The Art of Breakthrough Journalism
Report by Betty Sakai
A youthfully optimistic and provocative, award-winning journalist from New Jersey, James O’Keefe III, wowed a packed house of over four hundred Forum members and guests with undercover videos taken by Project Veritas, a non-profit organization O’Keefe founded (www.theprojectveritas.com). The word ‘veritas’ meaning ‘truth’ in Greek mythology, O’Keefe’s brand of investigative fact-finding involves citizen journalists who infiltrate and videotape the lies and malfeasance of some of America’s most protected public and private organizations and institutions, like ACORN, NPR, Planned Parenthood, and voter fraud, … and O’Keefe video-taped crossing the southern border dressed as Osama bin Laden.
Project Veritas challenges politicians on both sides of the isle, bureaucrats, media moguls, union bosses, and election officials exposing corruption and fraud. Asked if investigations are on-going in California, O’Keefe answered no because California has made undisclosed video-taping illegal, shutting down investigative reporting. Until such time as a court upholds the 1st Amendment freedom of the press, Project Veritas cannot work in California. O’Keefe leads a new breed of journalists for the twenty-first Century and defends investigative journalism as truthful and fact finding as opposed to the old breed of staff writers who suppress the truth by writing stories based upon information received from their network while sitting at a desk in their cubicle. David Weigel in Slate hailed James O’Keefe as having had more impact on the 2012 election than any other journalist.
A philosophy major at Rutgers University, during his undergraduate years O’Keefe founded an independent newspaper called The Centurion. After graduation, he founded Project Veritas. O’Keefe is a recipient of the Robert Novak Award for Journalistic Excellence (2011), and has twice been named ‘Fox News Power Player of the Week’. Forbes listed him as one of the 30 under 30 media moguls. What he has accomplished is to dare to break through the firewall to reshape public opinion with facts.
Working to bring about real change, O’Keefe uncovered startling evidence that Americans are not nearly as free as some may believe. He found unethical manipulation and fraud at every level. In response to a question from the Forum audience as to whether he feared for his life, O’Keefe answered the question by saying the question in and of itself is disturbing, evidence of the depth to which Americans have descended today. In 2012, working with an army of citizen journalists, O’Keefe orchestrated a series of video stings revealing America’s vulnerability to voter fraud. As a result, more than one state revamped their voting laws. The genius of what O’Keefe continues to accomplish shows just how effective ordinary citizens can be bringing about real change if they are willing to risk the wrath of the powerful.
In one notable incidence, ACORN lost its federal funding because of a video sting report in which James O’Keefe dressed to look like a pimp. He put on his grandmother’s fur coat and walked into an ACORN office with a pretty young lady dressed as a prostitute … complete with stilettos … to inquire how he could get money to bring in more prostitutes from South America. Humorously, O’Keefe remembered that when he had asked his grandmother if she had an old fur coat in the attic, his grandmother had wily asked, “Is there something about yourself you haven’t told me, James?” In the video the ACORN employee counsels O’Keefe how to get federal money for his business. This video report had such an impact that ACORN lost its funding.
Project Veritas exposed the contemptuous bias of two of NPRs top executives which led to a freeze on funding for NPR. Other video investigations revealed the tolerance for fraud at Planned Parenthood, in Medicaid, HUD, and in the callous indifference of New Jersey Education Association officials to taxpayers and students. At the Cannes Film Festival, O’Keefe released videos showing Hollywood environmentalists scheming with phony Middle Eastern oil tycoons to stop American energy independence.
During the question and answer session, O’Keefe was asked how he could afford to do what he does. He answered that in the beginning it was very difficult, but today thanks to donations, the non-profit 501c Project Veritas is thriving. Described by publisher Simon and Schuster as “free of ideology”, James O’Keefe in 2013 authored Breakthrough, Our Guerrilla War to Expose Fraud and SAVE DEMOCRACY, a call for a more ethical society. Without spoiling the book for the reader, it is noteworthy to list a few of the Veritas Rules: #2: “You must do what you can with what you have. # 5: The law will always surround you. Learn it. #7: Resist the temptation to work or live in the Beltway. Restrict visits to twenty-four hours. #8: Expect the media to invert Gandhi: First they fight you, then they laugh at you, then they ignore you. Then you win. #10: Your manner matters more than your costume. #11: If you do your job right, expect to break new legal ground. #13: Safely extract the tape. If you don’t, they’ll say anything and be believed. #14: No journalist can speak truth to power unless they are willing to be slandered and arrested. #15: Stick to the facts. #17: Never let your guard down. You are always behind enemy lines. #18: Obsess over getting your subject in frame. #19: When the content is strong enough, the publicity will take care of itself. #20: If you’re doing your job, the government will be paying attention. #22: Expect to be held to a higher standard than Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists. #23: Watch out for moles. #25: If it feels wrong, abort and get out safely. #27: The truth is manifestly damning. And #28 (of 39): They may never understand your ideas, but they will be forced to understand your results. His book is easy reading, informative, inspiring, and humorous.
The Forum enjoyed James O’Keefe’s video presentations. The audience gave him a standing applause. Many showed their approval and support of O’Keefe’s work by standing in a long line to buy his book.
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