Hours after The Washington Post went live with allegations that Roy Moore molested women and girls and pursued girls young enough to be his daughters, a woman reached out to The Post with what seemed to be a horrifying tale. She claimed that Moore gave her a child when she was a teenager spending the summer in Alabama, and then helped her have it aborted. But when it became apparent that her account had more red flags than a lifetime of Alabama football games, she backed off.
A new twist appeared on Monday, when the “accuser” was spotted walking into the headquarters of Project Veritas, a far-right agitprop shop notorious for smearing liberals and the media with deceptively edited videos. Shortly after The Post blew the whistle on his charade, Project Veritas’ ringleader admitted that he was behind the scheme.
James O’Keefe bills himself as a muckraker and a crusader against corruption. But his idea of “journalism” involves blasting out videos that have been yanked several miles out of context. On some occasions, he has crossed the line from merely unethical conduct to criminal conduct–such as entering then-Senator Mary Landrieu’s office under false pretenses and numerous attempts to commit voter fraud.
But O’Keefe and Project Veritas may have hit a new low when they sent in one of their “journalists,” Jaime Phillips, to plant false accusations against Moore. They hoped that reporters Beth Reinhard and Stephanie McCrummen would tip off supposed anti-Moore bias in their conversations with her, and possibly run a story based on her claims.
But her account didn’t hold up under even rudimentary scrutiny, and she couldn’t explain why she seemed to be running a GoFundMe campaign in which she was crowdfunding a move to New York to work in “the conservative media movement.” When confronted with these fibs on Wednesday, Phillips bailed.
Phillips’ account crumbled altogether when she was spotted at Project Veritas’ headquarters on Monday morning. O’Keefe initially refused to talk to reporters from The Post seeking answers. But a few hours later, he blasted out an email to his supporters in which he admitted the whole thing. Rebecca Balhaus of The Wall Street Journal obtained a copy.
Project Veritas’s James O’Keefe refers to woman who falsely told @bethreinhard she was impregnated by Roy Moore as “investigative journalist embedded within the publication” pic.twitter.com/2xmY63vTVU
— Rebecca Ballhaus (@rebeccaballhaus) November 27, 2017
Except this was not investigative journalism. True muckrakers follow the facts where they lead, even if they don’t fit preconceived notions. In contrast, O’Keefe was out to brand the nine women who have come forward to date as liars–and fix the facts around that predetermined narrative. In the process, he and Phillips engaged in victim-shaming of the worst type.
O’Keefe has been deservedly pilloried–and the criticism has come in from both sides of the spectrum. Take Fox News contributor and Washington Examiner political correspondent Byron York, for instance.
Impossible to overstate the idiocy of latest O'Keefe Roy Moore 'sting,' directed at WaPo. Beyond boneheaded. O'Keefe really ought to hang it up. Stupidity + maliciousness a bad combination. https://t.co/iG7VQwxuk2
— Byron York (@ByronYork) November 27, 2017
Ben Shapiro also weighed in.
O’Keefe did great work on ACORN. This WaPo attempt is horrible, both morally and effectively.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) November 27, 2017
In a colossal understatement, Shapiro told The Atlantic that planting fake accusations of sexual assault in order to discredit real accusers is “really bad stuff.”
Fox News even piled on. The network’s media critic, Howard Kurtz, put O’Keefe on blast–twice. The first came on Tuesday’s edition of “Happening Now.” Watch here.
Kurtz noted that The Post did what a real news organization would do–try to check out Phillips’ story. He slammed O’Keefe for not showing “much understanding for how newspapers work.” But he wasn’t done. He unloaded on O’Keefe in a special comment. Watch here.
Kurtz said that O’Keefe’s attempt to “trap” The Post blew up in his face because “the newspaper and its reporters did their job.” A hard-right activist losing Fox News? That takes some effort.
About the only people cheering O’Keefe on are his fellow deplorables. Like Pizzagate peddler Jack Posobiec, who wondered if The Post knew who the accusers were in advance.
John Hawkins of Right Wing News essentially stood up and applauded.
— John Hawkins (@johnhawkinsrwn) November 28, 2017
Uh huh. Including victim-shaming?
Even if this latest Project Veritas stunt wasn’t criminal, it has to stand as its lowest blow to date. He has not only made it harder for honest muckrakers to do their jobs, but has also shown why domestic violence and sexual assault victims don’t come forward. Hope you’re proud of yourself, James. If this is your idea of journalism, then we need to find a way to drive you out of business for good.
(featured image courtesy Gage Skidmore, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)