On Monday, Project Veritas will launch our next investigation into the most powerful entities in the world, and it won’t be anything like what the scientist in this scene experienced.
In a recent series called Chernobyl, the head of the KGB confronts a dissident scientist for telling the truth. The KGB Chairman asserts the power of the state and argues that it would be impossible to resist with heroism:
“You’re one of us, Legasov. I can do anything I want with you. But what I want most is for you to know that I know. You’re not brave. You’re not heroic. You’re just a dying man who forgot himself.”
“I know who I am, and I know what I’ve done. In a just world, I’d be shot for my lies, but not for this, not for the truth.”
“Scientists and your idiotic obsessions with reason. When the bullet hits your skull, what will it matter why?
“…Your testimony today will not be accepted by the State. It will not be disseminated in the press. It never happened. No, you will live, however long you have, but not as a scientist, not anymore. You’ll keep your title and your office, but no duties, no authority, no friends. No one will talk to you. No one will listen to you. Other men, lesser men, will receive credit for the things you have done. Your legacy is now their legacy.”
“…You will remain so immaterial to the world around you that when you finally do die, it will be exceedingly hard to know that you ever lived at all.”
“What if I refuse?”
“Why worry about something that isn’t going to happen?”
Something that isn’t going to happen. As Lord Acton once said, “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Those in power often believe that they are above the law, that resistance is futile.
This was on the mind of the Big Tech insider who is the subject of our next story. As I was recently dropping him off at his hotel room, he was worried about whether his efforts would make a difference. He was even afraid for his life.
He was waiting for our call for a long time. He desired the truth to be disseminated, but he had given up some hope.
I told him we were pursuing the story endlessly since our recent phone call. I told him about all the specific sources and undercover work that we had done; spending 25% of our time treasure and talent working for the last two years trying to expand upon the truth of what he had recently told Project Veritas. We also obtained confidential internal documents corroborating what he told us. I showed these documents to my team, endlessly expressing their importance, and informed him it was my main mission for the last year.
Upon hearing all that we had done, without knowing about it or being given an update for a year, he burst out into tears and hugged me profusely. It was like a valve within him was released and the tears came pouring. He knew at the moment everything was going to be okay.
“This will have made all the difference now. It doesn’t matter what I do next in my life, everything else is a bonus after this. They won’t be able to hurt me now. They won’t be able to put me in an information box. With what I’ve gone through, I will not be irrelevant, it will not be in vain.”
These stories wouldn’t be possible without brave insiders who were willing to blow the whistle and sacrifice everything.
Before this launch, I want to explain why these brave souls are coming to us…
The common theme among the people coming to us is that they have a “justice complex.” Their love of their country and of the truth is so strong, they are willing to overcome fear of retaliation against their reputation, against their family, and the fear of losing their careers.
Friends, a movement of heroes is coming forward, and we haven’t seen anything like this since the time of the Boston Tea party.
People have had enough of the media’s misrepresentations, omissions, and lies. Oligarchs want to put information into a box and it is motivating the citizen journalist to take action. To be brave. To do something.
Citizen journalists have a long tradition of being motivated by a deep thirst for truth and justice.
Thomas Jefferson said society needed newspapers more than they needed government. He also thought every man must be capable of reading the news. Jefferson saw a civil responsibility in everyone because every person must engage with reality.
Journalism shapes the way that people consider important issues. It builds moral consensus and creates what investigative journalist Ida Tarbell called, “righteous indignation.”
Publishing the truth about public and private institutions is crucial because politics is downstream from culture, and culture is downstream from the media itself.
It is the journalist’s responsibility to assist in creating an informed public that can hold the government accountable. When the media fails to inform the public –- as they have for decades –- the government isn’t held accountable. Citizen journalists are then required to find the truth for themselves.
The synthetic nature of current media packages doesn’t challenge the status quo but reinforces it. Many news outlets may have started out to pursue the truth, but the cult of personality, aggregation, and opinion is far more monetizable than intrepid investigations that shake core assumptions.
Today’s crisis is that mass media has become an industrial system of production that manufactures public consent. The end goal is ratings and political influence, not the pursuit of truth. They seek to bury the truth because it shatters the narratives and illusions that are necessary to continue their ratings.
Most responsible journalists know this. It’s been said in different ways by Glenn Greenwald, Noam Chomsky and by President Trump when he talks about “Fake News.” Even a CNN producer that Project Veritas covertly filmed admitted that the Russia-Trump collusion story was “bulls**t” and that it was done “for ratings.”
“All the nice cutesy little ethics that used to get talked about in journalism school you’re just like, that’s adorable… This is a business.” – John Bonifield, CNN
Legendary muckraker Lincoln Steffens spent a lifetime documenting the “shame of the cities,” and his realization was that true reform begins at home. Citizens cannot rely upon their elected representative or favorite newspaper. Individuals must take reform upon ourselves.
To that end, Daniel Boorstin, former Librarian of the United States Congress, wrote:
“In our world of big names, our true heroes tend to be anonymous. In this life of illusion and quasi-illusion, the person of solid virtues who can be admired for something more substantial than his well-knowness often proves to be the unsung hero: the teacher, the nurse, the mother, the honest cop, the hard worker at lonely, underpaid, unglamorous, unpublicized jobs.” — Boorstin
For these reasons, we, the citizens, not the media or those elected in government, must be the tip of the spear. Citizens must toss themselves into the arena to expose the truth.
You don’t have to be a big name to change the world, you can wear a camera and be a part of the Veritas Army.
Regardless of the consequences, our country desperately needs more people to speak up and do something brave.
But people are afraid…
Most People Are Afraid
When you ask, “what can I do,” you know that if you challenge the forces of conformity, the system will come down upon you — and it’s only getting worse.
The paradox is that what’s required is service and sacrifice from the salt of the earth person who has no interest in being in the spotlight.
Most people worry about the negative reaction of speaking up. Shaking up society with citizen journalism requires a moral courage that sometimes seems too hard.
Nobody comes away unscathed but there is a silver lining: the arc of the moral universe is long, and it bends toward justice.
The cost of not acting is far greater than the cost of action.
The alternative is a world that Andrew Breitbart told me about: a world where citizens are on a leash, dancing to the tune of those who hold them captive, a world resulting from the inaction of feckless moral cowards. Taken to the extreme — this devolves into a dystopia like the one described in The Gulag Archipelago where citizens sell out their own brothers and sisters to save themselves from retaliation by the state.
More modern examples of this are the media institutions that garnish praise, and the tech overlords that have monopolized information, determining which opinions are allowed to be found in a search. Even worse, a world where these tech companies are hiring journalists to bribe or squash any dissenting voices.
Time-and-time again Veritas is attacked in every way, and from every angle imaginable, and time-and-time again we have refused to be leashed or to dance to the tune of the palace guard whose efforts seek to break our will and shut us down.
As someone who is attacked more than most presidential candidates, I know exactly what this is like. Here are just a few of my own personal experiences.
Dean Baquet and The New York Times
In the Fall of 2017, Veritas released a four-part investigation into The New York Times. This series uncovered a Times employee who admitted that his reporting wasn’t objective.
Another Times employee revealed her politically biased agenda against President Trump. She scolded the Vice President for having religious views. And yet another employee, with over 20 years at the Times, admitted that everyone there “hates Trump.”
After the Times terminated one of the employees that our journalists filmed, the head of the NYT, Dean Baquet, called me despicable at an event that aired on CSPAN. He said that Veritas was “despicable” and “isn’t journalism.”
James O’Keefe confronting the Times’ Dean Baquet in 2017
To have the god of the journalism world unequivocally chastise you with an ad hominem attack was not as hard for me as it may have been hard for others. He publicly said what he had to say.
A year later, things became more interesting when I saw Dean Baquet at a conference at the Duquesne University National Conference on the First Amendment.
At the conference in Pittsburgh, there was a dinner for top journalists at a nearby restaurant. At the event, the President of the University invited me to attend to offer some remarks.
Some of the people there did think that what Project Veritas does is journalism. Sitting nearby was Marty Barron, the Executive Editor of the Washington Post along with some other big names in media.
The conference represented for me, quite literally the “seat at the table!” I felt proud to be in a room with all these distinguished journalists, and slightly ashamed that I was proud, given how we had skewered their sacred cows at one time or another.
There was even Sreenath Sreenivasan, one of the Deans of Columbia Journalism who I had confronted with a microphone in 2011 as part of our “To Catch a Journalist Series.” At the time, Sree stood up from his chair and started filming me. There were sneers and jeers against what I had done at the time; Columbia Journalism students all mocking me with delight, looking for an angle to protect their esteemed faculty.
This time, Sree smiled awkwardly when he saw me, looked slightly uncomfortable and gave me a wet noodle handshake. We made small talk about what he’s doing now, and he pivoted to the man standing next to me.
I decided to approach the Times’ Dean Baquet to say hello, and it was me that was nervous. I had expected Baquet to feign friendliness in a social and collegial type of way. Maybe with his voice lowered, to be gently adversarial.
Or perhaps to say, “You got us good with that Nick Dudich story” and shake my hand, maybe even offer a slight bit of praise notwithstanding whatever criticisms he had about us. He and I were, after all, in a room celebrating the 1st Amendment.
But when I walked up, Mr. Baquet grimaced and quickly turned his back to me. He didn’t even want to acknowledge my presence and couldn’t even look me in the eye.
The Executive Editor of The New York Times tells C-Span I’m despicable, then apparently is ashamed to acknowledge my existence. All of this while sitting in a conference acknowledging our rights to inform our fellow citizens. “He doesn’t even think I’m human,” I thought privately.
In that moment, Mr. Baquet and I were both grappling with different but equally profound realizations. On my end, I had to come to grips with the fact the supposed paragon of investigative-journalism “All the News that’s Fit to Print” would never even give me the time of day.
I will confess before that moment, there was still a tiny but dwindling part of me that wanted recognition from press I sought to hold accountable. Perhaps it was at a 40% level a decade ago when I started, lower than most. That morning it was probably down to 4%, but that piece still existed, hanging by a thread.
I read The New York Times every morning in college. As big and powerful as he was, he was not used to others holding him accountable. He couldn’t grapple with an institution, Project Veritas, or the leader of it, personifying the supposed values he cherishes, that he is supposed to espouse, at a 1st Amendment conference no less!
If he truly did publicly adhere to at least some of his principles, he would have nothing by which to fear. The unwillingness to engage was emblematic of the Old Guard’s view of the world.
Integrity would have demanded the acknowledgment of my presence at the conference and a discussion of the merits of what we had done that led him to “deal with” his own employee’s misconduct. But not for Project Veritas, he would have taken no disciplinary action against Nick Dudich. Therefore, the merits of our investigative journalism should be self-evident to a man who does these sorts of things for a living.
Faced with this ultimate irony and confronted by me as the leader of Project Veritas quite literally standing next to him; he could do nothing but wince, hoping I would walk away. There was no camera filming his insecurities, so he didn’t have to pretend. In that moment, he was no longer the head of the Old Grey Lady. He wasn’t even, as the saying goes, a former hero who now became a competitor.
He was just a man in a restaurant.
My hand still extended, I withdrew it. The 4% within me that sought the praise was reduced to zero.
And with that, my collar had come completely off.
This isn’t the only example.
The Grueling Coordinated Attack from New York’s Attorney General and the Media
Another one happened in the Fall of 2017 as Veritas was attacked by many news outlets that our journalists have exposed (CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times).
The sudden increase in negative news emboldened the now-disgraced former New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, to unleash an audit of Project Veritas. His reasoning was that Veritas needed to be audited because of a missed-checkbox on a form from nine years ago. While that checkbox was immediately corrected — nine years ago — it was the justification that Schneiderman needed to begin saber rattling, and it quickly set off a chain reaction.
As unbelievable as this may sound, Schneiderman’s office actually sent our audit letter to The NY Daily News before they even sent it to us. As a result, journalists were calling us and asking for comment before I had even received anything from the AG office.
The NY Daily News published this misleading front-page headline that I had lied “about conviction”:
It didn’t stop there. The supposed “investigation” encouraged others to come after Project Veritas.
I soon learned that Tom Bridge, the Associate General Counsel of Fidelity Investments, was refusing to pass along donations from our supporters. Fidelity was refusing to honor our donors’ intent and they sought to justify it on the basis of saber rattling from an Attorney General.
At the time, I thought to myself: What’s next? Is the power company going to cut our power because it’s considered politically unsavory to supply us with electricity? Is the bank going to take away our accounts because they disagree with our editorial decisions?
Our donors stood their ground, telling Fidelity that they would close their accounts if their intentions weren’t honored.
One donor told me, “You must be doing something right James. I’m getting calls from The New York Times on my home phone!”
That matter was quickly resolved, and Fidelity realized that Project Veritas had done nothing wrong.
But of course, the media felt compelled to try to stop Project Veritas.
National news outlets — including The Times, Buzzfeed, and The Daily Beast — called many of our donors in order to shame them to stop supporting us. But our donors weren’t afraid, they saw the existential nature of our fight and ultimately doubled their commitments.
To top it all off, other Attorneys General suddenly started sending us audits as well. All of this over a missed check box from nine years ago, that was corrected nine years ago.
The Attorney General of New York apparently did compromise his own principles, and he resigned a few months after in disgrace after a sexual harassment report surfaced.
Teachers Union President Sues for “Selective Editing”
Veritas recently had to spend $350,000 in legal fees to defend our name for exposing the truth. In June of 2016, Project Veritas released a video where Steve Wentz, President of the Wichita Teachers Union, made outrageous comments about how he treats students that give him trouble. Here’s what he said:
“You want to kick my ass? You really think I’m a motherf**ker? Son, go for it. I’ll give you the first shot. But be sure to finish what you start because if you don’t, I guarantee you, I will kick your f**king ass.”
In response to our video, Wentz filed a 66-page lawsuit and told the Wichita Eagle the video is, “a lie and it is something that needs to be addressed.”
Veritas fought back and prevailed. Federal Judge G. Kendall Sharp recently granted a summary judgment in favor of Project Veritas and threw out the lawsuit. She found that:
“Notably, many of the alleged defamatory statements made by Project Veritas and O’Keefe, both in the Wentz Video and the written content, are recitations of Wentz’s own admitted actions and statements.”
“…Defendants did not commit defamatory acts against Wentz and did not illegally record conversations…”
Steve Wentz lied about us, but we won. Our defense was worth every penny. We could have settled this case out of court. But that is not what we do. We fight, and we fight for the First Amendment and for truth.
I can assure you right now; that we will never surrender our principles. So, help me God, we will never settle frivolous lawsuits.
TSA Harassment: “Do you think what you did was funny?”
Whenever you take on larger-than-life forces, exposing them visually and morally, they tend to react in ugly ways.
In 2014, Project Veritas was ahead of the curve on the immigration debate, exposing our nation’s frail border security.
While many politicians merely talk about our border, the flow of drugs and gangs, and the effects of illegal immigration; Project Veritas instead decided to go film it and do something. I dressed up as notorious terrorist Osama bin Laden and crossed the Rio Grande into the United States from Mexico with cameras rolling.
The viral video significantly embarrassed the Department of Homeland Security and other politicians who insisted that the border was safe. At the time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was quoted saying, “the border is secure.”
Following the video’s release and its use in United States Senate debates, I was detained by US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) every time I would enter the country. At first, CBP agents wouldn’t even tell me why I was being detained.
Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act requests filed by Judicial Watch, I learned that CBP was “unable to locate or identify any responsive records” regarding our detentions. However, episodes continued.
“Do you think what you did was funny?” asked one CBP agent after detaining me. “Are you done with this stuff?”
Another asked me to unlock my cellphone, which contained sensitive information about our work, the names of sources and methods. Eventually, an agent asked me if I had ever “passed the border in disguise?”
They prodded some more, “You’re like a shock reporter. You basically go to the extremes to prove a point?” They said they didn’t want me “to pull a fast one” on them. They even asked me if I would support Donald Trump for President.
How could they justify doing this to a journalist?
I saw their computer screen which said: “Subject is an amateur reporter engaged in publicity stunts including unlawfully entering the United States dressed like an ISIS terrorist and crossing the Rio Grande dressed like Osama bin Laden.”
It was outrageous. My team was detained and questioned for being journalists by government agents. They would never do this to The New York Times or NBC News.
New Hampshire Attorney General Uses False Pretenses
Just this year, authorities in New Hampshire took issue with Project Veritas and the first amendment. We released video of a New Hampshire man admitting to double-voting in a general election (a Class B Felony,) and we showed this footage to officials in the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office.
The investigator that I showed the video to, Robert Sullivan, seemed perplexed and even uninterested in our findings. My team and I decided to leave to show the footage to New Hampshire legislators. Shortly after leaving, the investigators called us back to their office.
After asking some routine questions about the video, one of the investigators handed my executive producer and I subpoenas to testify before a Grand Jury about “the operations of Project Veritas”.
They had lured us back to their office under false pretenses to serve us with subpoenas!
Apparently, showing state authorities who are responsible for preserving the integrity of our elections evidence of voter fraud earns journalists — not the self-admitted double-voter — a subpoena.
James O’Keefe showing voter fraud confession to investigators in the New Hampshire AG’s OfficeThe subpoena made the rounds in local media, as did the voter-fraud admission that our team caught on camera. My team and I wouldn’t take abuse from the authorities laying down, however. Our grassroots supporters in New Hampshire called and emailed the investigators who served us hundreds, if not thousands of times. They eventually shut down their phone line and email account.
When tyrants harass and intimidate you, the worst thing you can do is roll over. You must stand up to them because they only survive if their prey is fearful. In the end, the double-voter was issued a felony arrest warrant by Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, and our findings were validated.
Who else can tell these stories?
These kinds of challenges would break most organizations.
Project Veritas deals with many behind-the-scenes battles on a regular basis. It’s brutal but it’s just turbulence.
You, too, may be hated by the people you want to love you when you do this. Your allies will not want to rock the boat. They want to be loved by the op-ed boards at the big papers. They want Facebook ad revenue and they want their book reviewed positively by The New York Times.
As Rush Limbaugh once told me, one of the toughest things to accept is that being hated is a sign of success.
You will find that when you no longer crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, when you realize that you’re not really leashed, you are free to accomplish the mission.
There are some things more important than having the approval of the press. Things like character and moral courage.
Project Veritas is the vehicle that gives people the inspiration to act and be a change agent, catalysts for citizen empowerment and the inspiration to do it. You and I, Project Veritas, are the answer to the question, “What can I do?”
No one demonstrates this better than our insiders and informants. Our Facebook insider, who decided to put her job on the line to expose censorship of conservatives at the platform, was willing to go public because she felt “the public had a right to know.”
Her example has inspired many other insiders to come forward in media, Silicon Valley, and education.
Our Pinterest insider chose to go public stating:
“There is a huge bystander effect inside Silicon Valley… I could go through life, and I could live in the comforts of life, and I could go on for eighty years, and then make money, do the formula of life, and then I’ll just fall to ashes. And I think that’s how a lot of people live their lives. This is something, no matter what happens, no matter what I lose, it’ll mean something after I’m gone. What are you saving up your ammo for? This is the moment that matters. This is what I’m going to do with my life, this is how I make an impact on this world. I’m going to get ten more people to do what I did.” – Eric Cochran, Pinterest Insider
These are modern day American heroes, men and women of great moral courage. Our country needs more people like these fighting for truth.
There will certainly be obstacles, and they may stop one man, but they can’t stop an army. All it takes is a few.
Founder & CEO
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.