Maybe there is a bombshell yet to come. Maybe. But the debut of James O'Keefe's “CNN Leaks” Thursday morning can only be described as underwhelming.
O'Keefe, the conservative political operative known for undercover recordings and exposes, posted 119 hours of secretly taped conversations among CNN employees on the website of his group, Project Veritas.
Well, he tried to, anyway. The site appeared to be experiencing technical difficulties Thursday morning, much to the frustration of visitors who hoped to find something “exposing” CNN, as O'Keefe promised.
“James, it would help if the audio worked,” wrote one commenter. “It's busted!” complained another. Several immediately began spinning conspiracy theories about hacking and censorship by CNN, Amazon or Russia.
Project Veritas is asking for “help transcribing, investigating and connecting the dots” in the CNN recordings. But the excerpts highlighted so far by O'Keefe and his team are not very juicy.
For one thing, the recordings are from 2009, so anyone looking for evidence of journalistic malfeasance during the recent presidential campaign (or, for that matter, the one before that) won't find any here.
Recall that when O'Keefe first announced in January that his next sting would target the media, he said “we're inside their newsrooms” — like, currently inside their newsrooms. Perhaps Project Veritas really does have moles in the media, but Thursday's release does not support that claim.
What's on these tapes? There's this from Richard Griffiths, CNN's senior editorial director:
If we are journalists, what is our role as a journalist? What is the fundamental role as a journalist, for us to do? Tell a story. Tell what’s going on. There’s a secondary corollary to that, right? Aid the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. To a degree, right? Is that not part of the traditional role of a journalist? It’s actually one of the things I can be most proud of as a journalist. You know we try to show the ugly side of humanity so we can do something about it. It’s hard, very hard.
“Aid the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” is a reference to a line from the 1960 film “Inherit the Wind" ("Mr. Brady, it is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable"). Griffiths's contention that the old saying is true “to a degree” is hardly scandalous.
The Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics states, in part, that journalists should “recognize a special obligation to serve as watchdogs over public affairs and government,” “boldly tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience” and “seek sources whose voices we seldom hear.”
What else? An assignment editor says: “I think Fox News is unbearable. It’s horrible.” There's a shocker — a CNN editor thinks a rival network is “horrible.”
Another editor says: “That issue, climate change, I mean science is pretty much on board, and there are a few dissenters. There’s no debate.”
That is a true statement. There is a broad consensus in the scientific community that climate change is real and that humans contribute to it.
Project Veritas says there is more to come, and O'Keefe is offering $10,000 to “anyone that comes forward with legally-obtained materials exposing media malfeasance.” But if this is the best it has, CNN haters will be highly disappointed.