Establishing the need: Christians should marry Christians. Still there are some who have married non-Christians whether they were both non-Christians when they married or whether both claimed to be Christians but later one spouse denied they are Christians or a believer married a non-Christian. What does God’s Word has to say to those who are married to unbelievers?
Purpose: In this session we will see four responsibilities God requires of Christians married to a nonbeliever so that you continue to live these out to please God in your life.
You should try to stay in the marriage
You should share the Gospel for the sake of your family’s salvation
Wives you should win your spouse to Christ with your godliness
Husbands you should win your spouse to Christ with your godliness
(Note for the next two session we will be looking at a lot of verses in 1 Corinthians 7…
Project Veritas Misogyist Pig Incels. Most of them had to marry their homeschool teacher cause they got them knocked up in second grade. This is the only way Conservative Christians and scumbags from Project Veritas can get laid, unless they are raping their own children or using them as sex slaves for their fellow perverted Conservative Christian Project Veritas pedophiles.
Well thanks to the Coronavirus? The biggest bonus is? A whole lot of the Christian pedophiles from Project Veritas? Will not be able to rape little boys and girls for a while. I bet James O’Keefe and Erik Prince are pissed about their pedos not getting any.
For months now we’ve been doing “This Sunday at Church” every Sunday. I realize that some churches today are not open though they will be live-streaming because of the Corona Virus situation. So today’s I want to encourage you to do something different: This Sunday BE the Church in light of the Corona Virus.
Wherever crowds gathered in the flat, lake-dotted swath of Florida between Orlando and Ocala, it seemed that Cheryl Hall was there: clad in red, white and blue, clipboard in hand, signing up new voters at the Mount Dora Arts Festival, the Ocoee Founders’ Day party, the Taste of South Lake fair in Clermont and more.
“She just seemed like a diligent, hard-working lady,” said Alan Hays, the supervisor of elections in Lake County, who appears in a photo on Ms. Hall’s Facebook page, his arm firmly clasped around her shoulder. “No one suspected anything was amiss until we got phone calls from people.”
Something was indeed amiss: Ms. Hall, a 63-year-old and very ardent Republican whose ranch house in Clermont sports life-size cutouts of Donald and Melania Trump and a MAGA poster in the window, was charged last week with 10 felony counts of submitting false voter registration forms. On at least 10 forms traced to Ms. Hall, officials said, the party affiliations of already-registered Democrats and Independents had been switched to Republican. More than 100 others that may be tied to her contained missing or bogus data such as wrong birth dates.
Ms. Hall was a canvasser for Florida First Inc., a recently created nonprofit that is financed at least in part by a dark-money group formed by Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign manager, Brad Parscale, and other Trump associates.
The Florida nonprofit group, which has filed more than 30,000 new registrations according to the Florida secretary of state, is part of a $20 million bid by the group, America First Policies, to register Republicans in battleground states before November. State officials have said there is no evidence so far of widespread fraud in Florida First’s voter-registration efforts.
But the improprieties of which Ms. Hall stands accused are hardly unheard of in voter-registration drives — particularly those that, like Florida First, have partisan backing. Signing up new voters is a low-paying temp job that requires few skills, and in states that allow it (Florida does not), workers have quotas or are offered cash incentives to sign up as many new registrants as possible.
The result is a small but steady trickle of fraudulent registrations, enough to demand added vigilance by election officials, but rarely to pose any serious threat to election integrity. Republicans have been most vocal about allegations of voter fraud, but Ms. Hall’s case is a reminder that neither party has a monopoly on virtue.
In north Florida’s Leon County, home to the state capital, Tallahassee, authorities are scrutinizing registrations by a liberal-backed nonprofit in which two voters have complained that their party registrations were switched and one newly registered voter was found to be dead, as first reported by the Miami Herald.
Lake County officials have said they still are not certain what prompted the bogus forms attributed to Ms. Hall, which contained such obvious errors that they were quickly caught.
Florida court records suggest her life has been checkered by both financial and legal problems, including a 2003 charge of unemployment compensation fraud, which resulted in probation, and a 2014 arrest for stealing donations from the Salvation Army. That charge was dropped after she entered a pretrial diversion program.
Ms. Hall was active in local Republican Party circles, and her Facebook page was festooned with photographs — some of which have been recently removed — of her posing with conservative luminaries, such as Donald Trump Jr., Sean Hannity, Roger J. Stone Jr. and the state’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis.
She was a member of the Lake County Republican Party county executive committee, in charge of getting out the vote in her precinct, said Walter B. Price, Sr., chairman of the county party. He said proceedings have begun to remove her from those posts.
Ms. Hall did not respond to requests for comment, including a note left at her house.
Mr. Hays, the Lake County election supervisor, said she helped file more than 500 registration forms in his county alone before being arrested.
“We already had extensive quality control measures in place that helped us assist the supervisor of elections in their investigation,” said Chris Gober, Florida First’s attorney, adding that there is no financial incentive for any canvassing employee to rack up additional voter registration applications. “Our mission is to register voters and ensure that every Florida resident has an opportunity to vote, regardless of ideology or political affiliation.”
Mr. Hays said Florida First traced the questionable forms to Ms. Hall because they included a number assigned to her for registration work. He said he hopes to meet with other election officials and voter groups soon to “find out what measures we can take to prevent this from happening again.”
The most cited example of registration irregularities involved the left-leaning community organizing group commonly known as ACORN whose registration drives became a target of fraud accusations by Republicans during the 2008 presidential campaign. The group said it had hired 13,000 registration canvassers and signed up 1.3 million new voters in 2007 and 2008; a handful of those workers were found guilty of fraud, such as registering children and nonexistent voters.
The group said most charges were politically inflated — in some cases, it maintained, workers were cited for bogus registrations that they actually had flagged for election workers. But it said in a statement in 2008 that “in any endeavor of this size, some people will engage in inappropriate conduct.” The controversy forced ACORN to shut down in 2010.
Other examples have occurred over time: a Los Angeles voter drive that paid $2.50 in 1992 for each new registration and enrolled a dead person and a baby; an Orange County, Calif., drive in 2006 by a Republican contractor that switched 65 voters from Democrats to Republicans; a 2010 campaign by a pro-Democrat labor union that filed as many as a thousand suspicious forms; a Pennsylvania college student who pleaded guilty in 2017 to creating 18 fake registrations to help a co-worker meet a quota.
While such fraud is a serious matter, it generally poses a less serious threat to the integrity of elections, said David J. Becker, the director of the Center for Election Innovation and Reform, who helped create a clearinghouse for verifying voter registrations that is used by election officials nationwide.
“Election officials have to be vigilant against such attacks, and in this case, they were,” he said in an email. “I think the likelihood of detecting an attack like this is very high, as is the chance to mitigate any negative impacts, even if it makes things more difficult for election officials. But in this era of foreign interference and win-at-all-costs partisanship, add this to the list of things that election officials are worrying about.”
The cases have often fueled a political divide between Democrats who have long relied on sign-ups of new voters to build their ranks and Republicans, whose supporters historically tended to be better educated and more likely to register without prompting.
Texas Republicans enacted perhaps the nation’s strictest curbs on voter registration drives. Florida’s Republican-dominated legislature crimped Democratic registration efforts in the 2012 campaign season by enacting such tough restrictions on signing up voters that some groups gave up. The law later was overturned in court.
Mo Norai has worked in Silicon Valley for a decade. He’s done stints at Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Apple, but only as a contract worker, meaning he has missed out on the tech giants’ storied perks, benefits and job security. So when he was approached last April by a recruiter from a company called Tech Jobs Box about a full-time job, he was intrigued.
A woman named Kelly Dale contacted him via LinkedIn promising that “salary and benefits would be competitive.”
“It really hooked me,” Norai told me last month.
After a brief phone conversation, Dale said he seemed like a great candidate and set up in-person interviews with her colleague and an investor in the company. Those went well and for four months last year, Norai thought he had a new job. He was in regular communication with his new colleagues, meeting up with them for dinner, drinks, and a baseball game, but they kept pushing his start date back, saying they were securing office space and finalising funding.
But in fact, there was no job. Tech Jobs Box wasn’t a real company. Kelly Dale and the rest of his new “colleagues” were actually operatives for Project Veritas, a conservative investigative group founded by James O’Keefe that specialises in secretly recording people. It’s perhaps best known for catalyzing the downfall of ACORN, a low-income advocacy group that lost its federal funding after Project Veritas released undercover videos of the group’s employees counseling a sex worker and her “pimp” (a disguised O’Keefe).
Project Veritas traditionally targets politicians, government agencies, and media organisations, but decided to go after Silicon Valley last year because of its perceived biases against conservatives. “Big tech companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter have become media monopolies and they are censoring people,” said O’Keefe by phone.
In January, Project Veritas released three videos about Twitter’s content-moderation practices that feature hidden camera footage of nine current and former Twitter employees – one woman and eight men, including Norai. They even secretly filmed Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey by having an operative pose as a homeless person and confront him at a Blue Bottle coffee shop.
The videos don’t contain blockbuster information. The employees reveal that there aren’t a lot of conservatives at Twitter; that Twitter tries to make spammy content less visible on the platform; that many of the sock puppet Twitter accounts banned in the last year posed as Trump supporters; and that Twitter would cooperate, as required by law, in any investigation of President Trump by handing over his private Twitter messages. The most surprising part was a former engineer’s claim that Twitter historically “shadow banned” users. (A “shadow ban” means that a user’s content on a platform can’t be seen and the user doesn’t realise it.)
Project Veritas points out that Senator Ted Cruz cited their videos while questioning tech companies during a hearing about content moderation, terrorism, and Russia in January.
“The individuals depicted in these videos were speaking in a personal capacity and do not represent or speak for Twitter,” said a Twitter spokesperson by email, pointing me to a page that explains how and why Twitter accounts are censored or made less visible. “Twitter does not shadowban accounts. We do take actions to downrank accounts that are abusive, and mark them accordingly so people can still click through and see this information if they so choose.”
While Project Veritas’s findings weren’t particularly shocking, how they were obtained was. Project Veritas didn’t just fake-recruit its targets, it fake-seduced them. Many of the male employees were secretly recorded while on dates at dimly-lit restaurants, sipping wine. Based on the number of times he appears in the videos in different locations and dress, one security engineer, Clay Haynes, appears to have been enamoured enough with the operative pumping him for information to go out with her at least three times. All of the Veritas operatives’ faces are blurred, but you can see his date’s jangly bracelets and long blond hair. It’s unclear just how far the seduction of Haynes went, but they became serious enough to go on a double date to Morton’s Steakhouse with her friend, a disguised James O’Keefe.
“NO ONE should have to experience this,” said Haynes via Facebook message. Haynes, who is still employed by Twitter, ultimately opted not to talk to me at the company’s request.
Beyond the questionable journalistic ethics of exploiting people’s desires for work and love, Project Veritas’s tactics broke the law, says John Nockleby, a professor who specialises in privacy at Loyola Law School-Los Angeles. While consent laws for recording conversations vary from state to state, California is a two-party consent state, meaning you have to tell someone if you’re recording them, or face up to a year of jail time and a $US2,500 ($3,240) fine. “You’re allowed to do video in a public place without getting consent, but not take audio, unless it’s someone like a politician giving a speech to a crowd,” Nockleby told me by phone. “In California, even in a public place, if you’re audio recording without consent, that’s not legal.” In California, even in a public place, if you’re audio recording without consent, that’s not legal.
O’Keefe, who paid a $US100,000 ($129,600) settlement in 2012 to an ACORN employee who sued him over California’s law against surreptitious recording, expressed the belief that his operatives are allowed to record people in public places, like bars, restaurants or a conference room where a door is open.
“We have a number of lawyers who handle compliance for us. California is a two-party state but we can operate in areas where there are no expectations of privacy,” said O’Keefe by phone. “With the Twitter story, we did not break the law. Period.”
In a follow-up email, a Project Veritas spokesperson pointed to an exception in the law for circumstances in “which the parties to the communication may reasonably expect that the communication may be overheard or recorded.”(Norai says the door to the conference room where his interviews took place was closed.)
The story Silicon Valley likes to tell about itself is that it conquered the world by making it more open and connected, and by getting strangers to trust each other. Project Veritas exploited that ecosystem of connection and trust to wage its year-long investigation, turning the tools that Silicon Valley created against it. In a phone interview, O’Keefe declined to reveal how many undercover journalists were involved or how much it spent on the operation, saying only that it “was very expensive” because travel and lodging in San Francisco “was outrageous.” (Project Veritas doesn’t seem to be having money problems; its budget has nearly doubled every year, according to financial filings. O’Keefe says it raised more than $US7 ($9) million in 2017.) He said he couldn’t talk about his group’s methods because the investigation of tech companies is ongoing. Google and Facebook employees should beware. The investigation of tech companies is ongoing. “We still have active investigators out in the field,” said O’Keefe.
“We still have active investigators out in the field, which is why I can’t reveal the techniques used to gather information,” he told me. “I wish these companies would be honest about what they are doing. Unfortunately, we live in a society where there is so much dishonesty that it requires undercover work.”
In other words, deceit requires more deceit. I was able to unearth some of the group’s methods of deception: It sent targets messages on LinkedIn and dating apps, built false identities on social networks, and operated a fake start-up out of a WeWork blocks from Twitter’s headquarters.
The larger revelation of the project is not that Twitter is biased against conservatives; it’s that Silicon Valley has given strangers who bear you ill will all the tools they need to infiltrate your life. Our identities are scattered across the web on multiple platforms, giving people countless ways to make contact with us as well as dossiers of what we do, whom we like, and where we go.
“You’re on the national news talking about Twitter,” a friend told Mo Norai via Facebook message after the first video was published. Norai had no idea what she was talking about at first. “You know I don’t work at Twitter anymore, right?” he sent back.
Then he went to Project Veritas’s site and watched the video. “Oh fuck, this is bad,” he thought.
In the videos, Norai is dressed formally, wearing a tie and a black suit vest, his long hair pulled back in a ponytail. Norai’s experience at tech companies is in content moderation — deciding, essentially, what speech needs to be taken down. He’s removed spam from iTunes and reviewed posts as a contractor for Facebook. He was hired as a contract worker at Twitter after the Paris attacks in November 2015 because terrorism results in increased offensive postings on social networks. “We were warned it was going to be grisly,” Norai told me.
He was there for just three months, and was gone by March 2016, months before Trump became the Republican presidential nominee. Having “Content Review Agent” for Twitter on his LinkedIn résumé, though, made him a target of Project Veritas. Vaporware,a successful strategy for many a start-up in Silicon Valley, also works well for deceptive investigative operations.
Norai had two interviews with the fake start-up, which was allegedly going to make content recommendations to people based on their location and buying patterns. He says he typed the company’s name into a search engine and didn’t find anything. (Vaporware, a successful strategy for many a start-up in Silicon Valley, also works well for deceptive investigative operations.) “It seemed weird but I met the people,” Norai told me. “They said they wanted to start a start-up. It made sense it wasn’t in existence yet.”
Both his interviews were in May. Kelly Dale, the supposed recruiter, said the office was in downtown San Francisco and gave Norai an address on Mission Street. When Norai got there, it turned out to be a WeWork co-working space, which, again, is not that strange. Lots of early-stage start-ups are based out of WeWorks around the country, because they offer easy plug-and-play office space. The WeWork-Civic Center that Project Veritas used rents office space for as little as $US780 ($1,011) per month.
I went to the WeWork last month – it’s a seven-minute walk from Twitter’s headquarters, in a stylish building on an otherwise seedy street in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district – and asked for Tech Jobs Box. The receptionist recognised the name, but said they weren’t there anymore. She wouldn’t say how long they were there or how many people came in to meet with them. WeWork declined to answer any questions about the fake company that rented space from it.
Norai’s interviews were with a doughy-faced guy who introduced himself as Eric Williams. A grey-haired “investor” named Dan, who Norai later discovered was Dan Sandini, a known operative of Veritas, came to the second interview, the one posted online. Dan and Eric said they lived on the East Coast but wanted to recruit talent in the Bay Area.
Norai thought the interview questions were odd. They asked him theoretical questions about how he might have dealt with tweets from aggressive Trump supporters.
“The political questions were strange but I just thought it was because they weren’t from here,” said Norai, a life-long Californian who grew up in the East Bay.
Norai hadn’t worked at Twitter during the bulk of the 2016 campaign, nor had he dealt with Trump-related content moderation. But his theoretical comments were presented as if from experience. Project Veritas’s habit of presenting comments out of context is part of why people question the credibility of their videos. James O’Keefe says Project Veritas recently formulated a code of ethics that includes “not breaking the law” and not deceptively editing videos or “putting words in people’s mouths.”
After Norai’s interview ended, Eric and Dan took him out for celebratory cocktails at two swanky San Francisco bars, Local Edition and the View. They said Norai was hired. At the View, Norai took out his phone to Snapchat the moment. Dan protested and asked Norai not to put it online. “I just thought he didn’t want to look silly because I gave him cat ears,” said Norai. ”Current or prior Facebook or Twitter experience preferred.”
When Eric came back to town in June, he invited Norai to a Giants game with two other men, who said they were Department of Justice lawyers. The four men sat behind home plate, and Eric asked for Norai’s help in recruiting other people for the start-up. Afterwards he sent him job descriptions for two positions: “software engineer, machine learning” and “spam operations.” “Current or prior Facebook or Twitter experience preferred,” the listings read, suggesting Facebook may get the Veritas treatment next. Norai put Eric in touch with two friends who had experience at Twitter and Facebook, respectively.
The night ended at bars again. After drinks at the Starlight Room, Norai got on the train home to the East Bay. “It felt like we’d established a friendship,” said Norai.
He never saw any of them again. At some point, Norai tried to email Kelly Dale and it bounced. Eric told him she’d gotten married and had a new email address, which made little sense given that her email was “firstname.lastname@example.org.” A few months later, Eric’s number stopped working. Dan told him Eric had been let go. Still jobless months later, Norai began to wonder if it had been some kind of scam. He decided to take a contract work position at Facebook last September.
When the Project Veritas video came out in January, he found out exactly what kind of scam it was. The videos didn’t include the two friends he put Eric in touch with.
In January, an investigator from Twitter reached out to him to ask if he had known he’d been filmed and asked whether he’d been contacted on Tinder or other dating apps, as others had been. While Norai says he mostly worries about potential professional damage, he also bears psychological scars from the episode. He says he’s paranoid now about meeting new people, and worries when a phone is out during an interview because it could be secretly recording him. He didn’t feel comfortable with me until I showed him my driver’s licence.
He asked me if I’d ever done anything like this before, which was an uncomfortable question, because I have. A couple years ago, I created a nonexistent business — the Freakin’ Awesome Karaoke Express, or F.A.K.E. — and made it a website as well as accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Yelp, in order to explore the fake reputation economy. I do believe that some stories can only be told well by going “undercover,” and while I hate to admit it, part of me is impressed by all the work that Project Veritas put into its Twitter exposé. Many a journalist knows it can be hard to get people who work at tech companies to talk. But their specific tactics were deplorable and cruel. They didn’t go undercover to find out how an industry actually works; they went undercover to exploit people’s vulnerabilities in the pursuit of information that could have been unearthed with a more traditional journalistic approach.
O’Keefe disagrees with that sentiment. “It’s hard to get [tech companies] to be honest on the record. You call them as a journalist and they say they don’t do it. We got tipped off to shadow banning and set out to confirm it. And we basically confirmed it,” he told me by phone from an Uber. “Sometimes that’s when you’re most honest, when you’re being recorded in private.”
Twitter disputes the honesty of the investigation. “We deplore the deceptive and underhanded tactics by which this footage was obtained and selectively edited to fit a pre-determined narrative,” said a spokesperson by email. “Twitter is committed to enforcing our rules without bias and empowering every voice on our platform, in accordance with the Twitter Rules.”
Since the Twitter investigation was published, Project Veritas hasn’t done much to cover its tracks. Kelly Dale’s LinkedIn profile is still up, with over 200 followers and claims that Dale worked at CUNY and went to Pace. Neither have records of her for obvious reasons: She doesn’t exist. According to Nexis’s people search engine, there are no Kelly Dales who live in Massachusetts. The profile photo looks to me like it belongs to Allison Maass, who did not respond to a media inquiry sent via LinkedIn. Maass left Project Veritas last year to work for Circa, an online media group owned by the media behemoth Sinclair Broadcasting, which famously requires its television stations to air conservative news daily, and is currently trying to expand its footprint by acquiring Tribune Media. Project Veritas and Sinclair Broadcasting have collaborated in the past.
Leaving behind the traces of abandoned identities is pretty common for Project Veritas, said Lauren Windsor, an executive producer at the web show Undercurrent who was working at Democracy Partners when the group of political consultants was infiltrated by Project Veritas in 2016. After Democracy Partners realised it had been duped and secretly filmed by an intern named “Angela Brandt,” who was in fact Allison Maass, Windsor began preserving evidence for a million-dollar lawsuit against the group. She realised it would be useful to publish that evidence – photos and details of faked identities — to help others avoid the same fate. In January, she published an online dossier with the photos and known aliases of over 150 Project Veritas operatives.
When shown a photo of “Eric Williams,” Windsor recognised him from another Project Veritas operation and sent me photos of him filming activist group Voces de la Frontera in Milwaukee in 2016.
“They have gotten a lot of funding. They have been on a recruitment surge to try to staff up before 2018,” she said by phone. “I think they’re a real threat to media and political organisations, and, most importantly, to candidates.”
O’Keefe echoes that. “We have an untold amount of people inside organisations and they don’t know that,” he told me. “We are going from the smash-and-grab to the long con.” We are going from the smash-and-grab to the long con.
Windsor says the group’s techniques are “inhumane.” “They see themselves as being at war with the Left but the [people they secretly film] are real people despite how much Project Veritas dislikes them politically,” she said. “A lot of people [who are infiltrated and secretly filmed] have described the experience to me like psychological rape. It felt like that to me. They’re destroying lives and it’s really important to expose their political espionage as much as possible.”
Windsor has been training liberal groups how to spot a Veritas operative, mainly by thoroughly researching the online identity of anyone who offers free help or dangles the offer of donor money. If their online footprint is thin, it can be a clue. But there are, of course, legitimate reasons why someone might have a thin online footprint, so it’s not a sureproof solution.
I don’t actually have any sureproof solutions for you. We could ask social media companies to try to protect us from deceivers by authenticating people’s identities – Tinder could require users’ driver licenses; LinkedIn could ask for business records in order to list a new workplace — but that would simply invite a different sort of dystopia. We’re never going to be able to completely eradicate fake bots on Twitter or faked videos or con men on dating sites. Trolls will always find a way.
Maybe just keep in mind that, despite Silicon Valley marketing to the contrary, being in a more open and connected world has downsides. Project Veritas may not be particularly great at spycraft, but with enough manpower and enough online information at its disposal and enough hidden cameras in enough places, it will compromise people and organisations in damaging ways, fairly or unfairly. It’s the real-life manifestation of the faceless algorithms and unknown data brokers that scrape our profiles for information and constantly sit in the backgrounds of our browsers tracking everything that we do. Instead of using it to serve you Instagram ads for shoes, they’re trying to take down your organisation. You will just be a casualty along the way.
In October 2016, Project Veritas released a series of videos that they alleged demonstrated misconduct, impropriety, and vote “rigging” on the part of Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff or other Democrats.
Project Veritas’ YouTube channel displayed four “undercover” videos released in October 2016. The first video involved a surreptitiously recorded conversation between a covert operative for Project Veritas and Manhattan Board of Elections Commissioner Alan Schulkin at a December 2015 Christmas party. In the clip, Schulkin surmised voter ID would prevent voter fraud and discussed the possibility of “bussing” voters to polling places:
The second video purportedly evidenced a culture of ambient misogyny at a Clinton field office, framed as a response to concurrent controversy over lewd remarks by Donald Trump captured on tape in 2005:
The third video involved a hidden recording of Democratic candidate Russ Feingold opining that Hillary Clinton “might issue an executive order” pertaining to guns:
The fourth and most controversial video purportedly depicted evidence that the Clinton campaign’s field offices were tampering with Republican voter registrations and conspiring to incite violence at Trump rallies:
The videos are, as is typical of O’Keefe’s, work somewhat of a gish gallop, comprising a constellation of allegations and assertions that is virtually impossible to fact check without complete clips of the involved conversations. Nearly all the videos used stitched-together, out-of-context remarks with no indication of what occurred or what was discussed just before and after the included portions.
The framing and style of videos created by James O’Keefe is well known due to his 2009 “sting” in which he and accomplice Hannah Giles visited ACORN offices and pretended to be seeking advice on how to run an illegal business that included the use of underage girls in the sex trade. The resulting videos — which were edited to create the impression that O’Keefe and Giles had spoken to ACORN representatives while dressed as a pimp and prostitute — dealt that organization a mortal blow before reports publicizing the deception in O’Keefe’s videos came to light:
How quickly things seem to fall apart when James O’Keefe is the person who put them together.
O’Keefe’s incriminating ACORN video was shown to have been heavily edited — neither he nor Hannah Giles were actually in pimp and prostitute get-up when they spoke to ACORN employees, for example — and no criminal prosecutions of ACORN followed. While not letting ACORN off the hook for showing “terrible judgment” in the video, California’s then-attorney general Jerry Brown noted after an investigation into the tapes and the organization that “sometimes a fuller truth is found on the cutting room floor.”
Those same words now seem applicable to the latest O’Keefe sting, which further tarnished NPR’s reputation and took down its CEO. As we noted, Glenn Beck’s conservative website, The Blaze, was first to report on discrepancies between the first edited eleven-and-a-half minute video released on the Project Veritas website and a later, unedited two-hour version … NPR media reporter David Folkenflik addressed the dubious editing on Morning Edition and in a written report for NPR’s website. Folkenflik reviewed the two tapes himself, along with some NPR colleagues and outsiders like The Blaze’s editor-in-chief Scott Baker and Poynter’s Al Tompkins. They home in on many of the same problems The Blaze pointed out. And they basically come to the same conclusion: the tape is still a problem, but the impression it leaves is different.
“I tell my children there are two ways to lie,” Tompkins said. “One is to tell me something that didn’t happen, and the other is not to tell me something that did happen. I think they employed both techniques in this.”
Columbia Journalism Review reiterated assessments and warnings about O’Keefe’s methods in a 2011 piece targeting NPR. That article noted that the time-consuming nature of fact-checking (particularly when source material is obscured) has led to Project Veritas efforts skating past cursory review:
From where might we have learned such a lesson? From video scandals past. Think ACORN and think Shirley Sherrod: job- and organization-crippling scandals in which the media blindly aided and abetted. Note too that O’Keefe is a political point-scorer, and here he is scoring from a soft-target.
We knew all of this, and yet few of us slowed down. Including the NPR brass.
It is telling that The Blaze was the first to point out O’Keefe’s context-stripping editing and that its report came out two days after O’Keefe’s video release. (And, yes, we at CJR should have been doing just as The Blaze did, searching for the discrepancies they found.) It’s telling because, as The Blaze showed, it takes time to vet a source.
We can only hope that, next time, the order in which this scandal and others like it have unfolded — headlines and drama first; reporting and vetting later — is reversed. Given the pattern that just repeated itself, we’re not optimistic.
The Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) organization also regularly coveredO’Keefe’s efforts in 2011 and 2012, lamenting how often the details of the purported stings are misreported before being thoroughly investigated:
USA Today has a long piece by Martha Moore about video hoax artist James O’Keefe’s NPR project. The article does a pretty good job of running down the deceptions in O’Keefe’s video. That’s good. This, however, is not:
… The sting’s impact was magnified by the quick dissemination-without-scrutiny that is a hallmark of Internet-driven media.
O’Keefe’s video has nothing to do with muckraking. And please don’t blame the Internet for the fact that journalists apparently can’t be bothered to care whether a source is reliable.
From NBC Nightly News, courtesy of reporter Lisa Myers:
We last saw O’Keefe wearing a fur coat and playing a pimp when he managed to take down the liberal group ACORN.
No we didn’t … As should be well-known by now, O’Keefe used footage of himself wearing a “pimp” costume in his ACORN videos — but didn’t wear the ridiculous costume during his “undercover stings.” Media accounts acted as though he did, though — it took a lot of effort to get the New York Times to finally admit its errors on this count.
If reporters don’t know these facts, they’re bound to get fooled by O’Keefe again.
After his fraudulent ACORN videos, the lesson media should have learned about right-wing “citizen journalist” James O’Keefe is not to trust him. But they didn’t, so here we are with his NPR stunt, which allegedly shows NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller saying mean things about the Tea Party in a meeting with phony Muslim Brotherhood-connected donors.
But it appears that, once again, O’Keefe’s videos are not be what they seem. The first serious questions about them were raised on (I swear!) The Blaze, a Glenn Beck-affiliated website. Over there, Scott Baker pointed to a few problems. In one part of the video, NPR‘s Schiller seems to laugh about the phony Muslim group’s position on Sharia law. Baker says it’s out of context.
NPR has done at least two reports on the video. It’s not quite a Shirley Sherrod moment — where the right-wing video was edited to totally turn her message around — but it’s clear that things aren’t exactly what they first seemed. O’Keefe’s history should give media outlets serious reservations about taking him at face value on anything … which goes to show you that the argument that the media is tilted to the left remains totally unconvincing.
As Exhibit A, look at James O’Keefe, who famously and proudly passed off his partner as a prostitute while secretly videotaping ACORN staffers. Who in the debate over O’Keefe’s work took the position that because the colleague was not actually a prostitute, the entire project was unethical and therefore all of his videotapes should be ignored? The actual objection to O’Keefe’s work was that he deceived the public — misleadingly editing his footage to create false impressions, including the popular delusion that O’Keefe had gone into ACORN offices wearing an outlandish Superfly costume. Nevertheless, he got overwhelmingly positive coverage from right-wing and centrist news outlets alike, with the result that his mendacious reporting had the successful result of helping to bring ACORN down.
In a 2011 op-ed, a Washington Post writer laid out the reasons why videos released by Project Veritas should initially sound numerous ethical alarms:
It is now clear that O’Keefe’s editing of the raw video from his interview with NPR’s top fundraiser, Ron Schiller, was selective and deceptive. The full extent of this distortion was exposed by a rising conservative Web site, the Blaze. O’Keefe’s final product excludes explanatory context, exaggerates Schiller’s tolerance for Islamist radicalism and attributes sentiments to Schiller that are actually quotes by others — all the hallmarks of a hit piece … In this case, O’Keefe did not merely leave a false impression; he manufactured an elaborate, alluring lie.
Interest in the four current Project Veritas videos has run high on social media. Politicoaddressed them from the perspective of legality, such as whether Project Veritas violated the law in Florida by ostensibly not adhering to the state’s wiretapping laws. The article also included a statement from Florida State Democratic Party spokesman Max Steele regarding the allegations about voter registrations:
According to Max Steele, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party, Mao or anyone else would lose their jobs for destroying voter-registration forms.
“Sexual assault and harassment, and destruction of voter registration forms, are serious offenses,” Steele said in a written statement. “There is no question that a staff member who engaged in this kind of behavior would be immediately terminated, and we are investigating the claims. Remarks like these do not represent the Florida Democratic Party and are completely inappropriate.”
The video neither shows nor alleges that anyone affiliated with Clinton’s campaign actually destroyed any forms. Florida Democrats are surpassing Republicans in signing up voters. The state party has submitted 503,000 voter registration forms for this election; the state Republican Party only 60,000. The Florida Democratic Party said it trains volunteers on proper handling of the registration forms and tracks the documents to make sure none is destroyed in violation of state law.
Under state law, a “person may not knowingly destroy, mutilate, or deface a voter registration form or election ballot or obstruct or delay the delivery of a voter registration form or election ballot.” The third-degree felony carries a maximum five-year-prison term and $5,000 fine.
However, the video itself could constitute a third-degree felony on the part of Project Veritas because of Florida’s law that requires consent before someone is recorded. A person must give explicit consent or give “implied consent” by continuing to talk after being told he or she is being recorded.
As the piece noted, the “rigging” clip and claims of voter registration form destruction did not stem from activity surreptitiously recorded by Project Veritas. Instead, the viral video simply depicts an operative of the organization attempting to bait campaign workers into “admitting” they would tolerate such behavior. And as with the video involving Manhattan Board of Elections Commissioner Alan Schulkin, what Project Veritas’ targets appeared to be doing was going along with leading questions rather than disputing them.
Schulkin himself provided comment to that effect, telling the New York Post that he had played along with a young woman he described as a “nuisance”:
The videographer asked point-blank, “You think they should have voter ID in New York?”
Schulkin responded, “Voters? Yeah, they should ask for your ID. I think there is a lot of voter fraud.”
Schulkin defended his videotaped remarks, with slight revisions.
“I should have said ‘potential fraud’ instead of ‘fraud,’” he said.
But he reiterated his support for a voter ID requirement.
He recalled a woman asking him a lot of questions the night he was recorded.
“She was like a nuisance. I was just trying to placate her,” he said.
The October 2016 releases weren’t Project Veritas’ first foray into the 2016 elections and the political climate of the day. In March 2016, O’Keefe infamously bungled an attempted “investigation” by failing to hang up his phone after calling a target (thereby exposing his plot to those whom he was trying to fool). A May 2016 New Yorker article about that aborted sting examined the forces behind Project Veritas and the diminishing impact of deceptive videos:
Many O’Keefe operations, however, have fallen flat, including his repeated efforts to prove that voter-identity fraud is pervasive. “It seems like most of the fraud O’Keefe uncovers he commits himself,” Richard Hasen, a professor of election law at the University of California, Irvine, says. A sting aimed at Hillary Clinton was considered especially feeble. Veritas operatives persuaded a staffer at a rally to accept a Canadian citizen’s money in exchange for a Hillary T-shirt — a petty violation of the ban on foreign political contributions. Brian Fallon, the communications director for the Clinton campaign, says, “Project Veritas has been repeatedly caught trying to commit fraud, falsify identities, and break campaign-finance law. It is not surprising, given that their founder has already been convicted for efforts like this.”
It may be that the shock value of such exposés is diminishing. A recent series of sting videos against Planned Parenthood, created by a group called the Center for Medical Progress, involved deceptions so devious — including an attempt by undercover operatives to buy fetal tissue — that the campaign backfired. Pro-choice activists united in anger at the sting’s perpetrators, and a Texas grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing and indicted the C.M.P.
Project Veritas’ October 2016 election-related sting videos (embedded above) reveal tidbits of selectively and (likely deceptively edited) footage absent of any context in which to evaluate them. Unless his organization releases the footage in full, undertaking a fair assessment of their veracity is all but impossible.
My esteemed colleague Russell Brandom leads our policy team. He was struck by the disingenuous response from conservative lawmakers to the most recent video sting from Project Veritas, which presented YouTube employees in an unfair light. Russell asked if he could take over the column today, and I was happy to oblige. I’ll be back tomorrow with thoughts on Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance at the Aspen Ideas festival.
James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas has been on a tear against Google lately, with the most recent salvo coming this Monday. Like most of O’Keefe’s work, it’s deceptively edited and doesn’t add up to much, but he managed to catch one executive in a pretty poor choice of words. In a hidden camera conversation with Jen Gennai, Google’s Head of Responsible Innovation, the executive is caught saying the following:
Elizabeth Warren is saying we should break up Google. And like, I love her but she’s very misguided, like that will not make it better it will make it worse, because all these smaller companies who don’t have the same resources that we do will be charged with preventing the next Trump situation, it’s like a small company cannot do that.
If you substitute “Cambridge Analytica” for “Trump Situation,” it’s more or less the argument Facebook and Google have been using to fend off antitrust proposals all year. But if you’re inclined to think the whole media is biased against the president, it was exactly what you’d been waiting to hear. When the video was pulled off YouTube for “privacy violations” the next day, it only fueled the paranoia.
The whole situation would probably have stayed quiet if it weren’t for Ted Cruz, who called out the video in an uncomfortable moment at the Senate Commerce hearing the following day. Cruz was questioning Google UX Director Maggie Stanphill, who was nominally there to speak about dark patterns in interface design. Cruz took her to task for the quote in the video, and then again when he realized she hadn’t actually read the report.
“I would recommend people interested in political bias at Google watch the entire report and judge for yourself,” Cruz said. The clip was then circulated on the usual right wing outlets (Town Hall, Breitbart, PJ Media), and got a minor replay from the Homeland Security Committee the next day. After that last hearing, the scandal grew big enough that YouTube decided to issue an official denial, saying simply “we apply our policies fairly and without political bias.”
It’s embarrassing that Congress took this so seriously, and no one wants to give it any more attention than it deserves. But O’Keefe has played this trick over and over, so it’s worth breaking down exactly what’s happening here.
To start with, there’s a fairly straightforward reason why the Veritas video was banned. YouTube’s privacy guidelines ban videos that identify people who don’t want to be identified. There are exceptions for newsworthiness and public figures, but the Veritas video is clearly on the wrong side of the rule. The offending footage is the hidden-camera video of Gennai, who is no one’s idea of a public figure, and obviously didn’t consent to be in the video.
Even if you see Veritas as making a newsworthy point about platform bias, it’s hard to argue that including Gennai’s name and face was necessary to make that point. (Hidden camera footage used on broadcast news typically blurs out faces for exactly this reason.) Given the general temperament of Veritas subscribers, one can only imagine the kind of abuse that’s been pointed at Gennai in the days since the video went live.
This sort of takedown happens often enough that we can assume most YouTubers are aware of them, to say nothing of reporters covering YouTube moderation issues. It’s hard to believe O’Keefe was walking into this blind — just like it’s hard to believe he wasn’t aware that YouTube was scheduled for a run of congressional hearings in the days after the video posted. He was daring YouTube to ban him, knowing that it would elevate a mediocre scoop into two days of congressional berating.
The point wasn’t to force YouTube into better policies or more consistent enforcement. It was simply brute force, letting executives know that every time someone in the conservative clique has trouble with YouTube, there will be a lawmaker ready to sweat them over it. Each time it happens, Google gets a little more gun-shy dealing with high-profile policy violations, whether it’s Alex Jones or Steven Crowder. And as long as the trick keeps working, O’Keefe and Cruz will keep doing it.
Project Veritas, an organization run by conservative activist James O’Keefe, appears to have been get caught trying to pass false sexual misconduct allegations against Senate candidate Roy Moore to The Washington Post, extending its history of deploying deceptive tactics to try to ensnare news organizations in controversy.
The newspaperreported Monday that a woman who falsely told its reporters she had been impregnated by the embattled GOP candidate as a teenager was seen entering the offices of the organization in New York, seemingly tipping the group’s hand in its efforts to bait The Post into publishing uncorroborated accusations against Moore.
After a series of interviews with the woman, The Post report said, the newspaper opted not to publish the explosive yet unverified claims. It noted that during the meetings, the purported accuser repeatedly solicited the reporters for opinions on whether her claims would damage Moore in Alabama’s special election on Dec. 12.
Moore, a former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, is locked in a struggle for political survival after a spate of recent allegations of sexual misconduct with minors when he was in his 30s.
Project Veritas released a series of videos Monday depicting interactions between Post reporters and O’Keefe at the group’s headquarters. In several clips, Post reporters can be seen approaching members of Project Veritas. The members ignore the reporters’ questions, instead hinting at a string of damaging videos the organization promises to reveal.
Project Veritas later on Monday began posting unverified interactions between the organization and members of The Post. The videos refer to the newspaper as the “American Pravda,” a reference to the news arm of the former Soviet Union.
Led by O’Keefe, the organization is known for carrying out hidden-camera interviews in which it looks to lure members of established news outlets into making supposedly compromising ethical statements. It has been criticized for deceptively editing footage to misrepresent the subjects’ comments.
In 2010, O’Keefe was sued for his videos involving members of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) purportedly discussing illegal activities. O’Keefe later apologized for the series and paid $100,000 in a settlement.
O’Keefe was commissioned in 2009 by Andrew Breitbart, founder of the popular conservative news site currently led by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Bannon and Breitbart News are among Moore’s staunchest political allies and defenders.