The Right Response to the Failed Sting Op Against the Washington Post? Relief

By John Zmirak Published on November 28, 2017

In the last two days, we’ve witnessed an ugly trainwreck among conservative activist journalists. The crash involved James O’ Keefe’s Project Veritas. That well-funded guerilla journalism group has a track record of investigating and exposing leftist organizations and leaders. It revealed systemic corruption among the federally-funded “community organizers” of ACORN. Veritas got Hollywood environmentalists on tape, accepting the offer of a fake Saudi “oil sheikh” to fund an anti-fracking documentary — in order to boost the price of crude oil.

All that was fun. It danced on the line between advocacy journalism and culture warrior pranksterism. There’s no reason, in principle, why the Right shouldn’t use such weapons. It’s not “beneath” us. The Trump election proved the limits of bringing a Boy Scout penknife to a gun fight.

Most importantly, O’Keefe worked with Lila Rose (now of Live Action) to expose Planned Parenthood employees. Posing as a pimp and several young women who posed as underage prostitutes, O’Keefe’s team found Planned Parenthood’s staffers ready and willing to break the law. They apparently knew all about how to cover up sex trafficking by arranging discreet abortions.

That investigation of Planned Parenthood led directly to the work of David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress. They exposed Planned Parenthood’s for-profit sale of unborn baby parts. Without O’Keefe, and the people he trained or inspired, we’d have no hard evidence of Planned Parenthood’s appalling organ trafficking business. Nor any hope of stripping that racist-founded group of hundreds of millions in federal funding.

Giving The Washington Post a Win

The latest Veritas project targeted The Washington Post, and misfired badly. Apparently, O’Keefe was deeply suspicious of The Post’s reporting on the underage sex allegations regarding Judge Roy Moore of Alabama. So O’Keefe decided to “sting” them. How? By offering them apparent evidence of an invented sex scandal concerning Moore. The goal? To see if The Post would run with shaky allegations. If it did, that would cast a cold light, he thought, on the stories The Post had run so far. O’Keefe also had employees use hidden cameras/mikes to try to catch Post employees admitting journalistic bias in their coverage of President Trump.

As Jim Geraghty explains at National Review, Veritas’ gambit quickly went sideways:

The woman e-mailed and texted the Post reporter, claiming a sordid and false tale of Moore impregnating her, then driving her to another state to have an abortion. The reporter asked if there were any documents to verify these events. The Post started to find discrepancies in the Veritas woman’s account.

If you really want to cringe, go read the Post’s own triumphant account of how it found the obvious holes in the Veritas sting operation. It was pretty amateurish. The “victim” was on social media using her real name. (That’s the same name she gave Post reporters.) Why? To ask for donations to help her “expose” left-wing journalists. As The Post reported, she wrote:

“I’m moving to New York!” the May 29 appeal said. “I’ve accepted a job to work in the conservative media movement to combat the lies and deceipt of the liberal MSM.

What Should O’ Keefe Do Now?

To quote one-time manager of the 1962 Mets Casey Stengel, “Doesn’t anybody here know how to play this game?” As Geraghty notes, the result of all Veritas’ efforts was to enhance the Post’s journalistic credibility. And the credibility of the charges against Roy Moore. NR advises:

James O’Keefe should publicly acknowledge that no matter how much he may dislike the Post, they did what they were supposed to do in this situation. They did not rush Phillips’ unverified claims into print. They sought to verify as much of Phillips’ story as they could, and when they could not, they did not print it. Perhaps all of the Washington Post reporters involved in this story loathe Roy Moore. But they have now proven that they’re not willing to print unverified rumors about him.

Geraghty is right. We do the causes of life, liberty, and American greatness no service by squinting our eyes to filter out unhappy facts. Hunkering down into mindless tribalism is both a sin and a blunder.

The result of all Veritas’ efforts was to enhance the Post’s journalistic credibility.

The Good News

And is it really an unhappy fact? Sure, we may detest many of The Post editorial writers’ opinions. But would we really be glad to learn that the journalism side of one of our nation’s leading newspapers is that biased? That it would gleefully run with obviously fake rape charges, just to sway an election? If that were true, it would be appalling news.

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Yes, for what it said about the souls of the reporters. But even more for what it would tell us about America: That our press is completely untrustworthy. That one more public institution proved totally rotted by politics. That we in the right-wing tribe must stick to our own organs’ reports — also likely biased, and possibly untrustworthy. Like the violent attacks on GOP congressmen and Senator Rand Paul — undercovered by our biased media, by the way — such a fact should scare us. It would mean we were one giant step closer to an American reprise of the Spanish Civil War.

A hard-headed journalist is often disappointed to find out that a scandal he suspected doesn’t really exist. But as a citizen and a person he should feel relieved.

Focus on the Good

So the proper Christian and civic-minded response for James O’Keefe would be: To praise The Washington Post for passing his test. Not only would that be sportsmanlike. It would also show that he is focused on the Good — in this case, truthful journalism. Yes, a hard-headed journalist is often disappointed to find out that a scandal he suspected doesn’t really exist. But as an American and a person he should feel relieved. For all the political use we can and should make of Planned Parenthood’s complicity in covering up statutory rape and selling human organs … wouldn’t we be happier if they weren’t committing those sins? Of course we would.

The question that faces O’Keefe, which he should be asking himself: Was I letting my political anger at The Washington Post drive me to prejudge its reporters unjustly? Did I really have reason to believe that The Washington Post habitually libels people? That its reporters write and editor print false stories based on flimsy evidence, just to gut conservatives?

I suspect the answer to the last question is “No.” Certainly, the lesson of Project Veritas’ recent effort is that the Post is not nearly as bad as he feared. And that’s the only good news we can pull out of the wreckage.

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