Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. criticized conservative activist James O'Keefe, saying his recent attempt to embarrass a CNN reporter with an alleged sex-themed boat sting is a far cry from the journalism O'Keefe claims to be practicing.
In a column distributed this week by Tribune Media Services, Pitts writes:
Last year, you may recall, O'Keefe was lauded by political conservatives for ``investigative journalism'' that helped bring down ACORN, the financially-troubled group whose sinister works included advocating for poor and middle-income people. O'Keefe, in a hidden camera sting, posed as a pimp and filmed some of the organization's employees advising him on how to facilitate his supposed illicit business. It made him the toast of the blogosphere and earned him the admiration of Fox News. A resolution honoring him was even introduced in the House of Representatives.
The resolution, which failed, praised O'Keefe and his conspirator, Hannah Giles, for ``exemplary actions as government watchdogs and young journalists...''
A year later, the ``young journalist's'' star is, putting it mildly, fading.
Earlier this year, prosecutors declined to prosecute ACORN employees amid reports that the videos were selectively and misleadingly edited. Meanwhile, O'Keefe and three others were arrested for trying to tamper with telephones in the office of Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu. Now comes last week's report of a bizarre plot to embarrass CNN correspondent Abbie Boudreau, who was seeking an interview. O'Keefe had apparently planned to lure her aboard a boat filled with sex toys and secretly record their meeting; thankfully, one of his henchwomen warned Boudreau off.
This is journalism? No.
Journalism is hours on the phone nailing down the facts or pleading for the interview. Journalism is obsessing over nit-picky questions of fairness and context.
Journalism is trying to get the story and get it right.
Boudreau described the O'Keefe stunt to me as a "bizarre Love Boat situation." She also said it changed her view of how far O'Keefe and others like him would go.
Pitts, meanwhile, also wrote:
I don't believe in citizen journalism because journalism -- like any profession worthy of the name -- has standards and ethics, and if you don't sign on to those, I can no more trust you than I can a doctor who refused the Hippocratic oath or a lawyer who failed the bar exam.
You cannot be a journalist -- citizen or otherwise -- if credibility matters less to you than ideology. So please, let's find something else to call James O'Keefe III.