The Trials of Nadia Naffe

By CHRIS FARAONE  |  March 4, 2013


Barn Storm

In September 2011, Naffe was living in Boston, and about to start classes at Harvard. So she happily accepted an invitation to join O’Keefe and Breitbart at an Americans for Prosperity luncheon in nearby Manchester. Naffe says O’Keefe was still sleeping when she got there around 10 am. She hung with Breitbart, and says the two discussed friends and politics over drinks and cigars. After a little over an hour, Naffe says O’Keefe finally showed up, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep. They had a lot to catch up on.

With the first-in-the-nation primary approaching, O’Keefe had been in New Hampshire to dispatch Project Veritas flunkies to polling stations. O’Keefe’s idea was to prove that voter fraud was a problem — by having volunteers illegally request actual ballots. In one instance, with the camera rolling, a Project Veritas conspirator obtained the ballot of a dead man. The ruse would later become the subject of a federal investigation into whether O’Keefe’s “investigation” itself constituted voter fraud. (One election-law expert joked to Talking Points Memo that perhaps for his next stunt, O’Keefe could show “how easy it is to rob a bank with a plastic gun.”) Tired as O’Keefe was, Naffe says he used most of their meeting in Manchester convincing her to join him for a trip to New York.

On the strength of their conversation in New Hampshire, Naffe agreed to take the Amtrak into Penn Station on September 21. As they cruised through Manhattan in O’Keefe’s classic Triumph convertible, they hashed out the final details of their latest pursuit, “To Catch A Journalist,” in which they’d set out to expose liberal communications professors as racist partisans who hate the Tea Party. The duo headed downtown, and parked by New York University’s Carter Journalism Institute. Like a DEA agent readying a narc for a drug buy, O’Keefe wired Naffe as they rehearsed her cover story.

Posing as a prospective student named Ashley, Naffe placed O’Keefe’s iPhone — set to record audio — in her bust, and headed into the journalism building. Her task: to find Carter professor and award-winning science writer Charles Seife, and to catch him saying something unsavory that could be used to nail NYU. Seife couldn’t be cracked though; the more Naffe tried to egg him on, she says he only became friendlier, and even dropped a previous appointment to give her a full tour.

“James was telling me that he’s a racist, and that [NYU] is an elitist institution,” says Naffe. “But Seife wasn’t anything close to a racist — the guy couldn’t have been nicer. He didn’t just tell me about the program — he walked me around the whole J-school and tried to set me up with an African-American mentor. He spent a whole hour with me and showed me all of their equipment. He even introduced me to an assistant to follow up with.”

Back outside, O’Keefe and Naffe stepped into a nearby cookie shop to debrief. Naffe says it was then that she confronted her partner. Weeks before, she’d learned that O’Keefe had beef with Seife, and was now concerned that her partner was using her to get revenge. About a year earlier, after learning about Boudreau and the “palace of pleasure,” the professor did some espionage of his own, and set out to impugn O’Keefe’s nonprofit’s filings — only to discover that they didn’t exist. Seife also filed a complaint with the IRS, and hounded the alleged 501(c)(3) until one of O’Keefe’s assistants admitted that the entity had yet to be approved as a tax-exempt organization.

Naffe was beginning to question the motives of O’Keefe and Project Veritas. Why, for one, was he alleging that Seife was a bigot? Still, against her gut instinct, Naffe agreed to keep hounding Seife and his colleagues. She contacted professors through email, and scheduled follow-up appointments. Naffe also pledged to return in less than two weeks and complete the NYU mission in person. But as she wouldlater allege, on Naffe’s second visit, there was no nice hotel room, as there had been on the first run. O’Keefe picked up Naffe at the Amtrak station in Newark, and began to drive around suburban New Jersey. Along the way, she says they stopped for dinner at Chipotle, and then again for a six-pack of beer. The whole time, they discussed ways to screw NYU the next morning.

After a long cruise through wooded Westwood, O’Keefe pulled up to Naffe’s accommodations for the night: a two-story barn on the property of an upscale suburban home. Naffe says details of their destination were not made clear on the ride, but it didn’t take long once they arrived for her to realize that she was inside Project Veritas headquarters. There were awards on the wall with O’Keefe’s engraved name on them; equipment from the RV in Los Angeles was set up on a desk. With contributions pouring in, O’Keefe had invested thousands on computers and surveillance equipment. His renovated barn was a full-service bunker for waging war against liberals.

O’Keefe sat in his editing cockpit and began to play the NYU recordings. Strangely, Naffe says, there were also candles lit around the room. She sipped a beer, and asked again about O’Keefe’s grudge against Seife. She also asked when he planned to leave so she could have privacy. After the long train ride, she was eager to shower and get to bed early. But Naffe says O’Keefe made several excuses for why he needed to stay — to watch a football game, to use his “stuff.” Then she turned her attention to a phone call with another guy, and the conversation flipped completely. O’Keefe stormed out, and peeled off. That’s when Naffe says that she began feeling woozy, as if she’d been drugged. As she’d relive in a letter to O'Keefe:

When you observed me lying in bed, talking on the phone with a male friend, you became noticeably upset. You picked up your penny loafers and stormed out of the room like a 10-year old boy having a tantrum . . . .I tried to escape from the barn as quickly as I could. I tried to run away, but I didn’t know where I was. I felt disoriented after drinking the alcohol you purchased. It was pitch black outside and there were no lights . . . there was no heat inside . . . .When I told you I felt sick, you didn’t seem surprised.

According to Naffe, O’Keefe only returned when she threatened to call the police and trash his equipment. Utterly confused, she remembers crawling around on the floor, nauseous, and calling Breitbart for help. When he didn’t answer, she says she phoned O’Keefe’s assistant, and smashed a glass jar holding a candle against the wall to prove that she meant business. Only then, she says, did O’Keefe return, this time with a middle-aged man whose presence sent her into a panic. Naffe says the last thing she remembers is getting helped into the back seat of the nameless associate’s Chevy Malibu, and drifting in and out of consciousness before arriving at Penn Station for a late train back to Massachusetts.

NEXT: Naffe learns who her friends are - and aren't - in the wake of her run-in with O'Keefe in New Jersey . . .

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