News broke late last week that conservative activist James O’Keefe has agreed to pay former ACORN employee Juan Carlos Vera a six figure sum with an apology for the illegal “undercover” video that got him fired in 2009. Through deceptive editing, O’Keefe made Vera appear to have assisted in his “human smuggling” scenario when in fact Vera had taken pictures of O’Keefe and his then-partner, Hannah Giles, and contacted law enforcement with his concerns immediately after they left his office. Giles, who long ago distanced herself from O’Keefe, reached her own settlement with Vera last Summer.
This is yet another resounding blow to the false image of O’Keefe as a courageous, truth-seeking journalist. It is also an embarrassment for a mainstream press that has largely failed to hold O’Keefe accountable.
James O’Keefe worked for the conservative Leadership Institute immediately after graduating from Rutgers in 2006, where he had established his conservative credentials on the Leadership Institute-funded campus publication. That same year, a Leadership Institute intern named Marcus Epstein tried to host a forum with Jared Taylor, one of the strangest white supremacists in the world. Leadership Institute decided not to host the event, which took place at the Georgetown Law School campus. That picture at the top of the post is O’Keefe manning a table.
John Derbyshire, who was recently purged from National Review for his disturbing response to the murder of Trayvon Martin, was there. So was Washington Times editor and neoconfederate slavery apologist Robert Stacy McCain as well as his pals from the anti-immigrant organization Vdare. But as the editor of American Renaissance and board member of the Council of Conservative Citizens, “racial realist” Jared Taylor was the headliner. Presumably, O’Keefe met this collection of fine white males and found it good, because he has never stopped doing this sort of campus activism.
A second prejudice manifested with his microcamera lingering over Hanna’s shapely bottom in the Baltimore ACORN office, creating a tableau with the organization’s crimson flag. Standing apart from the distracted employee and his accomplice, O’Keefe’s breath becomes sickeningly audible. This creepy early warning sign went unheeded until 2010, when James O’Keefe attempted and failed to lure CNN correspondent Abbie Boudreau aboard a boat for a videotaped seduction. In 2011, O’Keefe’s assistant Nadia Naffe would accuse him of drugging and attempting to rape her.
When James O’Keefe pleaded guilty to misdemeanors in the attempted wiretapping of Senator Mary Landrieu’s office in May 2010, it seemed for a moment that he might actually face justice. The California State Attorney General had just reviewed the unedited tapes of O’Keefe’s ACORN office visits in the Golden State, concluding that no employee or volunteer of ACORN had committed any crime. (Click here for a .PDF of the AG’s findings.) But in order to obtain the unedited tapes, the AG had to grant O’Keefe and Giles immunity from prosecution. Maryland, where O’Keefe had admired Giles’ posterior so much, had made no such deal.
Enter Brett Kimberlin, a controversial liberal activist who set out to charge James O’Keefe with violations of Maryland’s wiretapping statute. In July 2010, Kevin Zeese, an attorney for his nonprofit organization Velvet Revolution, pressed the Maryland state’s attorney to issue criminal charges (.PDF). Kimberlin also obtained O’Keefe’s emails from Nadia Naffe, who had turned on her former idol with a vengeance.
A website, IndictBreitbart.org, appeared to promote the accountability campaign for O’Keefe and his biggest sponsor. Like this website you’re reading, Indict Breitbart would be incorrectly attributed to Kimberlin. That became standard practice. By 2012, any critic of O’Keefe or Andrew Breitbart would be denounced as a “Kimberlin blogger” whether they knew him or not. Rather than deal with the criminal hiding behind their ACORN-smearing hero’s facade, the Breitbart empire turned its efforts to publicizing Kimberlin’s past. His liberal politics and bizarre biography were perfect for an audience that already laps up every silly fabrication about William Ayers, President Obama’s “Marxist professors,” and Shirley Sherrod.
Brett Kimberlin was not wrong about James O’Keefe, who clearly violated Maryland law. He still works behind the scenes to aid state and federal investigations into O’Keefe, and although it remains to be seen what the outcome of those investigations will be his participation explains why he remains Breitbart Enemy Number One. If anything, Andrew Breitbart’s death one year ago simply made things worse because his sycophants and adoring fans feel they must win his final blogwar in his memory. They leap to defend O’Keefe from the very real racism and criminality of his recent past by inventing episodes of new criminality by Kimberlin, whose criminal convictions actually took place decades ago.