New York National Guardsman: “We’re All Over the Place. They [Government Officials] Got Us Everywhere.”
Medical Professional at New Rochelle Testing Site: Testing Is “Just Being Precautionary;” Agrees Media Coverage “Making It Out Bigger” Than It Is
Another Guardsman Orders O’Keefe To Stop Filming: “If You Took A Picture, I Need You to Delete It. Okay Man?”
RESPONSE: New York National Guard Public Affairs: “Clearly This Individual Also Misunderstood the Freedom to Gather Imagery at Public Locations Here in The U.S.”
[New Rochelle, N.Y.—March 31, 2020] At the Glen Island Park drive-thru COVID-19 testing entrance, New York National Guardsmen told Project Veritas founder and CEO James O’Keefe the media reaction to the virus outbreak was overblown and to him it was just a flu.
The guardsman then instructed O’Keefe to turn his hazard lights on, follow the car in front of him and observe the testing center’s drive-thru directional signage. After receiving the instructions, O’Keefe engaged with the guardsman.
James O’Keefe: “What about the situation itself. Is it as bad as--the media is
saying? The whole pandemic?”
New York Army National Guardsman: “Oh no. It’s the flu!”
O’Keefe: “That’s all it is?”
Guardsman: “It’s the flu.”
Later, in the exchange:
O’Keefe: And, it’s not as bad as the media is saying, I’m hearing”
Guardsman: “No. I’m in the tents with them. I’m doing all this sh*t.”
O’Keefe: “What are you? Are you guys like Army National Guard or what are you
Guardsman: “Yeah, it’s the Army.”
O’Keefe: “You’re in the Army?”
Guardsman: “Yeah, from New York.”
The view was shared by a medical professional working the site, who spoke to O’Keefe.
O’Keefe: “Is it as bad as they’re saying, this pandemic? Everyone’s freaking out. Is it bad, is it overblown by the media, what is it like?”
Medical worker: “Is it what?”
O’Keefe: “Is the media accurately reporting or is it as bad as people are saying?”
Medical worker: “No.”
O’Keefe: “It’s not as bad as the—”
Medical worker: “It’s precautionary.”
O’Keefe: “The media is making it out bigger?”
Medical worker: “Yes.”
Medical personnel administered a COVID-19 nasal swab to O’Keefe and his colleague on March 29. At the time this was published, the results were still pending during the one to two day waiting period.
In another exchange, O’Keefe asked another guardsman for his opinion: “Is it as bad as everyone is saying? Is this as bad—is the pandemic as bad? Or is it just the flu?”
That soldier told O’Keefe it was not his place to comment.
“Uhh, I mean listen man, I can’t really comment on that because I’m not a doctor,” he
said, “or a biologist or anything. This is obviously pretty unprecedented, so taking the proper precautions is always gonna ensure your safety and the safety of those around you.”
O’Keefe said it was important to remember these were not his words, but the words of a New York National Guardsman, presumably briefed on the situation by his chain of command, and yet, sharing his unvarnished eyewitness observations of what he saw with O’Keefe.
Colonel Richard Goldenberg, the public affairs officer for the New York National Guard, responded within minutes of Project Veritas’ request for comment.
Goldenberg said the guardsman had been briefed about his mission. “All our soldiers and airmen receive mission briefings before any assignment in our pandemic response. This is no different than a mission brief for overseas contingency operations.”
The colonel said the guardsman was speaking for himself, not for National Guard:
Everyone reflects on the serious nature of this pandemic differently. Across our state,
we have more than 2,400 members on duty in support of local response efforts, from Long Island up to Buffalo. We know, as an organization, that our efforts can help save lives, both directly and indirectly. You can find an overview of all National Guard efforts at www.nationalguard.mil/coronavirus.
“I realize this will probably upset some, but Project Veritas goes to the front lines to get unfiltered, raw information, to the public. We’re not here to project a narrative or even to draw a conclusion—we don’t even know who the villains are, if any,” O’Keefe said.
Project Veritas will continue to publish information as it is gathered. If you have unfiltered raw video of your local hospital, emergency department, testing site, or information about the need for masks, gloves or equipment, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
During O’Keefe’s investigation, another guardsman ordered him to stop filming and to delete of photo had just taken with his phone.
“No pictures, brother,” the guardsman said. “If you took a picture, I need you to delete it. Okay man?” O’Keefe apologized to the soldier and showed him that he had deleted the photo.
Goldenberg said the soldier who directed O’Keefe to delete the photo and stop filming is not in alignment with New York National Guard policies.
Thanks for raising the issue to our attention. It is always our policy for New York
State Military Forces to discuss their actions and missions with the news media
during civil support operations. Clearly this individual also misunderstood the
freedom to gather imagery at public locations here in the U.S. And without a
doubt, his remarks reflect only his own view and not that of our force.
The scale and scope of this pandemic is changing daily. Our men and women working
each day to warehouse and distribute critical supplies, support sampling sites for citizens, assist in state call centers or establish NYC’s newest additional care facility, may not revive the most current statistics but the overwhelming majority know that the work they do is critical to our effort to help state and local government agencies cope with this response.
When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo addressed a formation of the state’s guardsmen on March 27 at Jacob Javits Center in New York City, he told soldiers they were going up against a cruel enemy.
“What's even more cruel is this enemy doesn't attack the strongest of us, it attacks
the weakest of us. It attacks our most vulnerable, which makes it even worse because these are the people that every instinct tells us we're supposed to protect.
These are our parents and our grandparents, these are our aunts and uncles, these are our relatives that are sick. And every instinct tells us protect them, help them because they need us and those are the exact people that this enemy attacks."
About Project Veritas
Project Veritas is a non-profit investigative news organization conducting undercover reporting. Project Veritas investigates and exposes corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct in both public and private institutions to achieve a more ethical and transparent society. Project Veritas is a registered 501(c)(3) organization.