Media Continue to Falsely Accuse O'Keefe of Wiretapping

January 28th, 2010 1:07 PM

Some in the liberal media continue to insist that James O'Keefe and his three cohorts were trying to "bug" or "tap" Sen. Mary Landrieu's phone lines when law enforcement officials have clearly said that they were not. Since the left doesn't like O'Keefe, the liberal media seems to think standard practices of journalistic integrity don't apply here.

According to MSNBC, one law enforcement official, who was not named, said "the four men arrested for attempting to tamper with the phones in the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) were not trying to intercept or wiretap the calls." This statement comports with the affidavit filed in court after O'Keefe and company were arrested, which did not mention wiretapping or bugging, and only referred to the "tampering" of phone lines (h/t Patterico).

But the Boston Globe parroted this false accusation this morning in a gossip blog post about one of the alleged perpetrators, Joe Basel. The Globe--the same Globe that complained about ACORN's "trial-by-video"--called him a "political dirty trickster who was busted in a Watergate-style bugging operation earlier this week," and said again a couple paragraphs later that Basel was "bagged by the feds allegedly trying to bug the phones" in Landrieu's office. At least the Globe writers said "allegedly" the second time.

The L.A. Times also issued the false claim that the crew had tried to "bug" Landrieu's phones, and explicitly tried to tie O'Keefe and company to the perpetrators of the Watergate break-in:

Filmmaker James O’Keefe III is 25, meaning he was born about 13 years after five men were arrested for trying to bug the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate complex in Washington. The subsequent scandal, which led to the resignation of the burglars’ boss, President Richard M. Nixon, was fodder for history books by the time O’Keefe was old enough to read them. Chances are, he didn’t.

O’Keefe, the Internet “journalist” who became an overnight sensation after his undercover reports revealed unethical behavior by the liberal activist group ACORN, now finds himself in the middle of his own bugging scandal.

Putting the word journalist in quotation marks is a nice touch, but the fact remains that O'Keefe did not try to bug anyone's phones.

CBS News also trumpeted these false charges. referring to the accused as "Phone Bug Suspects" in a headline, and "Men Accussed of Attempting to Bug La. Senator's Phone" it the sub-headline. A CBS News video title calls the incident a "Watergate Style Break-In".

A host of other smaller newspapers claimed that O'Keefe tried to "bug" the Senator's office, including the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Alexandria Echo Press.

The Washington Post, unlike all of these outlets, took the facts into account and issued a correction today, saying, "Earlier versions of this story incorrectly reported that James O’Keefe faced charges in an alleged plot to bug the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu. The charges were related to an alleged plot to tamper with a phone system. The headline incorrectly referred to a plot to bug the phone and a caption incorrectly referred to an alleged wiretap scheme."

All of the sources that parroted this erroneous (if the law enforcement official and official court document are to be believed) claim should do the same: correct the record and admit that O'Keefe's arrest bears little resemblance to the Watergate scandal. There was no bugging or wiretapping going on, and claims to the contrary are irresponsible. Political disagreement is no excuse for journalistic malfeasance.