I'd wager there aren't many people right now who would count themselves among James O'Keefe's supporters -- at least, far fewer than there were before he was arrested for entering Sen. Mary Landrieu's New Orleans office under false pretenses with the purpose of committing a felony. But what friends he does have left are doing their damndest to exonerate him in the court of public opinion. The problem is they clearly don't have a whole lot to work with.
Andrew Breitbart -- O'Keefe's patron and mentor -- got the ball rolling with the absurdly concocted smear that the U.S. attorney's office and the Justice Department conspired with the media to "frame" O'Keefe while he sat in a jail cell (a theory that O'Keefe himself did much to undermine). Breitbart's evidence for this allegation has been, well, nonexistent, though he would like to think that U.S. attorney Jim Letten's recusal from the case shows that he's on the right track. Unfortunately for him, Letten recused himself the day after the arrests were made -- days before Breitbart's conspiracy theory took shape.
And then there's Hannah Giles, O'Keefe's partner in the undercover ACORN "pimp" videos, who posted a missive on BigGovernment.com this morning lauding her colleague's actions in New Orleans for "strip[ping] away the MSM's mask of neutrality, revealing the bias below." Giles also informed us what she's learned from the whole situation: "the MSM is the primary force of the Democratic Party. If the MSM is lying to you, guess who else is? Someone has to feed them stories. Time and time again the MSM has been caught in a self-created web of lies, and the vast majority of these reports do one thing, and that is mask the true, ugly face of liberalism."
You can try and recast O'Keefe's arrest as some sort of heroic exposé of the mainstream media's alleged bias, but here's the thing -- there are great sectors of the right-wing new media that devote every waking moment to "exposing" the "bias" of the media, and they do so without getting arrested. She's praising him for risking jail time in order to achieve something the bias sleuths at NewsBusters claim to do (ineptly, I might add) every day. That's not "citizen journalism," that's stupidity.
Giles also accuses Landrieu's office of "vastly exaggerat[ing] the situation" and writes that "Landrieu's overreaction to O'Keefe's video project ought make [sic] the public wonder what the heck is actually going on in the office." According to Giles, the "overreaction" and "exaggeration" Landrieu is alleged to have engaged in was a statement from the senator reading: "This is a very unusual situation and somewhat unsettling for me and my staff. The individuals responsible have been charged with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purposes of committing a felony. I am as interested as everyone else about their motives and purpose, which I hope will become clear as the investigation moves forward."
So the senator is unsettled and curious as to why four men were arrested in her office, and accurately stated the charges filed against the alleged perpetrators. This counts as an "exaggerated" "overreaction"?
Anyway, Giles wrapped things up with a swipe at conservative blogger Michelle Malkin for, in Giles' words, "call[ing] for an example to be made out of [O'Keefe], and instructing other young journalists to not follow in his footsteps." There's not much that Michelle Malkin and I agree on, but we're on the same page when it comes to not teaching kids to get arrested in the name of political activism posing as journalism.
I think I'm starting to understand why the media criticism produced by the Newsbusters crew is so frequently off-base. It's because they have no idea what they're talking about. Ever.
Here, take a look at Media Research Center Vice President Brent Baker's most recent complaint:
Cautioning the Obama administration's "deficit projections...are just that, projections," NBC's Chuck Todd on Monday evening bought into the White House's claim that Democratic health care reform bills that would add millions to the system are actually spending reduction measures, as he warned: "If health care doesn't pass, because this budget assumes health care will pass, that's yet another $150 billion that would be tacked on to the deficit." (Emphasis added)
See the problem? Baker is conflating spending reduction with deficit reduction.
The other problem is that Baker apparently hasn't been paying attention to the health care debate for the past year, as he derides as "ludicrous" the forecast that health care reform would reduce the deficit. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office consistently projected that the various versions of reform would reduce the deficit. White House budget director Peter Orszag says the $150 billion figure is simply an average of the CBO scores for the versions passed by the House and the Senate.
Finally, Baker's headline demonstrates that his lack of understanding of health care and the difference between "spending" and "deficit" is matched by his inability to understand the difference between assuming something and reporting someone else's assumptions. Baker's headline:
Not Passing ObamaCare Will Boost Deficit by $150 Billion, NBC and ABC Presume
Here's the Jake Tapper comment that headline refers to: "perhaps the most surprising, the budget assumes a savings of $150 billion over the next ten years from health care reform." So, that -- quite obviously -- is not an instance of ABC presuming anything; Tapper is telling viewers what the White House presumes. Similarly, NBC's Chuck Todd is clearly telling viewers what the White House is assuming about health care, not what he assumes.
This really isn't very complicated. It's the equivalent of me reading Baker's statement that ABC presumed that health care reform would save $150 billion and said "Brent Baker presumes that health care reform would save $150 billion."
CNN just spent nearly 8 minutes on a segment about Don't Ask, Don't Tell and whether gays should be able to serve openly in the military. Incredibly, in all that time, CNN never once so much as alluded to the fact that the current policy is discriminatory.
Instead, they talked mostly about money and logistics, with CNN journalists repeatedly parroting the Republican non-sequitur that the current economic uncertainty makes this a bad time to allow gays to serve openly in the military.
Eight minutes, and they didn't once mention the fundamental question at hand.
Currently featured on the front page of the Washington Post's web site:
Richard Cohen's frightened plea for more torture and fewer civil liberties
Dana Milbank's inane column about the purported sexiness of the Budget Director
Ramesh Ponnuru's unsubstantiated claim that President Obama "arguably implied" that voters are "stupid."
An "On Faith" guest post by the American Life League's communications director, who describes feminists as "pro-abortion."
Howard Kurtz's daily exploration of the love lives of the powerful and famous.
And that's just what's linked on the front page -- it doesn't include sports columnist Sally Jenkins' reference to "pro-abortion" feminists, who she mocks as "the 'Dwindling Organizations of Ladies in Lockstep,' otherwise known as DOLL" while criticizing "the group-think, elitism and condescension of the 'National Organization of Fewer and Fewer Women All The Time'" and "'The National Organization for Women Who Only Think Like Us.'" Jenkins concludes with a transparently silly attack on those who criticize CBS's decision to run an anti-choice Super Bowl ad while rejecting an ad for a gay dating service: "CBS owns its broadcast and can run whatever advertising it wants." Yeah ... So? That does not immunize them from criticism for the decisions they make.
I'm really starting to worry there's something in the water over at the Washington Post bulding.
Surprise! James O'Keefe chickened out.
Of course, he went on Hannity's show last night and whined about "journalistic malpractice," because nasty, corrupt, liberal news outlets mistakenly reported O'Keefe and his pals and been charged with trying to "bug' Mary Landrieu's phone.
But what did O'Keefe not do? He didn't mention that the right-wing NY Post made the exact same reporting error. In fact, for days now nobody on the right has acknowledged this unpleasant reality. The Post's glaring mistake is the Subject That Must Not Be Mentioned.
Why? Because it's very existence demolishes the beloved right-wing memo about a liberal media conspired to smear O'Keefe. But oops, how can it be a liberal conspiracy if Murdoch's NY Post was in on it, too? Note to mention lots of right-wing blogs.
So instead, last night O'Keefe played dumb. Very convincingly.
From a February 2 WorldNetDaily column by Marylou Barry, headlined "Rules for living in my country":
So, then, let's go over some of the principles our first two centuries of immigrants intuitively understood and that many of today's immigrants, for some reason, apparently do not. I don't mean to insult you by belaboring the obvious, but better too much clarity now than a big surprise for both of us down the road.
You cannot own people here. This includes domestic servants and family members. You cannot beat or mutilate your children. You cannot force, threaten, or sell them into arranged marriages. You cannot keep adult relatives from marrying the people they choose, getting jobs, or moving out of your house. You cannot hold your employees captive, beat or rape them, or refuse to pay agreed-upon wages. It took us 200 years to get rid of institutionalized slavery, and we are not about to reinstate it because one of your holy men thinks it's acceptable behavior.
You cannot kill people here. Not your wife. Not your children. Not your grandchildren. Not people who question your honor or hurt your feelings. Not people who quit your religion. Not people of other faiths or ethnicities whom you regard as apes, pigs, monkeys, or dogs.
You cannot take over our lawful institutions and subvert them to you own purposes. If you are a communist and want to overthrow our government, we don't want you. We have enough of our own, so try Cuba or China. If you are a Nazi sympathizer we don't want you either; a Middle Eastern country may be more to your liking anyway. If you are coming here to convert us to any ideology that abrogates our dignity or freedom, don't even get off the plane. We don't care what it says in your holy book; we are not here for you to colonize.
You need to ask questions before you accept employment. If your belief system requires a special place to bathe your feet or time off to pray at work, tell your employer before you hire on. If you are going to refuse to work next to a person of the opposite sex or refuse to perform some required function of the job, your interview is the time to make this plain. Come to think of it, before you leave your country of origin would be even better. It would also give you more time to find an employer willing to make special accommodations, not an easy sell in these times of strong competition and 10 percent unemployment. Just remember that U.S. companies are under no obligation to adapt to your newfound needs after hiring has taken place.
You get only one wife. If that's not enough, it's called bigamy -- and you would be subject to state laws regarding that particular felony. Some states also have laws against cohabitation, which is the legal definition of what you would be doing. Also, please note that the rest of us do not intend to support any surplus "spouses" with our tax money through entitlement programs.
Ugh, we've been down this unpleasant road before. (Flashback: We are all Kenneth Gladney!) But sadly, when it comes to weaving half-baked conspiracy theories, Andrew Breitbart has shown he will attack law enforcement without hesitation, and without regard to the facts.
Still, I'm a bit surprised by the trend simply because smearing federal prosecutors doesn't really seem to be in accord with proud conservative values in this country. (Was the FBI agent involved in O'Keefe's arrest also crooked, Andrew?) But it appears the only card Breitbart has left to play is to claim his protégé was "framed" by federal prosecutors.
Don't you see people, there are all kinds of nefarious dots to connect, but only Breitbart and his protégé can properly paint the picture. To the rest of us, the conspiratorial claims make no sense. (AG Holder was somehow involved?!) But for Breitbart and his day-dreaming crew, after stewing over the arrest for six or seven days and pumping up their own self-importance to almost comical levels, it all makes perfect sense. And yes, it reaches to the highest level of government.
Meanwhile, let's note how funny it is that last week when news first broke of O'Keefe's arrest, Breitbart was practically sprinting away from his once-prized student, stressing that O'Keefe was merely an "independent contractor." (Albeit, an "independent contractor" who 's paid a "salary." I want that gig.)
Now however, O'Keefe has been transformed, at least in the unlimited imagination of Breitbart, into a martyr. Apparently O'Keefe was practically penning is own Letter From New Orleans Jail before the feds finally let him go, dontcha know.
BTW, having had the unpleasant task of monitoring Breitbart's colossal Gladney fiasco last fall, I can tell you where this O'Keefe nonsense is going. In the coming weeks and perhaps even months, Breitbart and his crew of clueless bloggers will launch all sorts of wild claims about O'Keefe's arrest as well as smear prosecutors associated with the arrest. And in the end, even if none of the allegations pan out, Breitbart will claim he was right all along.
It's a truly delusional spectacle to behold. And FYI, It's best viewed as a comedy/tragedy.
UPDATED: Note how Breitbart wants to focus on the 24 hours after O'Keefe was arrested. Because according to Breitbart there was some vast, left-wing government-wide conspiracy unfolded.
Note also that that has nothing to do with what O'Keefe was arrested for. Breitbart wants to turn O'Keefe's arrest into a process story, while he downplays the actual charges. Does that mean Breitbart condones the infiltration of Landrieu's office. Does that mean he thinks activists all over the country should suddenly start making undercover videotapes of their local representatives' office? And does Breitbart consider the charge against O'Keefe -- an intent to commit a felony -- to be trivial?
I guess suddenly, being a law-and-order Republican means dismissing federal charges as unimportant, and smearing prosecutors.
Good to know.
UPDATED: How exactly were O'Keefe and friends "framed"? David Neiwert at Crooks and Liars has it all figured out:
Apparently they were lured into donning phone-repairman disguises and attempting to infiltrate the phone system at a federal building. By, um, Sen. Landrieu! That's the ticket! They did the whole "jammed phone lines" thing just to sucker in poor O'Keefe. Uh-huh. Poor guys.
From February 2 edition of Fox & Friends:
On Sunday's This Week, Ailes told Arianna Huffington that when Beck insisted the White House and progressives are "taking you to a place to be slaughtered" that he was simply "talking about Hitler and Stalin slaughtering people."
This blatantly false interptation of Beck's remarks means one of two things: either Ailes does not watch Beck's show or Ailes is lying.
Here was Beck in November:
BECK: They need to do it this way. They need it do it in the cover of darkness. They need you to not to listen to me -- because if you start to listen to me, you're never going to willingly give up your freedom. You're going to be nudged into it, and if they can't nudge you into it, well then they'll push you into it.
What was it that Andy Stern just said a minute ago?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STERN: We're trying to use the power of persuasion. And if that doesn't work, we'll use the persuasion of power because there are governments and there are opportunities to change laws that affect these companies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
STERN: We took names. We watched how they voted. We know where they live.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BECK: Yes, they do know where I live. They know where you live, too. All they need is that final emergency, and it's going to come creeping up. We didn't realize it was this bad. Mark my words. No, don't mark my words -- mark the words of George Soros or anyone else around this White House. Play Soros' words again!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SOROS: The system we have now has actually broken down, only we haven't quite recognized it. And so, you need to create a new one, and this is the time to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: These are the people that broke the system! It's broken because of corruption.
Look, this is not about the things that you and I believe in. Progressives think they know better than you do. They want to control every aspect of your life. Workers of America unite against these people!
The smart grid is not about saving energy or helping the planet. It is about one person, the rich guy, paying more than another guy, the poor guy. He'll pay less!
They call it social justice. They call it fair. They call it -- they call it anything but what it is, Marxism, spreading the wealth, leveling out the playing field.
There is one thing you cannot call any of these plans. You can't call it America. You can't do it.
I told you yesterday buckle up your seatbelt, America. Find the exit. There is one here, here and here. Find the exit closest to you and prepare for a crash-landing because this plane is coming down because the pilot is intentionally steering it into the trees! Most likely, it will happen sometime after Christmas.
You are going to see this economy come up -- we're already seeing it - - and now it's going to start coming back down again. And when you see the effects of what they're doing to the economy, remember these words: we will survive. We know we'll do better than survive. We will thrive -- as long as these people are not in control. They are taking you to a place to be slaughtered. [emphasis added]
Not content to let his boss do the heavy lifting, Beck mounted his own defense of his violent rant: he flat out denied it.
BECK: I don't even know if I've ever used the word "slaughtered." And if I used the word "slaughtered," if it wasn't in a context of Mao, Stalin, or Hitler, it was in the idea that the truth is being slaughtered by this administration, not saying that this administration is going to slaughter anyone. [...] I have said that progressives, this ideology has lead to the slaughtering of millions. It has, it has. In particular: eugenics.
With these assertions, and O'Reilly's recent defense of his colleague, it raises the question: Does anyone on Fox (including Beck himself) watch Beck's show?
And if they do, is there any length they won't go to in order to defend him?