What James O’Keefe knows about media (and you should too)

It’s a credit to James O’Keefe that amid the diverse vocabulary in the English language, so many terms inadequately describe him and what he does.

Is he a provocateur, a prankster, an activist, a muckraker, a citizen journalist, an investigative journalist? Do we call these shaky videos undercover stings, gonzo journalism, political theater, political art? Does he take after Matt Drudge? Michael Moore? Julian Assange?


As a nod to O’Keefe, I will call this “entrapment journalism” because it’s provocative, it could help this post go viral, and it has a kernel of truth.

Legally, entrapment occurs when you entice another person — who would not otherwise break the law — into committing a crime. It’s not entrapment, however, if you simply present a criminal opportunity to someone with criminal intent.

That’s why police stings are legal. That’s what O’Keefe says he does. He lays the trap and waits for people to walk into it.

“While manipulation or entrapment occurs when people are encouraged to do things they otherwise wouldn’t, the pre-set trap is their own,” he wrote in describing his ACORN videos on Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com.

O’Keefe has a point.

Whatever we call this surreptitiously recorded audio and video, we’re going to see more of it. We shouldn’t merely focus on the scandalous words uttered by an NPR executive or Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. We should think about what this work is, where it fits in the media landscape, and why it gets attention.

The attention is as important as the images. If no one paid attention to O’Keefe’s videos, ACORN would still be registering voters and Vivian Schiller would still be handing out those distinctive, narrow NPR business cards.

James O’Keefe understands the role of supply and demand in the media marketplace.

Right now there’s an oversupply of certain kinds of media, particularly opinionating and aggregation. Investigative journalism, however, is relatively scarce; journalists complain that it’s even harder to go deep in the always-on, instant-reaction environment of the Web.

On O’Keefe’s website, Project Veritas (tagline: “promoting modern-day muckrakers”), he seeks donations to train a corps of citizen journalists:

“With the pool of journalists decreasing each year — and truly independent investigative journalism all but abandoned by the mainstream media — James O’Keefe and Project Veritas represent one of the last remaining commitments to exposing unethical practices and behavior through unique investigation.”

On the demand side, some conservatives – not all — are tired of having a few liberal media outlets drive coverage. They want media that reflects their beliefs.

“The left no longer controls the flow of information and therefore no longer can control the narrative,” wrote L. Brent Bozell III, founder of the Media Research Center and CNSNews.com.

Like Matt Drudge, O’Keefe has news judgment: He knows what his audience wants and he tries to deliver it.

Reductio ad absurdum logic is dramatic.

If you want to show that someone’s argument is false, a standard debate tactic is to follow it until you arrive at an absurd, yet logical conclusion.

O’Keefe started doing this when he was a student at Rutgers University. In 2004, he and some other students posed as members of an Irish heritage group and complained to a school official that they were offended by seeing Lucky Charms served in the dining hall. O’Keefe, wearing a flat cap, said the leprechaun on the box is “portrayed as a little green-cladded gnome. As you can see, we’re not all short — we have our differences in height. We think this is stereotypical of all Irish-Americans.”

“It’s a no-win situation for them,” O’Keefe said in a 2009 New York Times story about the predicament he placed school officials in. “If they say yes, then they’re ridiculous — they’ve gone off the deep end. And if they say no, then they’re being racist, they’re hurting Irish-Americans.”

Same thing with Mary Landrieu, who was quoted in a news story saying that the reason constituents couldn’t reach her regarding the health care bill debate in 2009 was that her phones had been jammed for weeks.

So O’Keefe and his partners decided to go into Landrieu’s office in New Orleans, posing as telephone repairmen responding to a complaint that the phones weren’t working. If people couldn’t reach Landrieu, her phones must be broken. If they work, she must have been avoiding those calls. Get it?

That dichotomy is unlikely to win a college debate, but it thrives on the Internet. And it could have made for some entertaining, embarrassing visuals, which is one of the points of such videos, as Adam Hochberg noted in his recent story about “undercover activists.”

Which brings us to Ron Schiller’s lunch with two members of a purported Muslim group that wanted to donate to NPR. He and his colleague Betsy Liley were in a no-win situation. Either NPR would be willing to take $5 million from a Muslim Brotherhood front group that advocates for “the establishment of Sharia worldwide.” Or its leaders would refuse the money, revealing themselves as hypocrites who are just as prejudiced against Muslims as Juan Williams.

It was Williams’ firing, according to Howard Kurtz, that inspired O’Keefe to create a website for the fake Muslim Education Action Center. “Since NPR executives dropped Williams for his remarks about Muslims, ‘I’m merely putting their beliefs to the test.’ ”

In this way, O’Keefe is a lot like Michael Moore, who gets in his best digs by forcing executives and government officials to defend the absurd extremes of their policies.

The soundbite makes the story.

Well before you saw the Ron Schiller video, you knew what he said. The key to these recordings is the shocking soundbites, often highlighted at the beginning of each video and repeated throughout:

These soundbites enable O’Keefe to create simple, core narratives:

  • Planned Parenthood wants to abort black babies.
  • Planned Parenthood covers up crimes in order to provide abortions to minors.
  • ACORN works with criminals to defraud the federal government.

That’s why the video of Ron Schiller is so damaging to NPR’s reputation. It appears, notes Tucker Carlson, to confirm the worst stereotype of public radio officials — that they’re elitist, liberally biased and have nothing but contempt for people with legitimate, opposing political beliefs like members of the tea party.

They said it. We can hear them. We can see them. What else do we need to know?

If it’s raw, it must be real.

Aside from extreme cases in which going undercover is the only way to get a story, disclosing your identity is a key part of ethical journalism.

This creates the journalistic equivalent of the “observer effect” in quantum mechanics: By disclosing that you’re a journalist, you change the story to some extent. People act differently when you tell them you’re a journalist. They choose their words carefully. They hold back.

O’Keefe opts for deception over disclosure. In a court filing for the Landreiu episode, his lawyers explained why:

“The group devised a plan involving disguises because they believed that if they simply entered Senator Landrieu’s office and identified themselves as journalists they would not likely receive truthful answers. They thought it likely that Senator Landrieu’s staff would be more candid with a repairman than a reporter.”

It’s easy to overlook this deception because the videos seem to be truth unto themselves. Rather than tainting the videos, the shakiness seems to authenticate what we see. “The hidden camera simply shows the truth,” said a friend of O’Keefe in a 2009 New York Times story.

And yet these videos are still crafted — not polished like a newspaper story, but heavily edited to make key points. They showcase the soundbites.

Context complicates the story.

“Context is everything,” journalists say. But it’s missing from these videos.

“All journalism is edited,” O’Keefe told Kurtz last week. “You’re not going to print the transcript of your conversation with me.”

O’Keefe may not spend time explaining the original context of his videos, but others have used it to demonstrate how he works.

O’Keefe didn’t release the unedited versions of his ACORN videos (although full audio and transcripts were posted on BigGovernment.com), but the California attorney general reviewed a few as part of an investigation into possible wrongdoing by the community action group.

The review found some key differences between three videos depicting ACORN offices in California. At one office, an employee said ACORN would not help O’Keefe and his partner secure a housing loan for a prostitution business. Another time, an employee told police that O’Keefe and his partner had come to his office and talked about smuggling underage girls into the U.S for prostitution.

What about the most outrageous element of those ACORN videos: the pimp costume? The California attorney general’s office determined that O’Keefe wore a shirt and tie in these visits, not the fur coat, hat and cane shown in other parts of the videos. Media Matters wrote about the misrepresentation, but that was six months later, long after the narrative of the pimp costume had been established.

The videos wouldn’t have had quite the same punch with those complicating details and without the flourish of the fur coat. They would have obstructed the truth that O’Keefe seeks to expose. So he left it out.

O’Keefe did post the apparently unedited version of his initial NPR video. (It’s been viewed about 21,000 times, compared to nearly a million for the edited version on YouTube.) The Blaze did an excellent job of analyzing the unedited version and comparing it to the one that most of us saw:

“Do these areas reveal problematic editing choices? Are assertions made in the video misleading? Are the tactics used by the video producers unethical? … Perspective and context are essential elements in bringing truth to the forefront. To exclude or alter them can obscure truths rather than reveal them.”

The Blaze story identifies several important differences that color viewers’ perception of what happened:

  • Connections to the Muslim Brotherhood are decidedly less prominent in the unedited version.
  • “In the raw video, Schiller also speaks positively about the GOP. He expresses pride in his own Republican heritage and his belief in fiscal conservatism.”
  • The description of members of the tea party as “xenophobic” and “seriously racist” isn’t Ron Schiller’s; he is recounting the opinions of two top Republicans, although Schiller did agree with it.
  • While the edited video indicates that Ron Schiller believes liberals are more educated than conservatives, in the raw video he “is hesitant to criticize the education of conservatives and the other executive, Betsy Liley, is outspoken in her defense of the intellects of Fox News viewers.”
  • In the raw video, Ron Schiller “explains the risk to local stations in more detail and why NPR is doing ‘everything we can to advocate for federal funding.’ “

There’s a difference — though O’Keefe ignores it — between “a truth” and “the truth.”

All these surreptitiously recorded comments, whether uttered by a low-level office employee or a high-level executive, are portrayed as if they represent official policy of these organizations.

“We’ve just exposed the true hearts and minds of NPR and their executives,” O’Keefe’s website generalizes in describing the video and asking for money to support similar efforts.

NPR has said that Ron Schiller’s comments don’t reflect its policy and opinions. But after watching that edited video, whom will most people believe?

The best investigative journalists try to disprove their hypotheses. They try to verify and confirm, even when they’re tempted by the sexy quote. They know that while journalism is iterative, the truth is rarely singular or simplistic. In the process of forming the whole picture, they make their stories stronger.

“The evidence illustrates,” California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. said in a news release about the ACORN videos, “that things are not always as partisan zealots portray them through highly selective editing of reality. Sometimes a fuller truth is found on the cutting room floor.”

Tucker Carlson demurred on this point in Kurtz’s story. “I may have aesthetic qualms about it, but the point of journalism is the story. … The main question you ask is, is it true?”

In O’Keefe’s videos, not even the people who went undercover may know the answer.

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  • http://twitter.com/Sean_for_3 Sean Ogden

    Stupid doesn’t begin to describe you. He did not break into a federal building. IT WAS OPEN! They walked in as telephone repairmen. All they wanted to do is see if the phones were actually working because they were being told that Louisiana CITIZENS were trying to call Sen Landrieu’s office to voice their opposition to Obamacare and the phones were not being answered. So they were basically pinched for impersonating telephone repairmen! http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/01/nj_activist_james_okeefe_touts.html

    Oh and this is just hilarious…”You think some employer is going to overlook that he has to be watched every time he enters into ANY Government building?” Judging by his chosen profession (citizen journalist), I would say he will most likely not work for anyone (he does have a web site), or there will be plenty of like minded new media sites that will be more than happy to pay him (read: Andrew Breitbart)! Seriously, what planet do you live on where that is even a concern? Anyway, it’s a misdemeanor…most people will look at a DWI more critically!

    If you are saying that dubbing was done on that video, you’re dreaming! Watch any movie on network TV where there was cursing on the unedited version. Notice how you can tell where the words were dubbed? Those or PROFESSIONALS doing that. I didn’t hear any of that in O’Keefe’s video. The background noise is the same throughout the video, you would know where the dubbing occurred.

    And regarding the California investigation…CASE CLOSED. Then AG Jerry Brown did not prosecute. And Philly? Gee…I haven’t heard anything about that in years!

    Before you go wondering about the intelligence of someone, make damn sure you have your facts straight!

  • Anonymous

    Is this Bertha Lewis? So you’re a computer crime fighter, a lawyer, a beat cop and what else? Do you work for the BAU as well? Good grief.

  • Anonymous

    LOL Yes ma’am.

    I stand by my last statement in which I agreed with you I just think they should be enforced at the federal level as well. Both Holder and Obama are ignoring federal law.

    Clearly it doesn’t bother you that ACORN employees have the moral compass of degenerate pedophiles. Luckily it wasn’t up to you, however, it bugged the rest of the US and Congress enough that it was defunded.

  • Anonymous

    JSG1: Which of these “juicy” parts would you call an accurate portrayal of how NPR reports the news?

    C: That’s a red herring that’s not what any of this is about.

    Oh? A story or video clip about NPR is not about the content of its broadcasts? What is NPR apart from what it broadcasts?

    C: One could make the argument thought that if this is how the management feels it’s not to hard to guess that they hire people with similar beliefs.

    One could make any number of arguments about any number of things. Where is the evidence, based on NPR broadcasts, that it carries water for organizations that want to spread Sharia law?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711120472 Domenica Iacovone

    When you are sinking to the same level as the criminal, you are no better than than criminal himself. And Mr. O’Keefe now has a Federal record. How low can you go?

  • Anonymous

    At no point did I think the “episode didn’t happened” And yes he resigned- and
    really he should NOT have. He should have stood by his beliefs as being his-
    just as Rush Limbaugh does. He should not have to quit his job over an occurance
    that was a set up from the beginning. Were I to set up a meeting with Rush
    Limbaugh and coerce him into sharing his views on blacks and gays while “off
    air”- I would expect him to share things that would not necessarily end up on
    public record. Should I make a video- reedit it- and present it as fact because
    I don’t believe in his viewpoint? We all hold differing beliefs, that is our
    right. Rush Limbaugh, and to some extent all of us- believe in what we are
    saying- that does not make it true. Rush can fervently believe the world is
    flat- that obviously does not make it so!


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711120472 Domenica Iacovone

    Your point is you have no problem lowering yourself to level of criminals. You pretty much have this imaginary criminal justice system in your head that does not exist. I was a sexual abuse and computer crimes detective I lived in the criminal justice system, I’ve investigated and brought forth true probable cause, I’ve worked the streets, I know the laws. You however live in the justice system of the TV which is pretty much fictional just like O’Keefe’s “honesty” and “integrity”.

    Acorn is no longer under investigation because they were found INNOCENT. They even won a case with the Ohio Federal Court against Blackwell for voter registration interference in 2008. SOS Blackwell was found malfeasant in his job of voter registration. And please you do not want to get into battle with me over voter fraud, because I will literally clean up the road with on that. I was an election judge and know the processes inside and out along with the Election fraud indictments and convictions in 2005, and the last voter who committed voter fraud in Ohio and was convicted was a Republican who voted twice in the 2008 election. So please spare me your fairy tales.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711120472 Domenica Iacovone

    Why should I contact Holder when he’s the FEDERAL AG when the state AG’s are perfectly capable of taking care of the problem.

    Maybe you should just grow the hell up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711120472 Domenica Iacovone

    They are also suing because it was shown by the investigation of the Attorney Generals that film was altered. Voices were dubbed in at a later time, and splicing was initialized to make one answer fit in to another question. I’m pretty sure that evidence by the law offices involved will be corroborated when all the evidence of discovery is turned over. IE any equipment that O’Keefe used.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711120472 Domenica Iacovone

    They are also suing because it was shown by the investigation of the Attorney Generals that film was altered. Voices were dubbed in at a later time, and splicing was initialized to make one answer fit in to another question. I’m pretty sure that evidence by the law offices involved will be corroborated when all the evidence of discovery is turned over. IE any equipment that O’Keefe used.

  • Anonymous

    Good evening.

    This is an obvious misrepresentation of what Schiller was talking about and gives the game away from the get-go. Agree or disagree?

    I agree that initially it is misleading, however, Schiller is told later in the conversation exactly who these men are and who the represent. There is no ambiguity about it either, they tell Schiller they’re with the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood’s stated goals are spreading Sharia Law across the world. They’ll tell anyone willing to listen. It was pretty ironic that Schiller compared Muslims to women’s struggle for equality.

    Another video has come out where the other lady at the table is working on ways to help hide the donation to NPR. They want to remain anonymous for obvious reasons and she coming up with ways to help them do so.

    This undermines the clip’s intended identification of Schiller’s and funders’ views with what NPR broadcasts and would have provided a more accurate picture of what actually happens at NPR if it had been left in. Agree or disagree?

    Disagree because the unedited video is available, to anyone that wants to see everything that transpired it’s available. More importantly that’s also not the point he’s trying to make, if you go to Project Veritas O’Keefe website he explains what he’s trying to do.


    O’Keefe We’ve just exposed the true hearts and minds of NPR and their executives.

    He’s putting on display how a publicly funded organization feels about half the people that fund them. It’s been a long contested point by those on the right that NPR and PBS are both left leaning organization and as such should stand on their own two feet we know they can afford to. That’s what this is all about. NPR is catering to explicitly stated member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Which of these “juicy” parts would you call an accurate portrayal of how NPR reports the news?

    That’s a red herring that’s not what any of this is about. One could make the argument thought that if this is how the management feels it’s not to hard to guess that they hire people with similar beliefs. Look how they treated Juan Williams. Open mindedness is not the hallmark of management at NPR.

  • Anonymous

    people like you do not value ethics This coming from the person who keeps trying to defend an organization that turned a blind eye to prostitution and child prostitution. You still don’t see anything wrong with what ACORN was willing to do. Thanks I’ll take my “simple minded” approach it doesn’t leave me with so many blinders against reprehensible behavior.

  • Anonymous

    Right he resigned early because he was completely misquoted with bad editing. You want to see some misquotes go check out what people say Rush Limbaugh has said. That’s some incredibly bad misquoting. He doesn’t apologize for what he’s said or try and back track his statements, he defends them, because he believes what he’s saying.

    Ron Schiller While the meeting I participated in turned out to be a ruse, I made statements during the course of the meeting that are counter to NPR’s values and also not reflective of my own beliefs. I offer my sincere apology to those I offended. I previously resigned from NPR effective May 6th to accept another job. In an effort to put this unfortunate matter behind us, NPR and I have agreed that my resignation is effective today.

    He admits espousing things that he shouldn’t have but for some reason that’s not enough proof. It’s just bad editing so the entire episode didn’t happen.

  • Anonymous

    You seem hung up on such an obscure point that it’s baffling to me. Two people are suing O’Keefe and Giles because their state have a law that says you can’t film with out consent. Fine they should have known that ahead of time, that’s there mistake.

    AN ENTIRE ORGANIZATION WAS DEFUNDED BY THE US GOVERNMENT BECAUSE WHAT THEY WERE DOING WAS ILLEGAL AND REPREHENSIBLE. Two people because of a strange state law are suing that they couldn’t be legally video taped with out their consent.

    Journalist tried their hardest to spin the story like this instead, :


    I can’t wait for full disclosure either because the more that gets disclosed the worse it looks for the folks on the left. We love the fact that light is being shown on all of this we encourage it. Especially disclosure in the Pigford case. Really, really can’t wait for that one. Breitbart is eating the left for breakfast lunch and dinner. This man single handedly shut down paid union protesters.


  • Anonymous

    My point is that ACORN was defunded by liberals as well as conservatives. For some reason both sides agreed that what they witnessed was reprehensible. Can you admit that part?

    ACORN is also under investigation for voter fraud but that’s a different story. ACORN was a corrupt organization that took tax payer money. They were exposed and defunded good on O’Keefe and Giles.

    Really all I want to know is can you admit that helping procure housing for prostitution and child prostitution is reprehensible? In your world view is that problematic?

  • Anonymous

    Schiller and Schiller filed lawsuits against O’Keefe?

    Are you talking about a couple of people from ACORN who are suing because their state doesn’t allow video taping with out consent? They might have something there, but they have to be careful because it will open them up to being tried criminally. O’Keefe and Giles are both witnesses to what actually happened in that office and there’s two of them so it’s no longer a he said she said situation. Do you think what they were video tapped doing was reprehensible at all?

    You should tell Holder how much you think the law needs to actually be carried out. You should write to Obama as well. Seems neither of those two have much respect for the law either, but lets be concerned about a young man with a video camera.

  • http://twitter.com/King_Gonad King Gonad

    As far as you know.

  • Anonymous

    He manipulated the video by cutting out parts and then reedited it to make it
    appear Schiller was laughing at moments that were actually unrelated to the real
    conversation. He falsified the video! Where is the “truth” in that? Schillers
    got fired because people like you AND the people at NPR reacted without
    bothering to do proper research on what was actually said in the totality of the
    conversation. Your reference to the muslims and Nascar is untrue- Okeefe spliced
    the video together to make people think that is what was being said- he did it
    because he knows that people like you will believe anything put out by right
    wing propaganda. Honestly, its the lack of solid research and strong critical
    thinking skills that have allowed people on the left AND the right to manipulate
    public opinion.


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711120472 Domenica Iacovone

    Those 2 employees have filed a lawsuit against O’Keefe and they were motioned to go through the justice system about 5 months ago. So maybe you should just keep quiet about those two people until we know for sure that O’Keefe’s Daddy isn’t going to paying a lot of money to those employees, because of their son’s lack of “smarts”. Because you see that lawsuit is going to be very very interesting, because O’Keefe’s computers and his editing programs along with Breitbart’s involvement will be in the disclosure of those lawsuits. Disclosure is the fun part of all lawsuits.

  • Anonymous

    Good morning.

    Of course O’Keefe “makes the edited video as juicy as possible.” It’s how he does it that creates the lie. I’m talking about the Schiller video, not the ACORN one, which I haven’t seen.

    The lie in the Schiller clip has nothing to do with Schiller’s disparaging view of the Tea Party, and whether or not he’s a Republican is irrelevant. He clearly dumped all over Tea Party taxpayers who are among those helping to pay his salary, and if that didn’t do him in then his apparent acquiescence to the notion that pro-Zionist Jews control the newspaper industry would have.

    The lie was the clear attempt of the clip to frame NPR as a news outlet that is happy to carry water for radical muslims. The clip begins by citing a statement on the website of the supposed Muslim group that says it aims to spread Sharia law. The clip then shows Schiller arriving at the restaurant table and saying, “They said that!” and laughing. The full video shows that Schiller was talking about and laughing at a mixup in the restaurant, but the “juicy” part made it look as if he was laughingly responding to the statement about spreading Sharia law.

    This is an obvious misrepresentation of what Schiller was talking about and gives the game away from the get-go. Agree or disagree?

    Later in the unedited video Schiller says, “There’s such a thick firewall between funding and reporting, and reporters will not be swayed in any way, shape or form.” This undermines the clip’s intended identification of Schiller’s and funders’ views with what NPR broadcasts and would have provided a more accurate picture of what actually happens at NPR if it had been left in. Agree or disagree?

    Another part of the clip puts the statement, “Uneducated Americans oppose Muslim Brotherhood,” on the screen while Schiller is talking, although he never said that.

    Which of these “juicy” parts would you call an accurate portrayal of how NPR reports the news?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711120472 Domenica Iacovone

    It’s going away apparently because people like you do not value ethics or what’s another word for it “family values” anymore. It’s easier for the simple minded to go for the “simple solution” even if it doesn’t involve any ethics..

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711120472 Domenica Iacovone

    And I’m sure any reasonable person who’s interested in answers about Catch a Predator would just ask simple questions of which lawyers and police officers are also involved in it’s process?

    Because any reasonable person would find out there’s quite a few of them involved. Or maybe some people just don’t read the credits?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711120472 Domenica Iacovone

    If I remember right those 2 people have lawsuits filed against him, which were moved forward into the system about 5 months ago.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711120472 Domenica Iacovone

    Change the subject? Was he or was he not under Federal probation for breaking into a Federal building that was knocked down when he plead guilty when he did this? Have you ever had to apply for a job with a Federal crime attached to your history? You think some employer is going to overlook that he has to be watched every time he enters into ANY Government building?

    He changed the answers to the question in the NPR tapes just like he did with Acorn. He dubbed in questions after the fact just like the 2 criminal investigations in Philadelphia AND California.

    Seriously ARE YOU THAT STUPID?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711120472 Domenica Iacovone

    P.S. Democrats controlled congress when ACORN was defunded.

    And kindly remind us what bill that the Acorn defunding by Darell Issa attached? Along with the Republican Commendation letter they gave to O’Keefe before the Attorney Generals of two states ended the investigation showing the results of heavily dubbed and edited tapes and that O’Keefe could be prosecuted for breaking state laws and 2 laws suits were filed against the pimp?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711120472 Domenica Iacovone

    I’m mean after all…the simple idiot of a boy did go to “law school”, but some how does not know simple laws like Federal Bldg and Communication systems, and or which states have an ALL or Single party Permission to record state.

  • http://twitter.com/bobbutler7 Bob Butler

    That you would call O’Keefe an investigative journalist is a slap in the face of real journalists whose only agenda is to tell the truth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711120472 Domenica Iacovone

    Maybe you should recognize I’m fixated on the legal issue mostly, because I’m a retired police detective. But then as a detective, the first thing I would have done is start with calls to the phone company and then calls to the Federal building to see if there had been any phone problems and using FOIA’s to get any information as a Federal Bldg and Senator’s office does fall under the FOIA realm.

    Hey but then what’s the point of real investigative work when you can just act like a mafia thug?

  • http://www.rankcar.com Mattyang

    Of course, what a great site and informative posts, I will add backlink – bookmark this site? Regards, Reader.

  • Anonymous

    I think To Catch a Predator is great. I’ve often wondered why there aren’t more programs like it.
    I’m asking more from the perspective that a journalist is lying to pedophiles in an effort to trick them into coming to a house for a TV program. Does that make what they do a lie to you? I’m not against it I’m just trying to understand where you’re drawing the line.

    Are you saying that it just comes down to whether or not the tape has been edited? As in it’s not a continuous visual display of what transpired. If you watch the video in full does that mean you accept that as truth but the edited as false. Most people wont sit down and watch the entirety of anything. We live in a soundbite world because that’s all people pay attention to. Here’s why people edit things down because some people can’t be bothered with watching the entire thing. Including the NPR Ombudsman, read this Twitter exchange.


    O’Keefe makes the edited video as juicy as possible because otherwise he’s just ignored. Which happened over the ACORN story for quite sometime. Until after the 5th or 6th video of the same thing happening came out and finally it had to be addressed. The same thing happened though all one has to say is oh it’s edited so it’s therefore fraudulent. I read the transcripts that went along with the video and it’s astounding. The fact that the didn’t actually look like what they appeared to look like in the opening of the video’s is a moot point after reading what the conversations where.

    So what I’m trying to understand is do you think because he wasn’t dressed the same way in the opening scene as in the interviews itself that somehow makes what transpired in the video suddenly a lie and as such a non issue?

  • Anonymous

    If you’re talking about the CNBC show I have no idea what gets left on the cutting room floor. That’s the test in the case of O’Keefe’s clips.

    What’s your take on the Predators show?

  • Anonymous

    What I find so interesting about this is that everyone is quick to pull out some sort of rule book on O’Keefe but turn a blind eye to what shambles the entire “journalism” industry is in as a whole. There’s a reason print media is going away and fewer and fewer people watch the news on TV any more; it’s a lap dog not a watch dog anymore.

    The main problem is that most left leaning organizations have gotten a pass on pretty much everything for so long that they’ve forgotten how to be deceptive. They think they all have green lights to do as they please because no one in the media would dare do what O’Keefe did. When you read the transcripts of the ACORN sting it’s almost comical because you can’t believe they’re going along with it. It seems far to obvious and the questions are so outreageous that it’s stunning. People can clamor on about editing but that’s just a cop out. What O’Keefe has exposed multiple times now is damning; period.

    Should people be doing it, yes because we obviously can’t rely on publicly funded entities to be honest about what’s really going on. When asked if they need public funding it’s, yes yes yes. In private it’s no we’d be better off with out them. Not to mention what bothers me the most, they were willing to take funds from a terrorist front group and help them hide those efforts. I’m pretty sure that’s illegal on a couple of levels but specifically on aiding and abetting the enemy, which is a capital offense. So while you split hairs about should he have done it and is it ethical or a valid form of journalism I think the result speak for themselves. A publicly funded organization is willing to help out our enemies in a time or war and a publicly funded organization was willing to help get housing for child prostitution. Ya I think the public deserves to know about this sort of corruption.

    Way to go O’Keefe can’t wait for the next video!

  • Anonymous

    You might not call him a journalist but I know two people that call themselves unemployed because of him and an entire organization that’s been defunded by congress because of him as well. He might not be a journalist by your standards but he certainly is a force of nature.

  • Anonymous

    What a pathetic mumbo jumbo of nonsense about a nasty little domestic terrorist using ‘journalism’ as his cover while being paid by his KOCH handlers.

    The Koch brother? I’m willing to bet you that most people on the right had never even heard of them until just recently. I certainly hadn’t, it’s a weak meme at best but when you’re grasping at straws I guess you’ll take anything. So Schiller resigned over some nonsense and ACORN was defunded because of nonsense? Domestic terrorist….really are you serious about that?

    Am I the only sane American that voices this? This article is an embarrassing ‘catch up’ to the vile propagandists now considered ‘normal press’

    Oh you are serious about that, I’d question the whole sane part then.

    You have failed U.S. miserably ~ the 4th column has crumbled. Shame on you.

    You’re right about this but you’re putting the blame on the wrong person, it’s because the 4th column has crumbled and become a lap dog that people like O’Keefe are stepping to the plate. Remember Schiller resigned after this video was released. People in the right don’t do that. In fact the ACORN employees quite to after those video came out.

    P.S. Democrats controlled congress when ACORN was defunded.

  • Anonymous

    I applaud your consistency.

    Is to Catch a Predator in your eyes a whole lie as well?

  • http://twitter.com/Sean_for_3 Sean Ogden

    Since you are so fixated on Sen. Landrieu’s office deal, do you have any idea what O’Keefe was trying to accomplish?

  • Anonymous

    Cuba wouldn’t show Michael Moore’s movie about health care in Cuba because it wasn’t actually representative of what all Cuban’s got by way of socialized medicine.

    They did seek housing for a prostitution ring involving minors it’s in the videos and the transcripts. He specifically asks about it and its answered multiple times in the affirmative. They have them on video figuring out how to make the underage girls a tax right off. One person actually called the police on them and good for him that’s what all of them should have done. Remember that all of those people at ACORN quite after each video was released. If it was all fake and edited why’d they quit?

    You can’t just watch one clip from Media Matters and think you saw what actually happened.

  • http://twitter.com/Sean_for_3 Sean Ogden

    Good! Change the subject! Did he lie about NPR? Stay on topic.

  • Anonymous

    So dishonest in fact that one person resigned on the spot and the other got the boot. That tells me that it’s not quite as dishonest as you keep trying to make it sound. Everyone is trying to split hairs over the tactic of it so they don’t have to admit just how damning all his videos have been. Taken as a whole why isn’t the conversation about how despicable/illegal most of those acts actually are? Oh because as long as we keep the focus on O’Keefe tactics the less we have to face the truths that he keeps exposing.

    Just one person that can willingly agree to child prostitution is enough for me to think an organization needs to be shut down. When you find that most are willing well that just disturbing. I don’t care what the person asking the question is wearing that’s not even relevant.

    I’m sure everyone here was in an uproar when this was tried at NASCAR with Muslim with no success. Nope most people just carried on the lie that NASCAR fans and by extension Tea Party members are all racist. We heard just as much from Schiller.

    The lefts foundation are being exposed and they don’t like it. Modern technology has made exposing liars much easier. That’s why O’Keefe has to do this undercover because if he came out and asked those specific questions, like many have, you get the, “what us biased? NO, never!” Along comes O’Keefe and suddenly we get down to the truth. And the truth is what got both Schillers essentially fired.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, I would.

  • Anonymous

    Would you say the same thing about Michael Moore and his half truth about the Cuban medical system being better than the American medical system. I believe it was Cuba that wouldn’t even let his video be shown in their country for fear that the regular citizens might see how bad they actually have it. Not to mention a couple months after that video was released people were dying of hypothermia in Cuban health facilities.

  • Anonymous

    Not really much to argue about when it comes to the tactics described here. A half truth is a whole lie.

  • Anonymous

    James Okeefe is out for James Okeefe. Peroid! There is nothing professional in his tactics- manipulating images for sensation and press does not make him a journalist. It’s disgusting that people find merit in his entrapment of people. He should be seen as a coward and an opportunist.

  • Anonymous

    James Okeefe’s mission is to make James Okeefe famous. Peroid! His tactics are dishonest and there is nothing professional about his so called journalism. He deliberately edited video to mislead people about the content of the interviews. Its disgusting that people believe in his tactics- he does not operate with integrity nor does he care about the impact of falsifying information.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711120472 Domenica Iacovone

    Right….That’s why he’s on Federal probation

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711120472 Domenica Iacovone

    Right….That’s why he’s on Federal probation

  • http://twitter.com/Sean_for_3 Sean Ogden


  • http://twitter.com/Sean_for_3 Sean Ogden

    But he was untruthful, O’Keefe wasn’t.

  • http://twitter.com/King_Gonad King Gonad

    Alan Grayson never claimed to be a journalist.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think either of you know how to properly use a hashtag.

  • http://twitter.com/Sean_for_3 Sean Ogden

    So you have proof, want or can’t show it, and then you hit with a personal attack. #AsIfYouKnowMe Your Zen is artificial.

  • http://twitter.com/mommadona mommadona

    We are now in #Beck mode ~ and U’ve proven my point ~ #FishInnaBarrel Moment of Zen, I must say.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/QCOLME2YGHQK2YATXQFQ677Q34 Frances T

    Michale Moore is different from James O’Keefe in an important way. He doesn’t wear costumes or use phony set -ups. He identifies himself, looks the person face. Moore is shown interacting with person, so you can see what he says and how he says it, not just the person who is being interviewed.
    O’Keefe never identifies himself, and the tapes are shown out of context. In the case of an OKeefe sting, The question being asked and the question being answered is not necessarily what you see or hear. In the ACORN sting the person was asked for help in finding housing for a person who was a former prostitute. The edited video purports to claim they sought housing for a prostitution ring.

  • http://twitter.com/Sean_for_3 Sean Ogden

    OOOOO…that was great 3rd grade logic! I asked YOU for the proof, since you made the accusation. Otherwise, you are a 3rd grader. :p

  • http://twitter.com/Sean_for_3 Sean Ogden

    That was good, but you really did an “Alan Grayson”. You obviously have not seen the unedited video, which actually ends the same way as the edited video.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=736728156 Tony Shepps

    “O’Keefe wasn’t really dressed in a pimp costume!!” OMG, so the ACORN workers thought they were giving highly immoral and illegal advice to, you know, powerful well-dressed white people, and not some street jackass out of central casting. Does that make it better? To me, it makes it worse.

    “But it was illegal for him to enter federal offices posing as a repairman!” Which didn’t invalidate O’Keefe’s actual point at all.

    “Schiller was just quoting somebody!” But please, if you are honest with yourself, he was quoting somebody to generate agreement with the idea. He didn’t end his quote with even a hint of “A ha ha, but of course I don’t agree with that! I stop short of calling them racists!”

    My point is, many people found the editing and thought it was an “Aha” moment “And this makes everything O’Keefe did fundamentally wrong and invalid!” But it didn’t. If in fact it directly did so, the reportage of the editing would go farther and wider. If you are complaining that it didn’t, perhaps there is a reason the next 48 hours weren’t so catastrophic for O’Keefe.

    In every case.

  • http://twitter.com/ForrestUUID Forrest X. Leeson

    “What O’Keefe does IS …. just unfortunate … to attempt to explain, or defend, or rationalize this …. is extraordinarily ignorant of the facts of …. the UNEDITED video.”

    O’Keefe’d that for you.

  • http://twitter.com/mommadona mommadona

    Why yes I do as a matter of fact. Prove me wrong. #SeeHowThatWorks? #BeckU

  • http://twitter.com/mommadona mommadona

    Why yes I do as a matter of fact. Prove me wrong. #SeeHowThatWorks? #BeckU

  • http://twitter.com/mommadona mommadona

    Bullshit. #fact

  • http://twitter.com/Sean_for_3 Sean Ogden

    Do you have PROOF the Koch brothers are paying O’Keefe, or is that just you latching on to the flavor of the month?

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    Hi folks, thanks for reading and commenting. I’m in the middle of some sessions at South by Southwest, but I’ll read these shortly and respond appropriately.

    -Steve Myers

  • http://twitter.com/Sean_for_3 Sean Ogden

    WOW! You must be a contortionist, because there’s a lot of stretching there!

    “Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.” ~J.C. Watts

    That is it!

    Schiller could have easily said, “I don’t like the tone this discussion has, can we move to another topic?” or “That is not how NPR operates.” James O’Keefe nor his actors in this are not predators, and NPR is not a victim.

    What O’Keefe does IS journalism. What Lila Rose is doing IS journalism. It’s just unfortunate that all of you have forgotten what journalism is. And for you to attempt to explain, or defend, or rationalize this on the part of your perceived “victims” is extraordinarily ignorant of the facts of even the UNEDITED video.

    And a slower news cycle? That is laughable! That is another way of saying “Give us time to create a spin on this or decide if the people REALLY need to hear about this.” There is a reason for the 24 hr news cycle…there is a demand for it. So go ahead and let MSNBC or CNN go slow on the news. I know that if not FNC, then any of the new media will continue to spread information on a 24/7/365 basis.

  • http://twitter.com/mommadona mommadona

    Exactly. “DOH” Moment of Zen – is this ‘can’t see the forest for the trees’ as far as professional journalists? I weep for a free press. They have ruined it.

  • http://twitter.com/mommadona mommadona

    What a pathetic mumbo jumbo of nonsense about a nasty little domestic terrorist using ‘journalism’ as his cover while being paid by his KOCH handlers.

    Am I the only sane American that voices this? This article is an embarrassing ‘catch up’ to the vile propagandists now considered ‘normal press’

    You have failed U.S. miserably ~ the 4th column has crumbled. Shame on you.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ATGQJO4LY24T4FMUTL5ZMUZFZA nick

    This type of ‘journalism’ has been a common feature of News International papers, such as the News of the World for many years. Digital Journal provides a fine overview: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/299997

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711120472 Domenica Iacovone

    I don’t think going into a Federal Bldg under false pretext and accessory to false identity exactly others walking into a trap.

    For one thing when police set up a sting they are under the eye and the jurisdiction of evidential recovery. The evidence is in a chain of command that is watched and then put into storage. There is no chain of command when it comes to O’Keefe, except his little journalism school he attended with another well know “journalist” by the name of Jeff Gannon and he is not beyond breaking the law. If breaking the law is now a journalism trait then we no longer have the 4th estate just another criminal element to watch over.

    Might as well keep out the journalist part if they aren’t using any integrity to begin with. If you have to break the law to trap someone into something to get a story that’s just activism not journalism.

  • http://twitter.com/jcstearns Josh Stearns

    Good post Steve. You wade into the complicated and contradictory questions that animate these problematic cases of “entrapment journalism” (an apt phrase).

    One other thing that O’Keefe knows about the media is that corrections don’t make the news. If he can release a video that purports to reveal some outrage in a compelling manner, he knows it will get pick up on all the major news networks – and that in a 24 hour news environment our media is far too willing to rush to judgement. In every case – details have trickled out days later that have fundamentally changed the way people viewed these videos (this is your point about context). But the damage is done, and much of the audience has moved on to the next story. After the first 48 hours of a controversy O’Keefe can post the full video and say “look how transparent I am” because he knows that the momentum of the original story will carry the original narrative forward, and most people won’t report on the new context revealed in the full videos.

    Dan Gillmor talks about the need for a slow news movement, in his book Mediactive, specifically mentions O’Keefe – here is a related post:

  • http://twitter.com/barbarareader Barbara Russum

    james o’keefe is not a journalist

  • http://twitter.com/barbarareader Barbara Russum

    james o’keefe is not a journalist