Can We Please Get Over James O’Keefe?

In recent news: in an interview between James O’Keefe and an environmentalist filmmaker, a hidden recording revealed shocking dishonesty, hypocrisy and a continuation of a long-standing trend… Of James O’Keefe being a colossal turd.  So, of course, it ended up on FOX News. Except the story wasn’t O’Keefe’s long-standing history of dishonest editing and fraud, but rather of… Well, click the link.



Of course, it’s not that simple. The environmentalists in question did not take money from Saudi elites trying to end American energy independence. There are two different stories here. The first has to do with the “interview” in the above FOX News clip; the second is a lot funnier. Let’s start with that first one.


The basic gist of what happened here is textbook O’Keefe. Step 1: convince target to go to a phony interview with obviously phony characters. Step 2: say borderline outrageous things. Step 3: wait for them to say something, anything that you can take to the editing room to nail them with. Step 4: make edits to make it sound like your opponent is supporting an underaged prostitution ring or whatever else you can point to. In this case, the goal was to make hollywood filmmakers and environmentalists look like stunning hypocrites, as well as to convince us that they think that ending fracking would halt American energy independence. A rather silly thing, given that these people have as a primary goal the energy independence of America through renewable energy sources.


But I digress. Anyways, in the former case, we only have out-of-context clips from O’Keefe, where they said they would be interested in the money and didn’t really care where it came from. This is not unreasonable – raising money for an independent documentary can be very difficult, and it’s not exactly a conflict of interest if you don’t know where it comes from. In fact, according to them, they had no idea who the sponsor was supposed to be at the time the more incriminating recordings; they were merely reassured that they were legitimate and that they could get major hollywood players on board. Okay, so these guys should have been more discriminating. But given O’Keefe’s track record, there was no reason to believe that these statements were taken in context. Or, indeed, that they were anything more than complete quote-mines. The filmmakers in question, however, admitted that they should have vetted it more, so okay, I guess we can give him that one. But then they went to an interview with a person who was so obviously fake that they could tell right off the bat that something was off. The person who showed up was so obviously phony that they were looking for a hidden camera right from the start. O’Keefe’s fakes weren’t just bad, they were Jackass-level bad. Which brings me to the next story, the funny one.


O’Keefe also tried to get Josh Fox, another environmentalist filmmaker, to say something incriminating. The story leading up to this is funny in its own right (it involves basically a month-long harassment campaign over a transparently phony investment company to even get to the phone call), but the truly wonderful part about this is that Fox, whose bullshit filter was presumably ringing every bell in the tristate area, decided to record the phone call he took with O’Keefe’s lackeys. The result? He basically spent 10 minutes saying in no uncertain terms that he could not take money from anonymous donors and needed to know who was supporting him, and then in the middle somewhere said, “obviously there are projects that we are working on ahead of time, that we’re working on now, that do sound like they would be interesting to your clients.* However, I really feel like I would need a more formal approach than just ‘Come meet me for coffee, this is the company we work for’. We don’t know much about your company…I would need to have more transparency than you’re giving me right now to feel comfortable with doing that.” Guess which part of that quote made it into O’Keefe’s big debut at Cannes. I marked the cutoff point with an asterisk. Yes, that’s right – O’Keefe turned 10 minutes of “We cannot accept your money because we don’t know who the fuck you are” into “yeah, we’ll take your money, no, we don’t need to know who you are”.


Guys, can we please, please get over this guy? Can we stop taking him seriously? Can we stop acting like any newscaster or news network who takes him seriously deserves to be taken seriously? O’Keefe is a professional scam artist. His “citizen journalism” has more in common with the work done by creationists who take Darwin’s statements about the human eye as proof that even he didn’t think the eye could have evolved. He tries to bait people into saying things that can be taken out of context, then shamelessly and dishonestly edits the tapes to make things look worse for them. This isn’t news. It shouldn’t be news to anyone after the dishonest bullshit he pulled with ACORN a few years ago. There’s no excuse for any news organization taking what O’Keefe has to offer at face value unless he offers them the complete, unedited source files. He’s a dishonest hack. When Megyn Kelley takes him up on her show, it ought to be seen as fucking disgraceful for that news channel. When picks up the story and runs with it, readers ought to see “James O’Keefe Sting” and think “Wow, I can’t believe this network would trust that guy again”. And when it inevitably turns out to be yet another bogus hack editing job, we should write to them and say “Hey guys, we expect better.” Because we damn well should expect better.

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