The Pimp Stays in the Picture
Twice now, James O’Keefe had attracted powerful institutional partners — first the Leadership Institute, then Brietbart — and twice he’d managed to alienate them by crossing the lines of propriety. As always, he persevered — and wound up with one of his most spectacular triumphs yet.
Though no longer on the Breitbart payroll, by 2011 O’Keefe was tied into the larger conservative mix, and could effectively promote stories on his own. It was through that network that he pushed his magnificent duping of NPR. Over a week that March, O’Keefe released videos of a senior public radio director, Betsy Liley, entertaining an inquiry to shield donations from the IRS, as well as another sting in which Liley’s boss, Ronald Schiller, trashes the Tea Party on camera.
Along with commentators on the left, NPR first tried to dismiss the clip. But it was clear that O’Keefe landed a haymaker. Heads eventually rolled; both Schiller and NPR’s chief executive resigned within days. Then came more good news: after a long waiting period, in April of 2011, Project Veritas was granted tax-exempt status; two months later, a New Orleans court ruled that O’Keefe could travel freely again. Finally, he was released from the shackles of state supervision.
O’Keefe’s prizewinning return was even validated by the New York Times, which printed an overwhelmingly positive profile of Project Veritas that July. In the article, O’Keefe was in the process of engineering a devastating sequel to the ACORN kill, in which his confederates would march into Medicaid offices dressed as street thugs, and ask for advice on how to bury assets and score benefits. The Times profiler asked O’Keefe what it was like to be cooped up for so long, on probation and warned against engaging in hidden-camera hoaxes. “I’m not comparing my situation to the gulag,” he answered. “But . . . do we really want political prisoners in America?”
NEXT: O'Keefe and Naffe go after journalism professors in Manhattan, but their working relationship ends after an incident at O'Keefe's barn in New Jersey . . .