NYT Thinks TeaBugger James O'Keefe Entitled to Own Set of Facts

As I reported a while back, chief TeaBugger James O’Keefe had called on the FBI to release the videos he took while (according to the FBI) by false pretense, entering US government property with the intent of interfering with a phone system owned by the US government. He wanted those released because they would show he neither bugged the phones nor managed to do anything in the phone closet (largely because they were arrested before they were able to get to the phone closet). But even while calling for the release of one set of his videos, O’Keefe has always refused to release the set of videos he took while filming various ACORN employees not break the law. That’s presumably because, as an independent investigator reported, that O’Keefe edited those videos, possibly to make them as incriminating as possible.

The unedited videos have never been made public. The videos that have been released appear to have been edited, in some cases substantially, including the insertion of a substitute voiceover for significant portions of Mr. O’Keefe’s and Ms.Giles’s comments, which makes it difficult to determine the questions to which ACORN employees are responding. A comparison of the publicly available transcripts to the released videos confirms that large portions of the original video have been omitted from the released versions.


Experienced forensic investigators would be able to determine the extent to which the released videos have been manipulated to distort, rather than merely shape, the facts and the conversations, as ACORN alleges.

Unfortunately, the TradMed doesn’t seem to understand that videos can be manipulated in the editing process, and so they have continued to report James O’Keefe’s tales precisely as he has claimed they happened, without closer scrutiny. Of note, the TradMed has always just accepted James O’Keefe at his word that he dressed in his silly pimp costume, when it appears he did not.

Now the NYT has stepped up that journalistic malpractice by (apparently) refusing to even consider whether its repetition of the claim that O’Keefe was dressed as a pimp is backed up by any independent evidence. Brad Friedman lays out an entire exchange that, first, one of their readers, and then Brad Friedman himself had with the NYT, attempting to get them to either correct or back up the claim that O’Keefe dressed as a pimp. Over the course of the email exchange, Greg Brock, NYT’s Senior Editor for Standards, evolved his explanation for making the claim as follows (click through to see the full set of emails):

  • “Mr. O’Keefe himself explained how he was dressed — and appeared on a live Fox show wearing what HE said was the same exact costume he wore to ACORN’s offices. … If there is a correction to be made, it seems it would start with Mr. O’Keefe himself. We believe him.”
  • “At one point, the camera was turned in such a way to catch part of the “costume” he was wearing. And ACORN employees who saw him described his costume.”
  • “I don’t have any comment on our coverage.”
  • [after complaining that Brad’s reader shared the email with him] “My response wasn’t addressed to the public and wasn’t a statement on behalf of The Times.”
  • “I’m not going to have our corporate communications folks wake up tomorrow and discover that I have issued some official statement for publication.”
  • “I said our statement was based on a video. I did not say that we saw the video online or that it ever was online. … And through [NYT’s] reporting — whether it was watching videos, interviewing sources (who would not always go on the record) or doing other research — we feel we have confirmed the information we reported. Just because I am not willing to give you a link — or don’t even have a link — doesn’t mean our reporting is in error.”
  • “Please re-read that reference to Fox and Mr. O’Keefe. I did not cite that as our source.”
  • “The main thing I cited was the video.”

Now, to be fair, it’s possible that the NYT has seen the videos that O’Keefe refuses to release publicly, and based on that, they believe that O’Keefe was dressed as a pimp during this stunt. Heck, perhaps they have even done the kind of forensics former MA Attorney General Scott Harshberger called for. But they never said so.

Barring that, it appears that the NYT has watched the heavily edited videos O’Keefe has released publicly, seen him assert on TV that he was dressed as a pimp, and believed the assertions he made on Fox over assertions to the contrary. Perhaps they have reason to believe the veracity of a guy whose story–about his latest stunt–is transparently inadequate.

Or perhaps, having unadvisedly confessed to being slow on the ACORN story in the first place, having assigned an editor to “monitor opinion media,” the NYT does not want to reconsider whether their cowardly response to right wing propaganda was based not on facts, but on perceptions.

If the NYT is sitting on the videos that O’Keefe refuses to release, it’d sure be nice to release them–now that O’Keefe has become such a fan of releasing all his raw video.

  1. klynn says:


    Thanks for posting. The link to the BradBlog is a worthwhile read. Going through all the emails he posted and seeing the NYT’s inconsistency is beyond irresponsible practice by the NYT’s.

  2. Palli says:

    clarification: …dressed as a 1970s television pimp: true or false it is preposterous not journalistic.

  3. ezdidit says:

    NYT, fact-free edition. Our fourth estate is full of right-wing bought creeps. Greg Brock is just another asshole journalist.

  4. Leen says:


    Today Jane Mayer will be on Fresh Air to talk about her article “the Trial”http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=13

    Hope Terri Gross ask her if she went back to Bloomberg, Schumer and Patterson to ask why they flipped their support for the trial in New York to trying to cut Holder off at the knees

  5. Teddy Partridge says:

    A young NYT reporter told me not too long ago that the Times is almost impossible to work for. Every other word out of his many editors’ mouths was ‘Jayson Blair’ — something that happened when he, the reporter, was about 15 and has very little independent memory of whatsoever.

    It is a sick institution.

  6. Mary says:

    “We believe him”

    That pretty much sums it all up, doesn’t it?

    NYT believes, for every slop of talking points thrown,
    Its readership’s grown
    NYT believes that even within the murkiest story
    There’s wingnut glory
    NYT believes in every claim and cause of teabuggers
    bc they aren’t damn treehuggers
    Every time they hear a right wing addledultcry, or get the ad buy
    NYT believes,
    NYT believes.


      • Mary says:

        There may be dispute on whether or not you can check all the boxes on the “living person” list for me, but as long as the NYT will believe it if we tell them, then yes, there are TWO living persons who remember that song.

        I also remember, “I’m looking over, poor old Rover, who I ran over, last night” It was a hard call which one to use.

  7. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Unfortunately, the TradMed doesn’t seem to understand that videos can be manipulated in the editing process, and so they have continued to report James O’Keefe’s tales precisely as he has claimed they happened, without closer scrutiny. Of note, the TradMed has always just accepted James O’Keefe at his word that he dressed in his silly pimp costume, when it appears he did not.

    Oh, God, I can’t stand it…. (!).

    Please, can someone direct these TradMed-ers to their nearest Apple Computer store and have them take a look at how iMovie works?! Cause I’m guessing that’s what O’Keefe was using, and its the very same software that my local junior high school kiddos use.

    EW, I think that you are correct that TradMed doesn’t ‘get’ what O’Keefe has done here. You’d think they’d at least go visit their own multimedia group for some tips and insight.


    And yes, I know PCs have a media software program as well. Personally, I wouldn’t touch the damn stuff, but people do use it and maybe that’s what O’Keefe was using.

    But the teevee reporters have no excuse whatsoever for not catching these holes in O’Keefe’s strange tale.

  8. tejanarusa says:

    Unbelievable “We believe him.” They believe the self-serving statements of a person with every motive to lie, and who is increasingly proving himself to lie as a regular practice.

    Then, if they take everyone at their word, how come there are so many stories prefacing someone’s statement with verbs like, “claimed,” “alleged,” etc.?

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    It’s rare for the mother of all newspapers to admit that its standard for journalistic inquiry is to print a target’s claims unchallenged – precisely because he made them. Stenography, but only when the target is from the right.

    Leftists, on the other hand, are routinely branded as such in the headline or first sentence – Leftist Historian Dies – and their credibility is automatically bracketed by attributed quotes from esteemed members of the community.

    If the Times has seen evidence that this rightwing apprentice propagandist actually dressed as an obviously fake white pimp for interviews with low-level bureaucrats and anti-poverty advocates – who know what real ones look like – I’ll eat my hat.

  10. Mary says:

    I wonder if NYT believes O’Keefe bc they got his side of the story on pink paper with purple marker underlines?


    @14 – good news – I hope his hearing in June goes well.

    An Amy Goodman interview after the Siddiqui conviction


    The fact that DOJ allows so much mystery to continue as to what happened and the trial was allowed to proceed without any examination of why she might be so nuts and the fact that the family has kept the son’s version so mysterious as well, etc. – it’s all the kind of mess that unfortunately has these kinds of ripples


    The fate of Hailey soldier Bowe Bergdahl is now linked to that of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist convicted last week in a U.S. court for the attempted murder of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. A Taliban leader has threatened to kill Bergdahl if Siddiqui and 21 Afghan prisoners are not released.

    It’s all just a propaganda item for all sides now. I hope Mr. Bergdahl’s family gets better news, quickly.

  11. Mary says:

    OT – Doug Wilder goes to town on not just the WH insiders, but Kaine too.


    Obama’s West Wing is filled with people who are in their jobs because of their Chicago connections or because they signed on with Obama early during his presidential campaign.

    One problem is that they do not have sufficient experience at governing at the executive branch level. The deeper problem is that they are not listening to the people.

    Some are even questioning whether Obama has forgotten how he got elected and the promises he made to the people who elected him.

    Interesting read – I’m not sold on all of it, but a lot of points made.

    • PJEvans says:

      Does he mention that Shrub had a lot of his supporters and buddies around him, also?

      (I think many candidates use jobs as rewards for their more important pre-election/campaign people. Not that there’s anything unusual or illegal about it, but you always hope that those rewarded with jobs will be good at the jobs they get.)

  12. Loo Hoo. says:

    Josh Marshall goes with EW’s timeline idea, but adds this:

    Politico goes up early in the morning with an exclusive statement from Dick Cheney:

    “As I’ve watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. …. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war. ”

    The media goes wild; Cheney’s comments are picked up far and wide.

    Imagine Politico spreading Cheneyhoods.

  13. MadDog says:

    OT – From EFF:

    Appeals Court Backs EFF Push for Telecom Lobbying Documents Disclosure

    Panel Rules Law Does Not Protect Identities of Lobbyists

    Today a federal appeals court rejected a government claim of “lobbyist privacy” to hide the identities of individuals who pressured Congress to grant immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the government’s warrantless electronic surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans. As the court observed, “There is a clear public interest in public knowledge of the methods through which well-connected corporate lobbyists wield their influence…”

    …The appeals court sent part of the case back down to the district court for further consideration, including whether disclosure of the lobbyists’ identities would reveal intelligence sources and methods and whether communications between the agencies and the White House can be withheld under the presidential communications privilege or other grounds.

    The opinion (25 page PDF) is here.