In Video Veritas: De-Rigging the System with James O'Keefe
Oscar Wilde reportedly said that you can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies. And when it comes to that incestuous Venn Diagram intersection of politics and mass media, there are perhaps few hated more than James O'Keefe, the modern master of guerilla journalism.
This past week, if you watch the news, he's getting harder and harder to ignore, having released a spate of videos capturing operatives within the Democratic party revealing secrets that have caused the rolling of both heads and eyes, depending on where and who you happen to be. But is there more to come? We spoke with the president of Project Veritas about his current operation, and what's next.
Critical Blast is by and large a site that covers entertainment news. But really, you can't do what you do without adding a certain entertainment element to keep the attention of an audience who might otherwise turn away from dry, dull policy and politics.
Right. The big thing is, 'Content is King' -- getting people on tape doing things that are undeniable, specifically in the last few videos, it was incredible to watch the comments and conversations made by people in the tape. "We have to win this motherf-er," meaning the election. "We have to break the law. We have to hire mentally ill people. We have to foment violence. We have to create anarchy." Just comments and truths and reality of the way people really are behind closed doors. That's ultimately the most important thing.
we do use costumes, we do use props in the videos. We do shock people, but oftentimes, as it's been said, the truth is stranger than fiction.
You had Project Veritas operatives within the Clinton campaign for months before finally coming across this information. What's the level of effort it takes to engender the trust of these people to where they open up to you like this?
It's ridiculous. It was so much work. It was a year of work. I have a staff of thirty people at my foundation, and we spent a year. A lot of the work you don't see: we had to build relationships, we had people working inside -- we had someone working for Hillary Clinton inside the Brooklyn office for a year who tipped us off and led us in the right direction. We had to be fully embedded, fully inside these operations. We had people posing as overseas financial contributors. We had people posing as interns. We had someone working inside the office of Bob Creamer who had been invited to the White House and couldn't go because then I would have gotten in trouble for the same thing that they keep on saying I'm a criminal for -- entering a federal building using false pretenses -- so we didn't go.
We were having people pose as political consultants. It was a herculean effort. It was a lot of work, to say the least.
I would assume you have other projects lined up right now that you can't talk about, but do you have operatives in place elsewhere waiting for the opportunity for the next story?
Yes. It's not a question of what we do, it's a question of what we don't do. We have just so many ideas, so many stories. The fact that you see us with 15 million views on YouTube, everyone wants us to do a story on their corruption, infiltrate back-room dealings.
Our society is very broken. Our institutions are broken. People are lying every day on television. People in the media on television, for the most part, are paid advocates for their causes. And you see the White House cover up and lie -- we just learned moments ago that the FBI is relaunching an investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails. The FBI has lost all credibility. Our society is beyond broken. Even if Hillary Clinton wins, there is a large percentage of the population -- at least half -- who doesn't believe in the institutions of government and doesn't believe that politicians serve the public interests.
So the people are hungry and desperate for leadership. They're hungry and desperate for someone, anyone, to have gravitas and actually go out and do something about the problems facing our country. So in some small way our organization, Veritas, is responsible for doing that, for exposing and bringing to light, because we believe sunlight is the best disinfectant.
You were on the forefront of the new media. I interviewed Andrew Breitbart several years ago about his book, RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION, and he mentions how this young kid came to him with a video. Obviously that was the famous ACORN video that you and Hannah Giles shot. I'd like to get a little of your side of that story about what inspired you to even attempt that video, and why did you choose to take it to Andrew Breitbart?
I started doing these investigations when I was in college. I did this video on Planned Parenthood. We called Planned Parenthood as a donor -- but not any donor: a donor with racist motives, saying we wanted abortion targeted towards an African-American, to highlight the racism of Planned Parenthood and Margaret Sanger. So I did that, got some serious traction, and got the vice-president of Planned Parenthood fired.
A year or two later I got a Facebook message from Hannah Giles who said she wanted to do this thing on ACORN, and do a video with me. I said, "What's your idea?" She said, "Going into ACORN posing as a prostitute." And what struck me about the idea was that it would illustrate whether or not ACORN would support a brothel. And because these guys are engaged in illegal acts, it would show the moral culpability, the moral willingness, to do something improper. That was a great idea. So I went in and posed as her pimp boyfriend who was going to whore out these thirteen under-aged El Salvadorian girls.
We did this a few times. We got incredible footage. And I didn't know who to break it with. I called up all these people across the country. I didn't have many friends in politics. I even went to visit Congressman Darrell Issa's office, on the Oversight Committee. They actually kicked me out of their office when they realized I wasn't going to break it with an exclusive -- they sort of threatened me. Not Darrell Issa himself, it was one of their staffers.
And I realized...long story short, I wrote an entire book about all this I just told you about called BREAK THROUGH. But I realized through this process, it was sort of like MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON. I didn't have anyone to go to. And a couple people would say, "Why don't you take this to Andrew Breitbart?" Just like all paths lead to Rome -- all paths led to Andrew Breitbart.
So I go to Andrew Breitbart, I show him the tape in his basement. I had to fly out to Los Angeles to meet with him, because he didn't believe me. He thought, 'This is nuts." But he said, "You've got to come out and give it to me, because I know how to get this thing out there."
He looked at the tape from Baltimore. He watched it for five minutes to ten minutes -- it was a fifteen minute tape -- and he said, "I don't need to see any more." Then he's on his Blackberry and he's talking to himself. I'm thinking, 'Does this guy think I'm wasting his time?' I just hear him muttering, and I'm looking over him: he's in sweatpants, he's got no socks on, his toes are painted pink because his children were painting his toes -- he's a character! And he says under his breath, 'Andrew Breitbart says we're going to take down the New York Times with this story.' So while I was playing the video, his mind was already a mile ahead of me. And I was young, but knowing enough to understand what he was getting at. Even at that moment I realized that Andrew was talking about something greater than just a series of videos. He was talking about how the media was going to try to destroy me and cover it up, and he was going to use that as a jujitsu move against the media.
And eventually that's exactly what happened. And it's a bit of history repeating, because that's what just happened last week with our videos. So that your audience knows what happened, the ACORN story came out, the media completely ignored it, Congress defunded ACORN, and President Obama signed that legislation because of our videos -- all of that happened before the New York Times assigned a reporter to the story, thus embarrassing the New York Times, forcing their ombudsman to print a statement saying that they were slow to tune in and making the story about that.
We live in bizarre and interesting times when the Woodward and Bernsteins of the world can't be Woodward and Bernstein, for many reasons. Number one is politics, number two is access, and number three is fear. So the only people who can be Woodward and Bernstein are the people who are, as Michael Hastings puts it, people who are "out in the wilderness," people who are not part of the establishment. And that's where you find real, dogged, courageous, investigative journalism.
How difficult is it for you to do the undercover thing nowadays, as you've become more recognizable?
I don't usually do it anymore, I have a team of people that do it. I have a staff of thirty people now, and an untold number of full time investigators. We have an Emmy Award-winning producer on our team, we have full-time operations people, investigative journalists, researchers. We've built a team, and my team is not of Washington, DC. My people have never worked for the Washington Post. These are people who care deeply about truth. These people put their lives on the line that go out there, they pretend to be someone they are not in order to dig deep and get to the truth.
Sometimes I do it. Sometimes, I do. Right now I'm a prime target this week, so I'm in my office until things cool down a bit. But we're going to be creating a whole army of people that non-stop just do long-term investigations. So every month or two, you're going to see these things pop up. This took us a year to do, but my goal is to do a hundred of these.
Given the nature of what you and your team do, do you ever wake up in the morning and think, "Is today the day I need to call the Ecuadorian embassy?"
(Laughs) I will tell you that I don't think or worry about this very often. Everyone else seems to worry about my physical safety and legal jeopardy. I worry about the legal things, because I think we are living in a banana republic. I think the FBI kind of lost all credibility for what they've done. The Attorneys General of our states are focused on prosecuting enemies. Eric Schneiderman, the Attorney General of New York, probably wants to come after me and make my life a living hell just because he doesn't like me. Kamala Harris of California went after David Daleiden who was involved with the Planned Parenthood investigation, they raided his home. People are raiding homes of citizen journalists! They have nothing better to do than to raid people's homes and take their stuff. And we have to decide if we want to live in a world where that happens. Do we want to live in a country where attorneys general use their full force and power to make the lives of journalists a living hell just because they don't like their views on abortion?
I have no words to describe how bad it is, but here's the good new: I have to have faith. I have to believe that when you do good things in life, when you fight for just causes, when you surround yourself with good people, and you have good lawyers and good security (we have great security; we have a great secure location and we have a lot going for us), when you have those things in your life, that good things are going to happen to you.
Because I have to set an example for people. I have to not be afraid. And if they have to come after me with bogus and ridiculous and outrageous accusations, I will fight back. I will fight back with every dollar I can raise, and every legal argument I can make. This is not the first time in my life I have faced prosecution: I did it in Louisiana , and I fought back, and I won the day. So that's the best I can do.
Now, they've tried to shut me down. The New York governor tried to come at me; I went public, Cuomo backed down. Twitter tried shutting me down two weeks ago; Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, reinstated my account after my followers expressed outrage. So there is the ability for you to sort of fight back using a repairs negative, or a political jujitsu as Andrew Breitbart would call it; Saul Alinsky would say The reaction from the opposition is essential for the success of the campaign. If they overreact you can sometimes use that against them.
As we're talking, we're both seeing that the FBI has just re-opened the case against Hillary Clinton based on new emails coming out of Wikileaks. I'm just now seeing the tweet from Jason Chaffetz on that. Are you having any FBI contact at all over the videos you've released this past week regarding rigging the elections?
We've had Attorneys General contact us. A couple Secretaries of State. We've also had complains filed with the Federal Elections Commission. But no one from the FBI. Again, I think the FBI has lost all credibility because of their leadership. It is my opinion that these agencies are unwilling to do anything to enforce any laws because of the pressure they would face in a future Clinton Department of Justice. We just live in strange times.
I have the credibility to say that, because my story was spiked by major, major corporate media outlets, simply because those corporations were afraid of retaliation by a Department of Justice headed by the Clinton administration. Which, by the way, our country should have separation of powers between the Executive and the Judicial branch; there shouldn't be that type of collusion, but even in our stories, in our videos, you see that collusion alive and well, and you see a Federal Elections Commission that probably has no power to do anything about it.
The general election is just a little over a week away. Are you sitting on any bombshells that are going to come out between now and then?
We do. Yes, we do. We can't tip our hand too much. We do have a number of videos coming out next week specifically on some racial comments. I think the stories we've broken here are historic in their depth, and in their illustrating and highlighting the political culture that we live in. But I do have some more tapes that are maybe even more inflammatory in what they show in terms of people's commentary. There's this racial clip that we have which people have been teasing online. I can't really reveal too much about it, except that it's racial in nature and that it's critical of an ethnic group, and it could open some people's eyes because it was taken in a private fundraising setting, so you'll see more on that early next week.
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