voter fraud work was actually the most consequential thing we ever did. He said it was like a symphony to his eyes. …George Stephanopoulos actually told me that he thought that our work on Planned Parenthood that we did about five years ago, where Lila Rose and I called these Planned Parenthoods posing as racist donors… he actually said that was one of the more effective things we’ve ever done because we exposed racism. A lot of people love this most recent gun video because it exposed straight up hypocrisy and it made them live up to their own principals and live up to their own book of rules. And I think that that’s something that resonates with people more than anything else. This video we just did really affected people because nobody likes a hypocrite.
Now you’re on probation for one of the early investigations you did. Tell people a little bit about that and how that came to be.
In 2010, I was in a federal building and I was investigating to determine if Senator Landrieu’s staffers would be willing to admit to me that they would refuse to answer their phones. The only thing I was looking to do there was to catch them on tape admitting that they were not answering their phones because, let’s face it, if you caught a senator saying that she would refuse to talk to her constituents, that would be a big story. In the course of doing that investigation, we were in the federal building and I was in plain clothes. My colleagues were dressed up like telephone repairmen. When we were talking to the senator, the senator’s aide called the building manager who came by and said we don’t have any issue with our telephone systems. There’s nothing that needs to be fixed. They called the U.S. Marshals which were in the building and they arrested us on the spot. Now, we didn’t really commit any crime. We were there to just talk about the phones. They charged us with a crime we did not commit when they found out that I was the ACORN pimp. And after that happened, there was this whole, “I’m a felon, I wire tapped, I broke in,” — we showed our real drivers’ licenses when we entered that federal building. And significantly, John, our video evidence that we had recorded was destroyed by a federal judge with ties to Planned Parenthood and the United States attorney who led the prosecution effort against me resigned in disgrace last month. Of course, you wouldn’t know any of this reading things online because it’s all been selectively edited out of all the news coverage on me. But the fact remains, we got a misdemeanor — posing as something, using a false pretense. And the question was: Was it really a false pretense because we showed our drivers’ licenses when we entered the federal building? It kind of sounds complicated, but unfortunately they’ve made it that way and our justice system is corrupt when they allow David Gregory to commit a felony on live television and they give me three years of probation for posing as something I’m not inside a politician’s office.
I agree with you. Now the single most bizarre and disgusting attack on you has come from Nadia Naffe, whom I’ve actually met before at a conference. The reason I call it bizarre and disgusting is that words like “rape barn” are being tossed around and she implied that she just escaped being sexually assaulted when, in reading not your description of what happened, but her own — I didn’t think anything threatening or sexual even seemed to occur. In fact, my first impression after reading her detailed account of what happened was that it sounded like she got drunk and got angry because you couldn’t give her a ride to the train station fast enough. Furthermore, I had no idea about this at the time when I first heard about it, but there are now some indications that she may have gone to the whole thing from the very beginning with the intention of creating some kind of public stink designed to try to hurt your reputation. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about that?
You know, it’s an excellent question. If you go to my Twitter feed, just for your listeners who are interested in learning more about this type of behavior, I Tweeted yesterday this article called I Will Ruin Him: How it Feels to Be Stalked. And all your readers have to do is read that article. There are people who have been through it. I know people who have been through it. They just get systematically targeted by people for various reasons and they just want to destroy you.
In this case, the person begged to be involved in projects and then started making a series of bizarre accusations. She filed a criminal complaint against me and when she went in front of the judge, the judge completely dismissed it. And if you look at Patterico, who is a blogger, who actually documented the contradictions in her testimony which were, I mean, just outrageous and then she targeted Patterico.
She actually sued the RNC before…
Yeah, I mean I got a restraining order against this person because this person was harassing me and sending emails constantly. Unfortunately for her, she contradicted herself so many times that her case was no longer credible.
But, John, I wear it all as a badge of honor. When they send out operatives to try to infiltrate me as a mole and take me down….sometimes you get emotional and sometimes you feel like this is just too much to take and then you realize that they wouldn’t be doing it unless you were effective. …It’s an unbelievable experience to be brought into a courtroom and have someone lie and viciously twist everything into some type of case against you in order to make some type of name for themselves, but luckily we got a restraining order. This person tried to work with the New Hampshire Attorney General. The New Hampshire Attorney General’s name was Richard Head. I don’t know who names their kid “Dick Head,” but the New Hampshire Attorney General tried to get into my emails and she was kind of involved in that and…. you can’t even make it up, the story of what we’ve been through.
Now the people like you who made a name for themselves by being effective and fighting the Left do have to put up with a level of crap and abuse that I think is unfathomable to most people. We talked a little bit about it. Tell us a little bit more about it, some of the stuff that’s gone on that people don’t know as much about that you’ve had to put up with and deal with.
If you’re going to be effective as a journalist or as a person who is exposing malfeasance in society, you’re going to be considered controversial because you’re going to make enemies with people in the media and they buy ink by the barrel. What happens in the conservative movement is that when you become effective, you become considered controversial and people don’t like controversy because they like being admired. So what happens is people almost refuse to be effective by virtue of the fact that they do not want to be controversial — and no matter what you do, I don’t care how you do it, if you are effective, they will target you.
Project Veritas doesn’t play by their rules. We use their own rules against them — like this gun video. We don’t defend guns; instead we actually use their own arguments and see if they live up to their convictions — and that becomes a very difficult thing for them to attack. If you look at the Moran video we did in October, where we exposed the congressman’s son explaining how to commit voter fraud…. I had seen it on Soledad O’Brien, who was grilling the Chairwoman of the DNC. So I think we’ve demonstrated that we can break through the media’s attacks by focusing on original reporting and getting that message out there.
Last but not least, tell us a little bit about how people can help you out. What they can do to help you keep doing your work?
The first thing is, if you haven’t already, go to our website, Project Veritas; sign up on our list and get involved in what we do either by sharing our videos to your friends and family or people around the country. If you want to get involved and do investigations, send me a note and tell me what you want to do because we need money and we need recruits for videos. We’ve got a ton of ideas and we just need more people and more money to do them.
James, outstanding. I really appreciate your time.
I appreciate you getting the word out, thank you.