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  • ThinkProgress: Trump Has Funded Discredited Right-Wing Activist James O’Keefe Through His Foundation

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    ThinkProgress has identified a $10,000 donation from the Donald J. Trump Foundation to Project Veritas, the 501(c)(3) organization run by discredited conservative activist and videographer James O’Keefe.

    O’Keefe has a long history of engaging in criminal, misogynistic, ethically dubious, and bizarre behavior related to his video stunts. He has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of entering a government office under false pretenses; sought to set up a video “sting” in which he would lure a female CNN reporter onto a boat filled with sex toys and attempt to seduce the reporter on camera; and had to pay a former video target $100,000 and publicly apologize in a legal settlement. O’Keefe’s videos often make a big splash, but they fall apart under scrutiny by reporters and state investigations.

    The Trump campaign has used O’Keefe’s latest dubious and heavily edited videos to support its baseless claim that the election is “rigged” against the Republican candidate, and O’Keefe attended the final presidential debate on October 19 and pushed his videos in spin room interviews after the debate. But as ThinkProgress explained, Trump may have a more direct connection to O’Keefe’s new videos through a $10,000 donation his private charitable foundation made to O’Keefe’s Project Veritas in May 2015, barely more than a month before he officially became a Republican candidate for president. Project Veritas’ affiliated 501(c)(4) organization Project Veritas Action, which is more free to engage directly in political matters, is the group that released this week’s videos. From ThinkProgress:

    Trump claimed the videos exposed that a violence at a March Chicago rally was a “criminal act” and that it “was now all on tape started by her.”

    Trump neglected, however, to mention his own connection to the videos, released by James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas tax-exempt group. According to a list of charitable donations made by Trump‘s controversial foundation (provided to the Washington Post in April by Trump’s campaign), on May 13, 2015, it gave $10,000 to Project Veritas.

  • Trump Ally Roger Stone A Repeat Guest On White Nationalist-Supporting Radio Show

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Longtime Donald Trump ally and adviser Roger Stone has repeatedly appeared on a radio program that is hosted by Sam Bushman. Bushman “proud[ly]” syndicates a leading white nationalist radio program, participated in a pro-Trump white nationalist radio ad, and said he agrees that “white people should be able to advocate for their race, for their cause.”

    Stone appeared on the October 20 broadcast of Liberty RoundTable with host Bushman. Bushman is the owner of the Liberty News Radio Network, which syndicates The Political Cesspool with host James Edwards. Bushman is also a regular guest host for The Political Cesspool, including as recently as last weekend.

    The Political Cesspool’s statement of principles says it represents "a philosophy that is pro-White." One of its principles reads, "We wish to revive the White birthrate above replacement level fertility and beyond to grow the percentage of Whites in the world relative to other races." Edwards is an acolyte of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and he “has probably done more than any of his contemporaries on the American radical right to publicly promote neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers, raging anti-Semites and other extremists," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    Edwards has written: “For blacks in the Americas, slavery is the greatest thing that ever happened to them. Unfortunately, it's the worst thing that ever happened to white Americans”; “MLK's dream is our nightmare”; and “Interracial sex is white genocide.”

    Bushman has defended Edwards from criticism, stating that “we are personal family friends and I will not back away from James Edwards no matter what they say. He is a personal dear friend. And I vouch for him a thousand percent.” He added of Edwards: “He will appear on Liberty RoundTable going forward. I will appear on his show going forward. I syndicate his show and absolutely am grateful and proud of doing so. And I will not back away one bit.”

    Bushman also stated that he agrees with Edwards on his pro-white advocacy:

    SAM BUSHMAN: One of the aspects of James Edwards, among a million other things, is that he believes that white people should be able to advocate for their race, for their cause, for their heritage as well. He does believe in protecting his heritage, preserving his people, if you will, European ancestry. And I think that I agree with him.

    Bushman added that he doesn’t believe that Edwards is a white supremacist and that the media is smearing Edwards by labeling him as such. Bushman stated that while he doesn’t agree with Edwards on everything, “we agree on the fundamentals.” Bushman also claimed he has “never, ever promoted white supremacy in any way and I never will, because I don’t believe it” because all men are created equal.

    Stone appeared on Bushman’s October 20 program to promote Trump’s candidacy and his performance during the third presidential debate. Stone also again claimed that Democrats may try to steal the election.

    In between the multiple segments of Stone’s guest spot, the show aired a pro-Trump advertisement read by Edwards for the white nationalist American National Super PAC. Bushman participated in the ad, as he read the legal disclaimer at its conclusion. 

    Back in March, Donald Trump Jr. was heavily criticized when he appeared on Bushman’s program because he was interviewed by Edwards, who was a guest and questioner on the show. Edwards separately interviewed several members of Congress and Trump campaign official Gary Berntsen at the Republican National Convention.

    Bushman hosted Eric Trump on his October 6 program. Trump adviser Stephen Moore has also appeared on the program. The Trump campaign defended Eric Trump’s appearance on the program, telling CNN: "Liberty Roundtable is a conservative program heard on radio stations and online, and dedicated to promoting the principles of the American founding. We would never associate with any program that was even wrongly perceived to be affiliated with a message of hate."

    Stone previously appeared on the October 3 edition of Liberty RoundTable.

    Stone has a history of spewing racist commentary from his Twitter account. His book The Clintons' War on Women is dedicated to and repeatedly cites research from the late Victor Thorn, who wrote The Holocaust Hoax Exposed and blames a "Jewish plot" for the 9/11 attacks. Stone promoted the book in an interview with Thorn for the American Free Press, an anti-Semitic publication founded by "one of the most influential American anti-Semitic propagandists" who used his "publishing to denigrate Jews and other minorities and galvanize the movement to deny the Holocaust."

    Members of the white nationalist/“alt-right” movement have been heavily supporting Trump’s campaign, and the candidate and his team have been courting members of the movement, including appearances in white nationalist media, refusing to denounce them, and retweeting their messages.

  • James O’Keefe Says Journalists Never Release Raw Footage Because It Would “Tell A Different Story”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Project Veritas Action, a group run by discredited right-wing videographer James O’Keefe, recently released two heavily edited videos purporting to reveal that Democratic operatives aligned with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign were “rigging the election.” O’Keefe is refusing to release the unedited footage his undercover operatives shot -- something his groups have routinely done in the past -- citing a need for journalistic integrity while simultaneously hinting that he had purposely edited the footage to “paint a specific picture.”

    O’Keefe released his latest edited videos on October 17 and October 18 and then almost immediately began complaining that mainstream news outlets were ignoring his efforts due to “fear of retaliation” from a future Clinton administration. Several media figures were quick to point out that O’Keefe’s refusal to release unedited footage from the undercover videos made it difficult for reporters to vet and accurately report on the purported stings, and that O’Keefe’s past track record of misleadingly editing footage make these latest videos even less credible. ThinkProgress reported this afternoon that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s private charitable foundation gave $10,000 to O’Keefe’s Project Veritas about a month before Trump declared his presidential candidacy, adding further unanswered questions about the videos’ legitimacy.

    O’Keefe’s response to criticism was to argue that journalists never reveal “raw unedited materials” because “it’d probably paint a different picture.” His reaction seemed to simultaneously suggest that:

    (a) he, like other journalists, would never reveal “unedited materials” (though he has before), and

    (b) if reporters like himself did release those materials, they would reveal selective editing (like his materials have before).

    In the post-debate spin room last night, O’Keefe again reiterated his claims that no “journalists” release their “raw, unedited notebooks” and that his refusal to release the raw footage from his latest video series is no different. Media Matters president Bradley Beychok captured O’Keefe’s explanation to Majority.FM’s Sam Seder, in which O’Keefe also appears to admit that his role as a “journalist” includes piecing the videos “together to tell a specific story”:

    SAM SEDER: Are you going to release the full footage of your tapes?

    JAMES O’KEEFE: Why don’t you ask all these journalists here if they’re going to release their full, raw, unedited notebooks?

    SEDER: But it’s a different--

    O’KEEFE: No, listen. Sam--


    SEDER: James, you have to admit it’s a different thing--

    O’KEEFE: Is it? Is it? Is it?

    SEDER: Undercover video where it’s been shown, I mean, there were several reports that showed during the, that you have edited tapes in such a way to prove your--

    O’KEEFE: Name one edit I’ve made. I want you to name right now, for your audience, name one specific edit I have made. Because I can debunk every one of those reports. Go ahead.

    SEDER: Well, I mean, I haven’t [unintelligible].

    O’KEEFE: OK, well I would like you to get back to me.

    SEDER: But you can debunk that by releasing that video. Why wouldn’t you release all the video?

    O’KEEFE: Because no journalist in their right mind would ever release their raw notebooks and if they did, Sam--

    SEDER: Well, it’s not a notebook. It is caught on camera.

    O’KEEFE: Let me tell you something: No journalist ever releases the raw, and the reason, and if they did, if all these journalists released the raw, you would see a different story. They piece words together to paint a specific portrait.

    SEDER: So you paste the words together to paint--

    O’KEEFE: No. I have video. I don’t just have words. I have video.


    SEDER: Are you saying you did piece it together to paint a picture?

    O’KEEFE: That’s what journalism is. Journalism is telling a story. And I will stand by every single edit. I will go to -- I will be in contempt of court to protect my undercover reporters because I’m standing for something greater than myself. I’m standing for the right of citizen journalists. No one here would ever dare release their raw. No one would.

    Project Veritas routinely released hours of raw footage for a number of its alleged stings until mid-2014. O’Keefe says the group stopped doing this because “they’ll manufacture reasons why it’s doctored/fake.” In actuality, O’Keefe’s raw footage -- whether released seemingly voluntarily or not -- has repeatedly revealed egregious instances of selective editing over the years.

    Project Veritas first made national headlines in 2009 with a series of heavily edited videos purporting to show staff members of the now-defunct nonprofit ACORN engaging in criminal behavior. Subsequent investigations revealed that the workers had engaged in no illegal activity, and that O’Keefe had employed “highly selective editing of reality.” He later had to settle a case filed by an ACORN staff member who was fired because of the edited videos, paying the man $100,000 and issuing a public apology.

    O’Keefe’s own unedited footage negated a 2011 attempt to tell a specific story that an NPR executive had called members of the Tea Party “racist.” In reality, the executive had been quoting someone else; that part was conveniently edited out. “How quickly things seem to fall apart when James O’Keefe is the person who put them together,” concluded the Columbia Journalism Review. Washington Post writer Michael Gerson explained that O’Keefe had “manufactured an elaborate, alluring lie.”

    Raw footage from a 2012 undercover video similarly disproved O’Keefe’s story that local officials in New York state were agreeing to waste taxpayer money on a fake company that dug holes and filled them up again. Instead, the footage just showed officials trying to be courteous to actors they believed were constituents in an absurd, manufactured situation.

    O’Keefe stopped releasing his own unedited footage in May 2014, shortly after Media Matters used the raw footage from an edited Project Veritas video purporting to expose “Hollywood’s War On U.S. Energy” to debunk the video. O’Keefe’s group had cut parts of a secretly recorded conversation mid-sentence to paint a certain picture that two environmental producers were accepting funding from foreign oil interests; the unedited footage revealed they were actually discussing something completely different.

    This May, Project Veritas Action released raw footage on YouTube for a video series purporting to show “voter fraud” committed by Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in New Hampshire, when prompted to do so by the state’s attorney general. At the time, O’Keefe made similar claims about journalistic integrity. This is how the group’s press release ended (emphasis added):

    In order to assist the State of New Hampshire with their investigation of voter fraud and other election-related irregularities, PVA is releasing the raw footage associated with all three videos to Governor Hassan and the Attorney General she appointed, as well as making the footage available to the general public on a YouTube channel.

    “When Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said that ‘sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants,’ he probably didn’t envision viral YouTube videos,” said PVA President James O’Keefe. “These videos provide ample evidence of criminal behavior to assist the state in the immediate investigation of electoral malfeasance. Hopefully, those caught engaging in voter fraud will receive the swift hand of justice. Likewise, the videos spotlight a significant legislative problem which could have easily been avoided if Governor Hassan hadn’t vetoed last year’s residency bill.” 

  • Journalists Who Covered Florida Recount Say There's No Comparison Between Gore And Trump

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Donald Trump supporters have been defending the presidential nominee’s warnings about a “rigged” election and refusal to say he will accept the results in November by claiming Trump is merely doing the same thing former Vice President Al Gore did in 2000. But reporters who covered that year’s Florida recount tell Media Matters that the people pushing that comparison either “haven’t done their homework or they are being disingenuous.”

    During Wednesday night’s third and final presidential debate, Trump sparked widespread criticism by telling moderator Chris Wallace that he will “keep you in suspense” over whether he will accept the outcome of the election.

    Immediately following the debate, Trump surrogates, media allies, and campaign officials quickly went to work pretending that Trump’s assertion -- which journalists and experts have called “horrifying” and “disqualifying” -- was actually no big deal, because he was merely doing the same thing Gore did following the 2000 election.

    But for reporters and editors who covered the Florida recount, there is no comparison.

    “The two situations are not even remotely similar," recalled Martin Merzer, a former Miami Herald senior writer who was among the lead recount journalists at the time. "In 2000, the recount was mandated by the state because of the narrowness of the margin. They haven’t done their homework or they are being disingenuous. At no point before, during, or after that election was voter fraud an issue and at no point three weeks before the election did any candidate refuse to accept the result.”

    He also had a warning for journalists who might try to compare the two this year: “Any reporter who just does a he said/she said on this is not doing his or her work because the cases are not similar and a little bit of research could show how dissimilar they are.”

    Trump, echoing his conspiracy theorist media allies, has spent months warning his supporters that the November results might be “rigged” against him.

    Tim Nickens, who was the St. Petersburg Times political editor in 2000, agreed that the situations are not similar. 

    “I don’t think it’s the same at all,” Nickens, now editorial page editor at the renamed Tampa Bay Times, said. “Gore was never claiming the election was rigged as I recall, certainly not right out of the box. You may remember in the pre-dawn hours he was heading to concede.

    “As the things unfolded, Gore raised questions in specific counties, not the entire state,” Nickens said. “And then after 36 days of this and the court ruled, he could have continued to dispute it then in a P.R. sort of a way and he didn’t do that. Trump has no evidence or anything other than saying, ‘If I lose, I should have won.’”

    Adam Clymer, a former New York Times political reporter who covered elements of the recount, points out that Gore never questioned the validity of the process and certainly not in advance.

    “He didn’t announce in advance that he didn’t trust it,” Clymer remembers, later adding, “I don’t think it’s comparable. People have always challenged results when they thought there were irregularities. What is different about Trump is announcing in advance he may not accept the results.”

    John Zarrella, a former CNN correspondent on the Florida recount, said there was no pre-vote claim of rigging as there is with Trump.

    “In 2000, the result was not called into question until after the votes were cast,” he said via email. “And only after an automatic machine recount was triggered in Florida. So at this point, what is there to compare?”

    George Bennett, a Palm Beach Post reporter who was on the recount story, said that was only disputed afterward and because it was “freakishly close.”

    “There was a lot of dispute over what the rules would be over recounting ballots,” Bennett said. “It was contested after the fact and not beforehand. Trump is saying something three weeks before. The 2000 recount was hotly contested, but it was after the election.”

    Tom Fiedler, former Miami Herald political editor and editorial page editor in 2000, said anyone seeking to compare Trump’s actions with Gore is displaying “either an ignorance of the facts or a deliberate attempt to distort them.”

    “The Gore campaign never alleged that the system was rigged or the outcome in any way unfair,” Fiedler added via email. “Again, the entire series of lawsuits and court hearings was about the determining voter intent on the uncounted ballots.”