You may remember James O'Keefe as the video hoaxter who fooled media into thinking ACORN gave tax advice to a man wearing a pimp costume (FAIR Action Alert, 3/11/10). Or as the miscreant whose attempts to interfere with Sen. Mary Landrieu's office phones got him arrested (Extra!, 4/10).
Now O'Keefe has a new claim to fame as the guy who tried to turn sexual harassment into reality TV.
CNN is reporting today (9/29/10) that one of its reporters, Abbie Boudreau, was the target of a bizarre, misogynistic scheme by O'Keefe's video production team–"Project Veritas"–to lure her on to a boat where she would be videotaped as O'Keefe attempted to seduce her amidst sexual paraphernalia. Boudreau was alerted to the plan at the last minute by one of O'Keefe's colleagues who recognized that "the idea is incredibly bad" with "the potential for unnecessary backlash."
The whistleblower, Izzy Santa, described the harassment plan in a note to one of Veritas' backers:
Today, James is meeting with a CNN correspondent today on his boat. She is doing a piece on the movement of young conservative filmmakers.
She doesn't know she is getting on a boat but rather James' office. James has staged the boat to be a palace of pleasure with all sorts of props, wants to have a bizarre sexual conversation with her. He wants to gag CNN.
According to a written plan, the "equipment needed" for the stunt included "hidden cams on the boat," a "tripod and overt recorder near the bed, an obvious sex tape machine," as well as a "condom jar, dildos, posters and paintings of naked women, fuzzy handcuffs" and a blindfold.
The blueprint included a script for O'Keefe to read, apparently written by O'Keefe associate Ben Wetmore:
My name is James. I work in video activism and journalism. I've been approached by CNN for an interview where I know what their angle is: They want to portray me and my friends as crazies, as non-journalists, as unprofessional and likely as homophobes, racists or bigots of some sort….
Instead, I've decided to have a little fun. Instead of giving her a serious interview, I'm going to punk CNN. Abbie has been trying to seduce me to use me, in order to spin a lie about me. So, I'm going to seduce her, on camera, to use her for a video. This bubble-headed bleach-blonde who comes on at five will get a taste of her own medicine, she'll get seduced on camera and you'll get to see the awkwardness and the aftermath.
Please sit back and enjoy the show.
The document, labeled "CNN Caper," tried to anticipate how the cable network would respond and planned a counterreaction:
If they pursue this as you are a creep, you should play it up with them initially only to reveal that the tape was made beforehand confirming this was a gag…. If they [CNN] admit it was a gag, you should release the footage and focus on the fact they got punked, and make sure to emphasize Abbie's name and overall status to help burden her career with this video, incident and her bad judgment in pursuing you so aggressively….
If they go on the attack, you should point out the hypocrisy in CNN using the inherent sexuality of these women to sell viewers and for ratings, passing up more esteemed and respectable journalists who aren't bubble-headed bleach blondes and keep the focus on CNN.
Trying to figure out what to do if O'Keefe came out of this looking like a creep was perhaps the one good idea that went into the planning of this operation.
Media Matters' Jamison Foser (9/29/10) pointed out that when O'Keefe was running his ACORN hoax, the ombuds for both the New York Times and Washington Post wrote columns complaining that their papers weren't taking him seriously enough. Maybe there ought to be some soul-searching at these outlets over why they gave him as much credence as they did.
Follow Jim Naureckas on Twitter @JNaureckas.