By Nancy Thorner (photos by Mark Weyermuller) -
To expose media falsehoods, “guerilla journalist” James O’Keefe created Project Veritas, an independent news organization whose reporters go where traditional journalists dare not tread. In his latest book America Pravda: My Fight for Truth in the Era of Fake News, O’Keefe takes the reader on an undercover thrill ride with him and his fearless journalists as they infiltrate political campaigns, unmask dishonest officials, and expose voter fraud.
The Heartland Institute hosted O’Keefe for an event at The Cotillion in Palatine last week – a venue they had to book because demand to hear him speak was too great to hold him in their office event space, the Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center. The 200-plus individuals in attendance at the Cotillion on April 18 were not only eager to hear what award-winning journalist and writer James O’Keefe had to say, but it was also obvious that most were well aware of Project Veritas and O’Keefe’s role in exposing corruption in government, institutions our federal government supports, our voting system, and the media itself.
O’Keefe’s “controversial” work has earned him both praise and condemnation from fans and critics, alike – having been a thorn in the mainstream media’s side since 2009 with his investigation of ACORN, one of the first groups Barack Obama embraced in his community organizing career.
What cannot be disputed is that James O’Keefe has become an influential voice in the political sphere. He has demonstrated what one man is able to do to fight back against the forces of the MSM and the establishment to arrive at the truth. Even so, O’Keefe’s enemies have attacked with lawsuits, smear campaigns, political prosecutions, and false charges in trying to shut down Project Veritas. Undaunted, O’Keefe has not been intimidated. Instead, as he made clear in his presentation at Heartland’s event, he considers every one of these attacks a sign of success.
Regarding the title of O’Keefe’s book, it refers to the Soviet propaganda newspaper Pravda, which translates as “truth, but spread “fake news” – the official Communist Party line – to the Russian people. However, as O’Keefe stated in his presentation, there is a difference between the current American press and the Soviet state newspaper Pravda. The Russian people knew they were being lied to. This is not true for many Americans who believe the negative and blatant political propaganda agenda being promoted by the MSM, whose goal is to destroy the Trump presidency. Using Project Veritas, O’Keefe is employing the same tactics the Leftist MSM is using against him to ferret out the truth.
Jim Lakely, communications director of The Heartland Institute, asked in his welcoming remarks how many in the 200 assembled were attending their first Heartland event. About half in attendance raised their hands. Lakely then detailed some of Heartland’s history as an organization and encouraged all to learn more about its 34-year history, to consider supporting their agenda of spreading the message of smaller government and greater liberty, and learn about more upcoming events.
Lakely then introduced Heartland’s president, Dr. Tim Huelskamp, to introduce speaker James O’Keefe to the assemblage of eager guests. Huelskamp, who was installed by Heartland’s Board of Directors at president in July 2017, came to Heartland from Congress from Kansas as a member of the Freedom Caucus, Victory Caucus, and the Tea Party Caucus. He was part of the Tea Party surge of candidates who were elected to office in 2010.
Prior to his introductory remarks, Dr. Huelskamp thanked founding Heartland President Joseph Bast for laying the groundwork for President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, which is Heartland “claim to fame” as the #1 denier of Al Gore’s catastrophic predictions about global warming due to the burning fossil fuels for energy.
James O’Keefe’s Presentation
Receiving a warm and heartfelt welcome, James O’Keefe proceeded to clarify the nature of the work of Project Veritas, which is the only truly independent undercover investigative team in the nation. O’Keefe offered this perspective: “Project Veritas goes behind the scenes to expose lies and fraud. Posing as something we are not to get to the truth is necessary, but we would never be believed if not for the videos. The hidden videos have become our weapons in exposing the truth. In relating truth to a lion, truth doesn’t have to be explained.”
The following is an account of O’Keefe’s perspective in his Heartland presentation on key issues of the day:
About justice: People find outrageous the absence of a moral consensus about anything. With no equal justice under the law, we live in an unjust and corrupt society – which O’Keefe experienced first-hand when the government tried to shut him down through retaliation lawsuits.
About propaganda:The Left believes people are too stupid to understand the truth, whereas O’Keefe believes the people can make the right decisions only if they know the full truth and not just media-approved propaganda.
About social technology: Social media giants like Facebook, YouTube (owned by Google), Twitter, and Instagram (owned by Facebook) are in the business of censoring conservative ideas. They believe the general public to be a bewildered and easily led herd can’t be allowed to receive “dangerous” information. The term“shadow ban” has been around since 2006, but it’s only recently that it’s gone mainstream A shadow ban is the act of blocking a user from an online community in such a way that they don’t realize that they’ve been banned. On Instagram or Twitter, for instance, a shadow ban hides your posts from users who don’t actively follow you. Meanwhile, accounts that promote left-wing views have their posts broadcast to the whole network.
About journalism:O’Keefe talked about other undercover investigators who preceded him. The Chicago Sun-Timeswas praised for engaging in some good undercover journalism in years past which led to firings and disciplinary action. But that kind of journalism – what Project Vertias does every day – is considered out of bounds. O’Keefe spoke about an undercover operation in the late 70’s named“The Mirage”, in which Sun-Times investigative journalist and Chicago legend Pam Zekman and Better Government Association chief investigator Bill Recktenwald purchased a tavern at 731 N. Wells Street in under aliases, using it to expose corrupt payoffs, tax scams, and other Chicago-centric strains of corruption. As to what happened to journalism – why today’s MSM didn’t employ these tactics against the Obama administration – O’Keefe blamed greed, laziness and fear.
In partnership with Breitbart in 2009, exposing the ACORN scandal – which no other journalist organization found the impetus to do for decades – provided the jump start that launched O’Keefe’s truth-finding career. As O’Keefe related, in 2009 he was dirt poor and living with his parents – hardly the profile of a soon-to-be-famous revolutionary journalist.
Taking down ACORN was a two-person operation. The undercover camera operation required one journalist posing as a pimp who was also a candidate for Congress, and another journalist posing as a prostitute, looking for help to make the partnership “legitimate” in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service. O’Keefe played the pimp trying to fund his campaign on “pimp money” – reluctantly, when he couldn’t get a friend the play the role – and the brave Hannah Giles, a conservative activist and daughter of a pastor, played the role of a prostitute.
O’Keefe explained how he and Giles visited ACORN offices in Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, D.C.; and New York City, and recorded employees of the organizations providing earnest (and corrupt) answers to the pair’s questions about avoiding detection and tax evasion, among other things. Fox News and Andrew Breitbart’s website helped to push the story beyond conservative media outlets and drew national MSM attention to the pair’s findings. As a result, Congress cut off all federal funding to ACORN.
The Washington Post pushed back at O’Keefe’s exposé by writing lies about his methods and the facts he exposed. The newspaper printed two front page retractions about their reporting on O’Keefe. That’s an extremely rare occurrence, but O’Keefe rightly note that the fact of the retractions – let alone their rarity – is not reported in the MSM when they even take the time to write about his revolutionary reporting. Maybe that’s because they are embarrassed that they didn’t expose the misconduct themselves, or maybe because they never wanted to do it in the first place.
Exposing the Ease of Crossing the Mexican Border
In another exposé, O’Keefe wanted to reveal the vulnerabilities along the Mexico-Texas border. So he crossed a narrow section of the knee-deep Rio Grande River. Dressed, absurdly like Osama bin Laden. Wading across the border from Mexico into the United States wearing a camouflage military jacket, of Osama bin Laden, and a white turban, he found not a single Border Patrol agent to stop him. The ones he saw, O’Keefe said, turned and moved away. “Thousands of people have stood in my footsteps right now,” O’Keefe said. “They’ve come from South America, Honduras, Guatemala, and they’ve all crossed the border. And if they can cross, anybody can cross.”
And anybody could … including O’Keefe dressed as Osama bin Laden.
This outrageous O’Keefe project set off a congressional hearing. Despite videos, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and President Barack Obama all declared that the border was secure.
Exposing Voter Fraud
In another Project Veritas episode to uncover voter fraud, an undercover journalist sent by O’Keefe was able to persuade a Washington D.C. poll worker to offer him Eric Holder’s ballot. This incident forced Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, to go under oath to protect himself. The final result: The institution of a photo ID to vote for Eric Holder (or anyone claiming to be Eric Holder) but for no one else. By the way, Attorney General Eric Holder was an outspoken opponent of photo ID laws, and had publicly stated there was no proof of in-person photo fraud in the U.S. Score another one for Project Veritas.
Exposing a Chicago Connection
This Project Veritas investigation has a Chicago connection. Bob Creamer, husband of congressman Jan Shakowsky, listed as the founder and partner on the website of the Democratic consulting firm Democracy Partners, told a Project Veritas investigator: “Wherever Trump and Pence are going to be, we have events and we have a whole team across the country that does that – both consultants and people from the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party apparatus and the people from the campaign. The Clinton campaign and my role with the campaign, is to manage all that.” Democracy Partners was the tip of the spear of the deep money going to the Foval Group which then executed the riots against Trump and Pence.
Exposing CNN and Russia
In going undercover at CNN to expose the network’s fixation on the Russian collusion thing, CNN producer John Bonifield is caught on film admitting that the network’s constant coverage of the Trump-Russia narrativeis “mostly b*****hit” and “the president is probably right to say [CNN] is witch-hunting [him].” Van Jones called the Russian coverup saga a “nothing burger” but he never would say that on TV.
O’Keefe stressed the importance of having his Project Veritas and its videos, which you can see you YouTube, capture the attention of the media, so his truth telling is far reaching and results in positive governmental and legislative action.
As to the future of Project Veritas, O’Keefe hinted of more to come. In preparation for this increased activity, O’Keefe spoke about hiring more people. In the past year O’Keefe received 1,000 applicants to do undercover work.