James O’Keefe was caught this week attempting to trap the Washington Post with a fake story that was intended to cast doubt on women who dared speak up about their abuse by Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. It’s not the first time one of O’Keefe’s capers went badly wrong. His 2010 invasion of Senator Mary Landrieu’s office earned him three years probation. In 2016, O’Keefe accidentally left a voicemail to the group he was trying to sting, explaining his entire plot. And there was another incident in 2010 in which O’Keefe attempted to set up a sex-dungeon in an isolated place and lure a CNN reporter into a compromising situation where he planned to “hit on her all the time”—because that’s exactly what you would expect from a conservative group.
In fact, even O’Keefe’s one famous “success” only worked because people hadn’t yet caught on to how willing he was to lie and use extensive edits to create a story out of thin air. Once they did, he ended up paying one of the ACORN workers whose words he’d rearranged $100,000. The organization itself was cleared of all charges.
But it was all good for O’Keefe. Despite not having a single real “sting” to his name, Republicans loved the idea so much they’ve rewarded his horribly misnamed Project Veritas with plenty of “how the hell is that a charitable contribution” each year, including some sweet dollars from Donald Trump. It’s been a rich enough pipeline for O’Keefe to award himself a $100,000 raise in just the last year, taking his salary over $300,000 for … nothing at all.
And Republicans aren’t letting a little thing like lack of any factual basis get in the way of using O’Keefe’s videos in a federal trial.
A Justice Department prosecutor pursuing felony convictions for six of the hundreds of individuals arrested during President Donald Trump’s inauguration successfully introduced to a jury on Tuesday a video of a protest planning meeting that was secretly recorded by a controversial organization run by conservative activist James O’Keefe.
What does this mean? Not just that this administration is willing to use anything against those it sees as enemies, but also that the free press isn’t the only part of the First Amendment that’s under attack.