It turns out getting respected news organizations to believe you when you lie to them is harder than you might think.
Project Veritas, a conservative organization that is technically a charity, is known for using disruptive, often morally compromised tactics in its efforts to humiliate mainstream media outlets. CNN describes it as an “anti-media” organization. This time, their target was The Washington Post’s ongoing investigation into the sexual misconduct committed by Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore.
It started with a fake operative, and ended with Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe getting ridiculed endlessly on Twitter. Here’s what you need to know.
1. It began when a woman who called herself Lindsay James sent an email to WaPo.
“Roy Moore in Alabama .?.?. I might know something but I need to keep myself safe. How do we do this?” That was the main content of the email, received by Post reporter Beth Reinhard. After some communication back and forth which mostly revolved around “James” requesting promises of protection, they agreed to set up a meet.
2. Her story started to fall apart when reporters learned personal details.
Eventually, the woman gave WaPo her real name: Jaime Phillips. Phillips told Reinhard that she had been impregnated by Roy Moore when she was a teenager living in Alabama in the summer of 1992. She said she was only there for that summer, yet reporters noticed her cell phone number had an Alabama area code. Similarly, WaPo’s investigations into Phillips’ personal life only led to more falsehoods. A GoFundMe account in Phillips’ name was found, centering on her move from Alabama to New York “to combat the lies and deceipt of the liberal MSM.” When confronted about the GoFundMe, Phillips said she had interviewed with The Daily Caller. The Daily Caller had no records of any such interview.
3. Project Veritas hires operatives to go “undercover” in news organizations.
Phillips’ move to New York coincided with Project Veritas posting 12 job openings for undercover operatives to infiltrate news organizations, trick them into believing false stories, and record it all to embarrass those organizations. Reinhard and others were already suspicious of Phillips, and when Post reporters realized Phillips now lived just 16 miles away from Veritas’ headquarters, they figured there was a connection. They were right.
4. Phillips was seen entering Project Veritas’ headquarters after contacting The Washington Post.
And that was when the jig was up. The Washington Post now knew Phillips was a plant that had been trying to con them into publishing a fake story. It didn’t work. Instead of publishing the fake account, WaPo got to publish articles about how they saw through a two-bit conservative “anti-media” scheme.
5. It all ended with O’Keefe getting dragged by everyone on Twitter.
Everyone joined in. Beyond the expected left-wing dragging, CNN reports that even conservative outlets like National Review and The Daily Wire condemned Project Veritas’ attempt. Ben Shapiro called it horrible. Even nonpartisan corporate overlords like Netflix piled on.
If you want more information on the power of due diligence when reporting a major news story, Spotlight is now streaming.— Netflix US (@netflix) November 28, 2017
6. This isn’t the only attempt to discredit WaPo’s investigation into Roy Moore.
WaPo reports that several Alabama residents have confirmed that unknown people claiming to be Post reporters have called, offering money for damaging information against Roy Moore. Conservative websites like Gateway Pundit have helped spread this story, as they retweeted a (now-deleted) Twitter account alleging WaPo offered $1000 for information. (The Washington Post does not pay for its information.)
7. Nor is it the first time Veritas and O’Keefe have played fast and loose with the truth.
CNN reports that O’Keefe is known for exaggerating his findings in an effort to generate clicks. He so desperately wants his videos to be bombshell game-changers that he tends to heavily edit them to make himself look good. For example, take a look at his version of the confrontation with WaPo reporter Aaron C. Davis. You can also watch the unedited version at that link. They’re pretty different. O’Keefe has gotten into legal trouble for similar stunts in the past: CNN notes that he pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of entering federal property under false pretenses and was sentenced to three years’ probation and community service.
James O’Keefe has been on the defensive ever since this incident, as his organization has come under fire from all sides of the political spectrum. As his list of critics and detractors grows ever larger, it’s unclear what consequences his “charity” will see. WaPo, meanwhile will get back to work. There are plenty of real accusations of sexual misconduct against Roy Moore to report.
The Washington Post isn’t a perfect newspaper, but if you come at their journalistic integrity, you best not miss. James O’Keefe and Jaime Phillips missed.