Last time we checked in with James O’Keefe, the undercover video provocateur with Project Veritas, he was pursuing Nicholas Dudich. Everyone knows Dudich, of course: He’s an “audience strategy editor” for the New York Times. Hounded by one of Project Veritas’s undercover types, Dudich had quite a bit to say: “I will be ‘objective.’ No, I’m not. That’s why I’m there,” said Dudich.
Moments like this filled O’Keefe with confidence: “We continue our ‘American Pravda’ investigation with a tale that’s so bizarre, a tale of deceit, a tale of political bias inside the newsroom at the New York Times,” said O’Keefe.
The media-obsessed O’Keefe appeared a touch less cocksure in a video posted on Monday afternoon by The Post. “I am not doing an interview right now, so I’m not going to say a word,” O’Keefe told The Post’s Aaron Davis.
The context for that comment? Well, it turns out that The Post received a “tip” not long after it broke the story of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s sexual pursuit of girls back in the late 1970s, when Moore was in his 30s. “Roy Moore in Alabama . . . I might know something but I need to keep myself safe. How do we do this?” wrote the “source” in an email to Post reporter Beth Reinhard, who had co-written the news-breaking story on Moore with colleagues Stephanie McCrummen and Alice Crites .
In a gripping counterintelligence tale, The Post describes how the “tipster” and her story — that Moore had impregnated her when she was 15, resulting in an abortion — unraveled upon closer inspection and may well be connected with O’Keefe’s anti-mainstream media guerrilla-video outfit.
As it turned out, certain of the “tipster’s” bio facts raised suspicions from the outset. An interview with Reinhard didn’t go well. Researcher Crites found a GoFundMe.com appeal in which one “Jaime Phillips” wrote, “I’ve accepted a job to work in the conservative media movement to combat the lies and deceipt of the liberal MSM. I’ll be using my skills as a researcher and fact-checker to help our movement. I was laid off from my mortgage job a few months ago and came across the opportunity to change my career path.”
Talk about a red flag.
So The Post unfurled its own video equipment. McCrummen met Phillips for a second interview last Wednesday; she came armed with the GoFundMe.com appeal. Here’s part of the exchange:
McCrummen: So, but you were interested in doing this job? Can you talk about that a little bit?
Phillips: Yeah, it was going to be with the Daily Caller, but it ended up falling through, so I wasn’t able to do it. ‘Cause my fiance was relocating to New York, so I was looking for a job to go with him and it didn’t work out so I ended up staying, doing what I was doing.
McCrummen: And what was your interest in working for the Daily Caller?
Phillips: Umm, I just — I like their stories and I thought that I would be good at doing research and stuff like that. ‘Cause just based on my background in the mortgage business, like that’s pretty much all I do all day is research things.
McCrummen: And so who was the person that you interviewed with?
Phillips: It was a lady named Kathy.
McCrummen: What was her last name?
McCrummen: Kathy Johnson. And where was it?
Phillips: In the New York area.
McCrummen: Uh huh.
Phillips: But I don’t know, like, why we are going into all this. I haven’t even agreed to go through with the story yet, so.
McCrummen: Well since you contacted us, you reached out to us, you know, we went ahead and did some background information, background checking — you know what I mean — on some of the things you had told Beth about your story. And so this came up and so I just wanted to understand what that’s about and why you’d want to work for the Daily Caller. And I also, frankly, want to know who you might be working for now.
Phillips [after receiving more questions about her background]: I don’t really want to get into any more details about my life because, I mean, it’s, like, obvious that you’re, like, not believing me so I don’t really see the point of even continuing the meeting, you know. So I should probably just, like, cancel the whole thing, so.
McCrummen: Okay, well if there’s anything you want to say for the record — like I said, we’re planning to write a story.
Don’t deprive yourself — watch the entirety of the nine-minute video in which McCrummen — fully on to Phillips’s game — presses her on her background, her motivation for telling this “story,” all the while apprising her that she’s being videotaped. “And I also wanted you to know, Jaime, that this is being recorded and video-recorded,” says McCrummen.
And please, President Trump, have a look at the interaction and the work that underlies it. Maybe it’ll force a reconsideration of this tweet:
Anonymous sources exist. They are vetted. At The Washington Post, at the New York Times, at CNN. Phillips and her ilk apparently didn’t consider such a possibility. With hope, they learned a lesson along with anyone else who believes that news outlets merely transport anecdotes from anonymous emails into published reports.
The Post didn’t abandon Phillips after McCrummen met with her last Wednesday. They spotted her entering the offices of Project Veritas on Monday, setting the scene for Davis’s questions to O’Keefe. The Project Veritas chief tried to find the irony in the situation: “Do you like our techniques? Have you been inspired by Project Veritas?… I think it’s really cute that you guys are borrowing our techniques,” said O’Keefe to Davis. Actually, no: Davis represented himself as a reporter for the Washington Post from the get-go, unlike O’Keefe’s crowd, which tends to avoid such important disclosures. (O’Keefe posted some undercover video of Post employees after the newspaper published its account of the Phillips interactions).
Anyone who has tracked the stings of James O’Keefe will read about McCrummen and Phillips with great interest, even glee. Here, after all, is a righteous bit of table-turning: Watch as Phillips fumbles and bumbles her way out of her interview; watch as O’Keefe and his wingmen bluster and filibuster their way out of the same sorts of questions their agents pose to others; track all the lies and evasions. Yet consider, too, that this whole enterprise required the contributions of McCrummen, Reinhard, Crites, Shawn Boburg, Davis and others working behind the scenes — resources that might otherwise have been deployed investigating other senators, chief executives or potentates. These, however, are ridiculous times, in which proving that the media checks out its sources is a towering imperative.