Five years ago, I stopped by the Project Veritas offices in New York’s Westchester County and had an extended conversation with its founder, James O’Keefe. The subject was fear and, for the heck of it, O’Keefe recorded the discussion. It is worth listening to.
In the five years since that conversation, as the interests of Big Media and the Deep State coalesced, the environment for an independent journalist like O’Keefe has become much more ominous. At one point in our 2016 conversation O’Keefe recalled his attorney’s warning about the best way to avoid legal trouble — “Don’t leave your apartment.” On Saturday, November 6, James didn’t have to.
“I woke up to a pre-dawn raid,” O’Keefe told Sean Hannity on Monday. “Banging on my door, I went to my door to answer the door and there were ten FBI agents with a battering ram, white blinding lights, they turned me around, handcuffed me and threw me against the hallway.”
The agents then proceeded to carry out a court-ordered search in connection with a diary reportedly stolen from President Biden’s 40-year-old daughter, Ashley. Among the items seized in the raid was O’Keefe’s phone. “On my phone, “O’Keefe told Hannity, “were many of my reporters’ notes, a lot of my sources unrelated to this story and a lot of confidential donor information to our news organization.”
The New York Times assigned four reporters — two of them Pulitzer Prize winners — to cover the raid on O’Keefe’s apartment. Before that Saturday was through, they had interviewed O’Keefe’s neighbors, done a deep dive into the background of the obscure blog that posted the unremarkable diary excerpts a year earlier, and published a lengthy story. Nowhere in the article did the Times acknowledge that a Project Veritas defamation suit against the Times has been successfully wending its way through federal courts.
Two days before the raid on his apartment, November 4, the FBI had raided the homes of two of O’Keefe’s current or former colleagues. The following day, November 5, O’Keefe went public to protest the raids despite a “request” from the DOJ he not do so.
What prompted O’Keefe to speak out was the involvement of the Times. Within an hour of the November 4 raids, a Times reporter contacted one of the PV journalists asking for comment. The reporter appeared to have full knowledge of the raid’s intent despite the fact that the subject matter of the grand jury investigation was supposed to be secret. The day after O’Keefe’s lawful public protest his apartment was raided.
On November 10 Project Veritas attorneys petitioned the court to block the FBI from extracting the data contained in O’Keefe’s phones. They may have been too late. On November 11, the Times struck again, this time with a lengthy article by Adam Goldman and Mark Mazzetti headlined, “Project Veritas and the Line Between Journalism and Political Spying.” The article was based on “internal documents obtained by The New York Times.” True to form, Goldman and Mazzetti failed to explain how they obtained these documents, specifically “a series of memos written by the group’s lawyer.”
“Hey @adamgoldmanNYT,” tweeted Will Chamberlain, attorney and co-publisher of Human Events, “maybe you should have gotten a legal opinion for the in-house lawyers at the Times before you went and published privileged legal advice from an adversarial party.”
Although the memos detail the efforts that Project Veritas makes to stay within the law, the Times reporters did their best to paint O’Keefe and his colleagues, arguably America’s most effective journalists, as something other than journalists. This established, the Times reporters felt free to cheer on the feds and their shock and awe, pre-dawn raids. Former Rolling Stones reporter Matt Taibbi anticipated this kind of reporting when he wrote, “Being on any team is a bad look for the press, but the press being on team FBI/CIA is an atrocity.”
In this story, Goldman and Mazzetti did note briefly, “Project Veritas is suing The New York Times over a 2020 story about a video the group made alleging voter fraud in Minnesota.” This throwaway sentence vastly understates the potential impact of a historic lawsuit, but it does suggest a motive for the outrageous behavior of the Times.
The background of the suit is worth recalling. In September 2020, Project Veritas released a series of videos that exposed a major ballot-harvesting scheme among the Somali community in Minneapolis. The PV sources were Somali-Americans appalled at the easy exploitation of their votes.
In addition to recording videos of harvesters openly exchanging cash for ballots, these sources shared with Project Veritas a Snapchat video of one harvester flipping through a stack of ballots bragging about his illegal haul. This was a huge story — especially since the harvesters claimed a connection to controversial congresswoman Ilhan Omar — and the evidence was irrefutable.
As they did routinely with stories that jeopardized the Democrats’ chances in 2020, the Times editors moved swiftly to sabotage the vote harvesting story. On September 29, they published an article by Maggie Astor headlined, “Project Veritas Video Was a ‘Coordinated Disinformation Campaign,’ Researchers Say.” Wrote Astor:
A deceptive video released on Sunday by the conservative activist James O’Keefe, which claimed through unidentified sources and with no verifiable evidence that Representative Ilhan Omar’s campaign had collected ballots illegally, was probably part of a coordinated disinformation effort, according to researchers at Stanford University and the University of Washington.
Deceptive? No verifiable evidence? In the most damning of the videos, a man showed the ballots he illegally harvested and boasted of his accomplishments. Probably part of a coordinated disinformation effort? What Astor had done was launder her preconceptions through some friendly university “researchers” and, with their help, conjure a baseless conspiracy theory.
Now with the imprimatur of the New York Times, this theory replicated itself throughout the media universe as fact and relegated O’Keefe’s gritty, game-changing reporting to the realm of the fake and easily forgotten. This wasn’t journalism. This was bogus oppo research at a level that would make Christopher Steele cringe.
Fed up with the smears, O’Keefe demanded a retraction. On October 16, 2020, the attorney for Project Veritas, Libby Locke, sent a letter to the senior vice president of the Times, David McCraw. “There is not a single sentence within these articles that even attempts to consider Project Veritas’ perspective,” wrote Locke, “much less disclose to The Times’ readers that these ‘researchers’ were engaging in rank ‘speculation.’”
“In short, and quite ironically,” Locke continued, “this Times story was itself the product of a ‘coordinated disinformation campaign’ — a collaboration between The Times and left-leaning academics who shared the goal of discrediting Project Veritas and its groundbreaking report, as quickly and thoroughly as possible.”
When the editors refused to retract or apologize before the election, Project Veritas filed a lawsuit against the Times in the Supreme Court of the State of New York. In August 2021, the Court again denied a Times appeal and permitted Project Veritas to depose the Times reporters and editors. “This is a victory for justice,” said a Project Veritas spokeman. “Project Veritas does not fear depositions. In fact, we actually look forward to them, because we have nothing to hide.”
The same cannot be said for the Times or for the Bidens. This is not Ashley’s first rodeo. Arrested a few times earlier in her life, Ashley faced similar embarrassment in 2009 when a “friend” tried to peddle a video of Ashley, then 27, reportedly snorting cocaine. And although Project Veritas refused to publish Ashley’s allegedly stolen diary, the New York Times did publish the purloined “Pentagon Papers,” arguably the most consequential publication of a stolen document in the history of journalism.
Subsequently, the Supreme Court vindicated the Times and defended the First Amendment rights of a free press in the landmark case, New York Times Co. v. United States. That was the New York Times of 1971. The New York Times of 2021 quietly commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of this decision with a guest editorial headlined, without irony, “Leaking the Pentagon Papers Was an Assault on Democracy.” How times change.
Jack Cashill’s latest book, Barack Obama’s Promised Land: Deplorables Need Not Apply, is now on pre-sale. See www.cashill.com for more information.