James O’Keefe is a celebrated right-wing pseudo-journalist whose job consists largely of attempting to prove various conservative conspiracy theories but, instead, accidentally disproving them. O’Keefe’s most recent fail is an attempt to help alleged child molester Roy Moore by tarnishing the Washington Post. O’Keefe recruited a fake source, who attempted to lure the Post into reporting her false accusations and “admitting” on camera that their reporting would affect the outcome of the election.
The scam collapsed for a number of reasons. His fake source provided a flimsy cover story with odd details — she claimed to have only spent a few summers in Alabama, but provided a cell phone with an Alabama area code. The supposed place of employment that she provided did not have any person by that name working there. A search of her name turned up a social-media post in which she explained that she was going to “work in the conservative media movement to combat the lies and deceipt [sic] of the liberal MSM.”
If you’ve ever watched a spy movie, you’ll probably recall that the spies never get caught because they left a social-media post under their real name declaring “I’m enrolling in espionage school to become a spy!”
Another reason O’Keefe’s plot collapsed again is because it is premised on a ludicrously false worldview. The Washington Post does not, in fact, publish unverified accusations just because they’re against Republicans. His various attempts to prove rampant voter fraud have failed in part because voter fraud is not rampant.
But this larger conceptual problem with O’Keefe’s enterprise creates a secondary problem, which is that the people who are dumb enough to believe these conspiracy theories are not generally smart enough to carry out a competent entrapment scheme.
The plan went like this: A woman named Jaime Phillips, who was aligned with Project Veritas, approached several Washington Post reporters claiming that she had engaged in a sexual relationship with Moore that led to an abortion when she was 15. (Sidebar: It’s worth an entire separate piece about what would lead someone to make up an abortion in order to entrap reporters.)
The goal was simple: To reveal that The Washington Post, which broke the initial story about Moore’s alleged pursuit of intimate relationships with teenagers, was willing to publish anything from any source as long as it made a conservative Republican look bad.
The problem — if O’Keefe knew anything about how large media organizations like the Post work — is that neither of these organizations would ever simply run with a story from one woman about an alleged forced abortion without doing the most basic fact checking.
So it blew up in his face. Now, O’Keefe has demonstrated that the Washington Post does NOT, in fact, run with thinly-sourced accounts in furtherance of journalistic bias. QED, the deeply-sourced accounts of child molestation by Roy Moore are likely to be true.
This video is precious. About halfway through, the woman hired by O’Keefe realizes the jig is up:
O’Keefe’s choice of targets over the years has displayed a less-than-keen understanding of what has news value and what doesn’t.
“O’Keefe has terrible judgment at times, but his news judgment is even worse,” said a former O’Keefe employee who spoke on condition of anonymity for professional reasons. “His sense of what is legitimately of public interest really is as bad as it looks given some of the trash he publishes. It might help with fundraising from the diehard Bannon wing, but pieces like the Clinton Campaign T-Shirt story also badly water down his brand. Earlier high risk/no reward stunts like the attempted Landrieu and Abbie Boudreau debacle nearly finished him before NPR resurrected him. Even Andrew Breitbart was close to cutting ties.”
And this poses a good question:
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) November 27, 2017