Fresh Off Getting Burned by the Washington Post, James O'Keefe Takes the Stage at SMU Tonight

James O'Keefe
James O'Keefe Gage Skidmore
Still at the center of a controversy stemming from an apparent conspiracy to plant fake news in The Washington Post, James O'Keefe will speak at an event on Southern Methodist University's campus Wednesday night. O'Keefe is the head of Project Veritas, a conservative media activist group that specializes in undercover stings. His presentation, sponsored by a conservative student group, is open to the public and will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

The Post reported Monday that a woman approached the paper with false allegations about U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama. The woman said Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 15 and then drove her to Mississippi for an abortion. Reporters at the newspaper quickly began to doubt the story, and the woman was eventually seen walking into the headquarters of Project Veritas, O'Keefe's right-wing, undercover sting factory. While O'Keefe hasn't confirmed that the woman was working for him, he told supporters in an email earlier this week that the Post had "blown" the cover of someone he referred to as an investigative journalist.

As fallout from the Post's report continues, O'Keefe is visiting Dallas at the behest of the SMU chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, a campus organization William F. Buckley started in 1960. In a statement, the group said Tuesday that it believes O'Keefe is doing important work to keep newspapers honest.

"Young Americans for Freedom and Young America’s Foundation have never encouraged student activists to pursue undercover investigations," according to the group. "However, as Mr. O’Keefe’s past work has demonstrated, undercover journalism can help improve the integrity of powerful organizations."

O'Keefe's previous work includes his infamous 2009 undercover operation, during which he and a woman named Hannah Giles posed as a pimp and prostitute seeking money-laundering advice from the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, a community organizing group. O'Keefe's recordings show ACORN workers instructing him on how to lie about his occupation in order to launder his cash. No charges were filed, but the 40-year-old organization filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

O'Keefe's work has been more miss than hit. In 2010, he pleaded guilty to entering federal property under false pretenses, a misdemeanor, after being caught trying to tamper with Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu's phones. In 2016, he botched an attempt to infiltrate George Soros' Open Society Foundations. After making a call to Dana Geraghty, an employee at the foundation, posing as a potential partner for the nonprofit named Victor Kesh, O'Keefe failed to hang up his phone. During the minutes that followed, Geraghty heard O'Keefe describe his plan to infiltrate Open Society to a companion, The New Yorker later reported.

SMU isn't sponsoring the event, but it announced Tuesday that it supports the right of a student organization to invite speakers of its choosing to campus. "This speaker was invited to campus by a student organization, and we respect our students' right to do so," according to the statement from the university. "Please do not misinterpret our support for that freedom as an indication of official University agreement on any particular issue."

O'Keefe is set to begin speaking at 7 p.m. SMU's Young Americans for Freedom said attendees can challenge O'Keefe however they see fit.

"We view this event as a platform for our peers and Dallas community members to engage in firsthand dialogue with Mr. O’Keefe by hearing his perspective directly, and, if they desire, asking him challenging questions during the Q-and-A session," according to the group.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young