Left-wing Websites Don't Bother With Truth in Smearing James O'Keefe

When the far-left finds a character to assassinate, it doesn't let facts get in the way. That, at least, is the lesson we can draw from the latest bout of liberal character assassination, this one aimed at James O'Keefe.

The slandering of his reputation has occurred mostly at Salon.com, the Village Voice, and an obscure hard-left organization called the One People's Project. Together, they have waged an all-out war on James O'Keefe's character by associating him with supposedly racist people and organizations. Just one problem: their claims are predicated on falsehoods, exaggerations, and assumptions (but mostly just falsehoods).

Max Blumenthal, who penned the Salon piece, and the stalwart non-journalists at OPP (the Village Voice, for its part, issued a mild retraction) alleged that O'Keefe had helped to organize a gathering of "anti-Semites, professional racists and proponents of Aryanism." They also claimed (and produced a cropped picture that could not possibly validate this claim) that O'Keefe had manned the literature table at the event.

Blumenthal and OPP based their "facts" (yes, those are snarky quotation marks) on a blog post by the Washington Independent's Dave Weigel, who claims to have attended the event in question. Weigel supposedly validated the wild claims made by Blumenthal and OPP, saying on his blog that he could "confirm all the details" of Blumenthal's story. But Weigel later clarified his remark:

While I’d been at the event, it was Isis, a photographer/investigator for the One People’s Project, who told me that her photo was actually a picture of O’Keefe at a table of controversial literature. But several e-mailers and commenters have pointed out that my first post appeared to endorse Blumenthal’s whole story. I want to quickly walk through that story and point out the parts that, based on my experience at the event and interviews with Isis and event organizer Marcus Epstein, were not true.

Whoa, so the blogger whose recollection of an event taking place four years ago provided the basis for Blumenthal's hit job of a Salon column is now saying that numerous facts in the Blumenthal column were untrue.

In bullet-point form, via Patterico (with his emphasis), these untruths include:

  • Salon’s description of the event as a “conference on ‘Race and Conservatism’” — Weigel says it “was a two-hour debate, not a conference.” That makes a big difference, as one’s attendance at a debate does not by itself indicate an allegiance with one side or another.
  • Salon’s claim that “The leading speaker was Jared Taylor” whom Salon labels a white supremacist — Weigel says that Taylor is controversial, but “was only one of three speakers.”
  • Salon’s claim that O’Keefe helped “plan” the event — Weigel notes that his other sources agree with O’Keefe that O’Keefe had no planning role. Weigel concludes that O’Keefe “absolutely wasn’t” a planner of the event.
  • Salon’s claim that black conservative Kevin Martin “was added at the last minute” to provide cover for conservatives — Weigel provides an e-mail proving that Martin was invited 29 days before the event.
  • Salon’s claim that “O’Keefe was manning the literature table” — Larry O’Connor tracked down Blumenthal’s source, who claimed that Weigel had witnessed O’Keefe manning the table. Weigel makes it clear that he didn’t: “I never told anyone that O’Keefe had ‘planned’ the event or ‘manned’ the table, because I could not confirm those things.”

Big Journalism's Retracto, the Correction Alpaca (who has been quite busy lately) noted a host of other inconsistencies and outright fabrications beyond the ones listed above, in the defamatory Salon piece:

  • Blumenthal claims that "O'Keefe lost his job at the Leadership Institute in 2008 for a prank call he made to an Ohio-based Planned Parenthood clinic." In fact, as Retracto notes, O'Keefe left LI in May 2007. 
  • "Right-wing online publicist Andrew Breitbart," claims Blumenthal, "hired [O'Keefe] to carry out the ACORN operation that would make him famous." In fact, Breitbart only gave O'Keefe a platform to show and discuss the ACORN videos. He played no part in the production of the videos. O'Keefe, by Breitbart's account, came to him with the videos. He was not comissioned to make them.
  • Blumenthal also simply makes up a couple quotes: "By O'Keefe's own account, his racial troubles became acute when he entered the multicultural atmosphere of Rutgers University's dormitory system." O'Keefe denies ever having made such a statement.
  • Blumental implies racist motives in O'Keefe's ACORN sting operation (he's hardly the first to do so), claiming he "baited African-American office workers into making statements that could be perceived as incriminating." The statement gives the impression that he targeted black people with the operation, when in fact the employees at the Philadelphia and San Bernardino ACORN offices were white.

Retracto, true to his (her?) name, demands that Salon correct the record: "The sum total of these errors and manipulations is the rape of a name and is unworthy of any website, paper, or magazine that is meant to be considered a news source.  BigJournalism.com requests speedy corrections and retractions commensurate with the damage done."

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