Who Was James O’Keefe Really Punking?

September 30th, 2010 at 7:59 am David Frum | 55 Comments |

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My new column for The Week looks at the latest embarrassing stunt from conservative activist James O’Keefe.

How often do you read the word “dildo” in a CNN story? If you have not followed today’s media convulsion, you must really read the whole thing.

Regardless, here’s a summary: “A conservative activist known for making undercover videos plotted to embarrass a CNN correspondent by recording a meeting on hidden cameras aboard a floating ‘palace of pleasure’ and making sexually suggestive comments, e-mails and a planning document show.

“James O’Keefe, best known for hitting the community organizing group ACORN with an undercover video sting, hoped to get CNN Investigative Correspondent Abbie Boudreau onto a boat filled with sexually explicit props and then record the session, those documents show.” (Among the props was the previously mentioned dildo.)

O’Keefe’s latest brainstorm went awry, however, when an embarrassed confederate gave away the plan to Boudreau. CNN then obtained copies of emails confirming the zany details, including O’Keefe’s hope of seducing Boudreau by plying her with strawberries and champagne. It’s like a scene out of some horrible Austin Powers sequel.

It’s a funny story, in a way. But it contains some serious elements too, worth thinking about

• James O’Keefe is obviously a loose cannon—or worse. Before his Lothario stunt, he was arrested for attempting to plant electronic eavesdropping equipment in the Louisiana office of U.S. Senator Mayor Landrieu. His videotapes of ACORN employees offering him pimping advice have been exposed as deceptively edited.

Yet even so, O’Keefe remains a hero to many in the conservative movement. He can raise money, fill a hall at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), and count on a friendly reception from Fox News and talk radio.

For O’Keefe, politics is a form of war, waged without rule or limit. That would not matter much if he were one lone attention-seeker. But O’Keefe is not alone. Some conservative leaders have honorably repudiated O’Keefe’s latest gambit. Special praise here for Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center, a watchdog group. But if the “politics is war” attitude persists, these episodes will recur.

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55 Comments so far ↓

  • Saladdin

    Excuse me while I go and poke out my mind’s eye…

  • Fairy Hardcastle

    I read the article. Apparently the perverse ideas are in a planning document written by someone called “Ben.” O’Keefe did respond to this document: According to CNN, O’Keefe wrote: “That is not my work product. When it was sent to me, I immediately found certain elements highly objectionable and inappropriate, and did not consider them for one minute following it.” Clearly there was some attempt at a punk/prank. It seems consistent with their tactics to go on the offensive where they thought CNN was going to portray them badly. Even if O’Keefe was not the author of that document he should not have people working with him who think that way and he should have pulled the plug right then and there.

  • heap

    It is interesting to see the attempt at disowning the guy – after the Landrieu thing, and then this..it makes one harken back to the halcyon days of 2009 and remember House Resolution 809.

  • easton

    According to CNN, O’Keefe wrote: “That is not my work product. When it was sent to me, I immediately found certain elements highly objectionable and inappropriate, and did not consider them for one minute following it.”

    Yeah, sure, but somehow he was not aware of it up to the point that she arrived and had to be warned off by one of his own employees (a woman who was rightly disgusted by what was about to unfold). Of course the jackass is trying lie his way out of it. the woman was in tears warning her off, it was going down as it was laid out to be going down and to deny it is too seriously delude oneself.

  • greg_barton

    Hey, JimBo, isn’t the Tea Part a bunch of community organizers?