Winners of The American Spectator’s Barbara Olson Award for Excellence and Independence in Journalism, Project Veritas founder and CEO James O’Keefe, Abigail Shrier, author of Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, and anti-abortion activist David Daleiden, discuss the state of journalism with publisher of The American Spectator Melissa Mackenzie at the 2021 Robert L. Bartley Gala.
Melissa Mackenzie: Tonight we have the honor of talking with three future legends and I’m so grateful that you all came in during this time of COVID and I’m thankful to have you here. James, I’d like to start with you. You’ve been in this game a long time. And I was kind of wondering how you felt things have changed since you first started.
James O’Keefe: Thank you, Melissa. Well, things have changed because 10 years ago the mainstream media would have a dialogue with us. There would be a sense of engagement or consensus. When we did the ACORN story, the House and Senate were both Democratically controlled and they voted to defund ACORN — that would never happen these days. But I actually wanted to: my friend David Daleiden is on stage and I wanted to read something that he wrote, or that he said to me, which is something I’m going to publish. So I’m just going to read a quote from David, and then talk about another quote, before David’s. This is from a muckraker in a book called To Kill a Messenger. This is from the 1990s. And he wrote, “I was winning awards, getting raises, lecturing college classes, appearing on TV shows, and judging journalism contests. And then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my beliefs had been. The reason I’d enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn’t been, as I’d assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job. The truth was, in all those years I hadn’t written anything important enough to suppress.” So the job of an investigative reporter is to make public what those in power want kept secret. These days, journalists don’t do that, they just distribute the public message from government and corporations. David Daleiden and I have something in common: we’ve both been jailed for exposing reality. So, and I’ll just read this, this is a quote that David to me: “As I rounded the corner, the door of a large, white windowless van swung open. An ununiformed officer stepped out and blocked my path. ‘Are you David Daleiden,’ he asked.’ ‘Yes,’ I said nervously as I started to freeze. ‘We have a search warrant for your apartment from the California Department of Justice,’ he said, as he shoved papers at me. Eleven armed DOJ agents accompanied by dogs followed out of the van and sprung out of surrounding police cars. The leader of the agents tried to prevent me from calling my lawyer and threatened to seize my phone while I was talking to legal counsel. They overturned my entire apartment, they thumbed through invoice printouts for fetal parts from StemExpress, Advanced Bioscience, … but left behind, instead seizing all my hard drives and equipment with the undercover footage and my laptops going back to high school, I felt powerless. I felt like I was drowning. And it felt like the search lasted forever.’ So what has changed is that if you want to do this, you’re going to be jailed for it, defamed, targeted, smeared, attacked in the most vicious manner possible. And the question is not: ‘Is it effective?’ because it certainly is, the question is: ‘Do you have the will?’ to go through that.
Melissa MacKenzie: So what James is talking about is happening all through the conservative movement. Even in the last year, The American Spectator has been sued multiple times. The goal, of course, is to put us out of business, to stop. And that’s the goal: to stop these voices. So, David, you have been in a lot of legal things over the last couple of years. Can you tell us some about where it’s at?
David Daleiden: Yeah, sure. Just to recap for anyone who maybe doesn’t remember in the past five or six years here, some of you may recall the really harrowing undercover video series that myself and my organization, the Center for Medical Progress, released in 2015 showing the top level leadership of Planned Parenthood callously negotiating the harvesting and sale of aborted baby body parts. And these videos went viral. There were multiple long-term congressional investigations that were launched, prompted by the videos. They led to the first ever successful prosecution of actual illegal trading in aborted baby body parts. Two biotech companies that had been partnered with Planned Parenthood in southern California for many, many years, they were shut down in a $7.8 million settlement with the Orange County district attorney’s office. They admitted guilt for illegally selling body parts from Planned Parenthood and the Orange County district attorney credited my undercover work with prompting that first successful case. The videos have also led to Planned Parenthood’s disqualification from state health funding in the state of Texas, which is a very big victory, it’s been a long time coming. So as you can imagine, Planned Parenthood and their allies in the abortion industry were not happy about this exposure. They were very afraid of the consequences, the legal consequences and the reputational consequences, that these revelations would have for them, and so they came after me and my colleagues with a vengeance like nobody had really seen before since they’d put James in jail. And so Planned Parenthood and their allies retaliated with multiple federal lawsuits in front of a Planned Parenthood linked judge in San Francisco who had founded a Planned Parenthood referral clinic before becoming a federal judge. They responded by getting their key political ally at the time, the attorney general of the state of California, Kamala Harris, to send 11 jackbooted California DA agents to raid my home on the explicit instructions of Planned Parenthood to seize the computers I was using to publish the videos, and seize the hard drives that had all the raw footage on them, to try to shut me up, to try to discredit the ongoing revelations and to try to obstruct justice in the investigations of their illegal baby body part sales. So they’ve come after me with a vengeance, come after my team with a vengeance because of this, but we haven’t backed down over the past five or six years. We’re starting to turn the corner. You see what’s happening in Texas right now, you see what’s happening at the Supreme Court. There are many, many good things and many good victories that are on the horizon for the pro-life movement and for reforms of abortion policy and the way that we talk about children in the womb and the way that we treat children in the womb and their pregnant families. There are many big things on the horizon for this and it’s a very good time, it’s a very special time. And just this summer we have begun to develop fresh new evidence showing specific illegal acts of coordination between Kamala Harris’ attorney general’s office and Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation, how they actually took the fruits of their criminal agencies’ search warrants and just handed it all over to Planned Parenthood and NAF in the middle of their private civil lawsuits against me and my colleagues. Totally unconstitutional, total violation of due process, for a prosecutor to collude with outside private litigants to try to help them win their private lawsuits by raiding a journalist’s home and turning over the materials to the outside third parties. So we are going to be pressing all of this in the coming weeks and months and so now is not the time to be on the defensive, now is not the time to be a victim, now is the time to be a survivor, to embrace being a survivor and to press forward to the victories that we have ahead of us if we keep on working.
Melissa Mackenzie: Abigail, you’re relatively new to this game and you have already experienced a certain kind of scholarly isolation. You’ve had some things happen this last week and have been basically shunned by other scientists. Can you tell us a little bit about what’s going with that and your work?
Abigail Shrier: Oh well in the last week, I published on, actually I did it with Bari Weiss, who is a liberal and I had interviewed two top transgender gender medical providers. One was a very top gender surgeon and the other was a gender psychologist. And they were very candid with me that a lot of the things that I’ve been writing about are true, that there are these very serious risks and that doctors are fast-tracking young kids to transition. They talked to me about the fact that kids put on what’s called puberty blockers do experience permanent sexual dysfunction in addition to infertility. So these were major revelations. And I took it to Bari Weiss because although she is on the liberal side of things, she was the one person in the media on the liberal side of things willing to publish this. And here I had two top gender providers who were trans women themselves acknowledging some of the risks that WPATH has never acknowledged. So this week, WPATH put out a statement (WPATH is the worldwide transgender health organization) directing its members, doctor members, they set the transgender medical services wordwide, to stop talking to the lay press. I don’t consider that a loss. I, honestly, it was like my birthday came early. For the first time, they are in retreat, and that’s a very good thing.
Melissa Mackenzie: Abigail, you also this week had an article about what the Right got wrong about the transgender bathrooms issue. And I was wondering if you could talk to us a little bit about how we lost the forest for the trees from your perspective.
Abigail Shrier: So my perspective is that conservatives often fail with strategy. They don’t fail with values, they fail with strategy. In the piece, I said it was sort of like putting the debate team in charge of prom. The only thing you can guarantee is that no one will show up. And that is sort of what this whole, the ACLU came up with a plaintiff, which was a very sympathetic, you know, it was a biological girl who wanted to use the boy’s room. Now we all know that there is no real safety issue … to the boys in the boy’s room from a biological girl, and this kid was a very sympathetic kid. And all of the enthusiasm from the conservative and Republican side was to fight this battle which lost and lost and lost and it ended up with a series of bathroom bills that lost. The bigger problem is that during that time we lost a series of very winnable battles. One of the pieces I wrote showed how in the laws of many states now there are a series of laws that not only severely undermine parent custody when it comes to transitioning of their minor children. So now social services in many states will take a child from a parent, we’re already seeing this, we’re already seeing this, unless they go along with the transition. Parents will be reported. This is a huge problem and there are a whole lot of laws that got passed that produced this problem. And I think that we need to be focused on strategically winnable battles and always logging a win. We have to select the battle and win it because that victory matters.
Melissa Mackenzie: So just to clarify, in Texas there was a big case where divorced parents, and so it came down to a custody judge who had to decide, and the mother of course, because I’m sorry it’s the moms, who was wanting her son to transition and the father was against it. Are you suggesting that there would be state-level laws to deal with this rather than having it be adjudicated case by case?
Abigail Shrier: It’s a good question. I think, first of all, we’re seeing this in many states, but we’re seeing it, and this is even more troubling, where the parents are united against it, where they’re not divorced, where they’re taking children from loving homes, where they’re undermining loving parents’ wishes for their own children. This is a whole nother level of state intrusion into our lives and really state disruption of the family. And it’s absolutely something that we should fight with everything that we’ve got.
Melissa Mackenzie: So James, you have kind of taken the tactics of the Left, you’ve turned around on the Left and made different journalistic organizations, my favorite’s the New York Times because they’re the worst, kind of suck it up and retract all the bullcrap that they write. Can you talk a little bit about how your constant wins in this regard on why you’re doing it and what you’re achieving in doing it?
James O’Keefe: Well we sued the New York Times for defamation, and we got past motion to dismiss, which very few people have done. It’s sort of tautological because in order to get past motion to dismiss in a plaintiff defamation action you have to prove things that can’t be proven until you get past motion to dismiss. But the first sentence of the New York Times article, they’re very nuanced these people are very sophisticated, it’s very clever how they write these articles as all of you know and are well aware of this, but it’s really sophisticated how they use language and supposition to get around the defamation action. But they made one fatal mistake. We did a video in October of 2020 showing a man in Minnesota clearly harvesting ballots which was criminal, and it’s his video, his words, I didn’t even film him he recorded himself on snapchat. It was his video that he shot. I simply published the video that he himself took. And the New York Times did an A section news article saying “A deceptive video from James O’Keefe.” And then USA Today which works with Facebook does a “fact check” and the video gets banned from Facebook. So this is the dystopian reality that you’re all living in, of course you all know that. So I had no other option, I never like to sue, I always get sued and I’ve won every case, we’ve never lost a lawsuit at Project Veritas. And the reason why we don’t lose lawsuits is because we don’t settle lawsuits. It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t settle a lawsuit. It eventually has to get to summary judgement and it eventually has to go to trial, it eventually has to go before a jury and that’ll cost you 2 million dollars. And because most companies are for profit, they’re not going to spend 2 million dollars, they’ll just settle the lawsuit. Veritas has never lost a lawsuit and that has been selectively edited out of our Wikipedia page. So with the New York Times lawsuit, what happened was we published this video and the first sentence of the New York Times article we sued them for defamation. Their defense in the trial court, the Supreme Court of New York, was “your honor, that was our opinion.” The Judge said “what the hell are you doing putting your opinion in the first sentence of a news article? What is that if not deception and misinformation?” That’s their word, “misinformation.” And the judge let it proceed. They filed an emergency stay so that they won’t be deposed, that was defeated, and a few months from now I will be deposing the New York Times under oath on videotape. The reason why, I’m just going to cut to the chase, the reason why no one else does this, this is an answer that the people here will not want to hear but this is the truth forged from 13 years of my experience is that people secretly want to be liked by them. People secretly want their book reviewed by the New York Times and even though they hate the “lib media,” a part of them desires to be approved by them deep down in their heart and they’ll never admit it, but that is the truth.
Melissa Mackenzie: So at our dinner table we were talking about how if somebody chooses this sort of activism you are sort of suffering. Could you speak to that, and David, after James talks about that, I’d like you to talk about it a bit.
James O’Keefe: Yes, I’m coming out with a book called American Muckraker and the first chapter of this book is called “suffering” because I think it is self evident based upon 11 DOJ agents raiding (David’s) apartment, taking your hard drives, I was arrested by the FBI and falsely accused and eventually exonerated, but this involved a lot of pain. Like serious pain. Including from some of the people in this room, because the right tends to circle the firing squad as the powers that be circle the wagons.
Melissa Mackenzie: Just as an aside from that, on Twitter, which you’re booted off from.
James O’Keefe: Banned from Twitter but every story we’ve done has trended on Twitter, distribution by proxy.
Melissa Mackenzie: I’m retweeting him, but anyways, one of the things that happened when you were announced as one of the winners, I was getting crap from people on the right for choosing you. It’s hard to believe, right, but the thing is I think it’s a problem that we have on the Right, we don’t embrace activism like they do on the Left.
James O’Keefe: Well I wouldn’t even consider what David did or what Veritas does ideological, it’s just an inanimate recording, I don’t express our views, and they do it so effectively, they accuse their enemy of that which they are guilty of. They’ll call me “far-right,” I don’t even know what that means. I never express opinions in videos, I merely quote the other people. The answer to your question is they secretly want to be approved by them, this is a deeply psychological epidemic, and it effects everyone. The moment you stop seeking the approval of tech, the New York Times, and CNN, the moment you stop wanting to be liked by them is the moment you actually become free to accomplish your mission. So it’s a psychological problem.
Melissa Mackenzie: David, I’m going to give you the last word.
David Daleiden: Sure so I just a few more thoughts about that theme that I have sort of developed over the years through the experience of doing undercover work for many years. Going undercover at Planned Parenthood, and at abortion industry trade shows. Believe it or not there are actual conferences, trade shows, for the abortion industry in our country where they’re sponsored by the baby parts companies, they have exhibitors exhibiting the different forceps that are used to rip the baby out of the mother, arranged from smallest to largest depending on the size of the baby you’re going to be killing in the abortion, really horrific stuff. And also the experiences of the persecution afterwards right, the retaliation from Planned Parenthood and from their allies among the political elite and others. And in my mind and in my experience there’s a really interesting unity and link between those two things because in both situations it’s an opportunity to have an encounter with the persecutor, an encounter with the evildoer, the wrongdoer, whether it’s going undercover at a place where they’re doing bad things, late term abortion clinics selling body parts, or abortion industry tradeshows, or whether you’re encountering a corrupt prosecutor who is trying to put you in jail solely for speaking the truth, because it is a message that is unpopular for the special interests that support them. And that encounter with the persecutor, with the wrongdoer, I think that is meaningful, I think that is the creative source of how we capture the truths that change things in our civilization and inspire people to be better, inspire them to do something better, inspire them to fix problems and I just believe that’s a very special moment. It’s a calling that I know James feels it as a calling, I feel it as a calling, it’s a calling that everyone can experience to some degree or another in their lives and careers. And that’s the heart of what it means to be an independent journalist, so you will suffer if they come after you, you will suffer if you do the work in a good way you’re going to suffer because of the subject matter you’re dealing with and the facts you’re bringing to light. What’s most important to me is that you’re going to suffer even more if you’re silent, right, if you knew that things like this were going on and you said nothing, did nothing, that to me is where the greatest suffering would come from. So there will always be suffering on this side of heaven, right, so we might as well make it count. Let’s make it count in the time that we have.