Mon. May 20th, 2024

Written by Bill Berkowitz

James O’Keefe, the provocateur, prankster and faux journalist who founded the right-wing undercover video operation, Project Veritas in 2010, is back in the headlines. In addition to apparently running a toxic workplace, O’Keefe has been living high off the teat of the organization’s donors.

The conservative National Review, which headlined its story: “Project Veritas Board Accuses James O’Keefe of Misusing Donor Funds, Denies Forcing Him Out,” reported that a preliminary review of the group’s finances found O’Keefe “has spent an excessive amount of donor funds in the last three years on personal luxuries,” the board said. According to the National Review, “Those luxuries included: spending $14,000 on a charter flight to meet someone to repair his boat, under the guise of meeting with a donor; spending $60,000 for ‘dance events such as Project Veritas Experience’; spending over $150,000 on ‘Black Cars’ over the last year and a half; and spending thousands of dollars on a DJ and other equipment for his personal use”.

According to The New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt, David A. Fahrenthold and Adam Goldman, in their story headlined “James O’Keefe Leaves His Post as the Leader of Project Veritas”: “His departure came amid an uproar among the group’s staff about his leadership style, his treatment of subordinates and his use of the group’s funds for high-priced expenses like flights on a private plane.”

The National Review pointed out that an early February “11-page letter signed by 16 Project Veritas employees – and including opinions and anecdotes allegedly from a third of the nonprofit’s staffers – was sent to the board taking aim at O’Keefe’s ‘management style and business acumen.’ In the letter, O’Keefe was described as a ‘power drunk tyrant’ and a ‘diva,’ who abused, bullied, demeaned, and over-worked his employees, and who caused concerns among donors.”

In a story headlined “James O’Keefe ‘Outright Cruel’ to Project Veritas Employees, Internal Memo Alleges,” The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer reported that “Working for O’Keefe at Project Veritas can mean being ‘publicly humiliated’ by him in what amounts to ‘public crucifixions,’ and even being required to take lie detector tests, his unhappy employees write in the memo.”

The Times noted that “It also came in the midst of an ongoing Justice Department investigation into how Project Veritas acquired a diary kept by Ashley Biden, President Biden’s daughter, before the 2020 election. Mr. O’Keefe’s home was searched by F.B.I. agents with a warrant in the fall of 2021 as part of the investigation.”

The board says it hasn’t fired O’Keefe and is open to reconciliation. In a video address to the staff from its headquarters in Mamaroneck, N.Y., O’Keefe said: “Currently, I have no job at Project Veritas. I have no position here based upon what the board has done — so I’m announcing to you all that today, on Presidents’ Day, I’m packing up my personal belongings here.”

The National Review’s Ryan Mills reported that “O’Keefe addressed some of the spending in question in his video… which he said was being recorded ‘for internal distribution,’ but appears to have been planned for wider release. He said the cars and the charter flights were necessary. ‘I don’t know how I can do my job here if I can’t transport myself around the United States,’ O’Keefe said, adding that board members suggested he utilize Zoom to lower travel expenses. ‘Zoom meetings over in-person meetings is not how you raise money, and not how you conduct your journalism,’ he said.”

“O’Keefe said he was accused of using Project Veritas’s money to make a down payment on his wedding. ‘I got a chuckle out of this. I’m not married. I’ve never been married,’ he said, suggesting that the expenses in question were really for a Project Veritas Christmas party.”

O’Keefe then dropped a bombshell according to the National Review. O’Keefe “noted that his ouster came on the heels of the release of an undercover video that allegedly showed a Pfizer research director expressing concerns about Covid-19 vaccines and acknowledging that his company planned to mutate the coronavirus through ‘directed evolution.’ O’Keefe called the Pfizer sting the ‘biggest story in our organization’s history,’ but stopped short of stating directly that it was linked to his downfall. ‘That is the only thing that has changed,’ O’Keefe said of the release of the Pfizer sting. ‘And then, suddenly, an unusual emergency happened just a few days after that.’”

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His Conservative Watch columns document the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.


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