Right-wing media respond to O'Keefe's arrest

››› ››› BROOKE OBIE

Media Matters for America has compiled a list of right-wing media figures' reactions to James O'Keefe's January 25 arrest by the FBI for his role in an alleged attempt to tamper with the phone systems at Sen. Mary Landrieu's (D-LA) New Orleans office. Those comments run the gamut from Michelle Malkin's statement that the reported details are "damning" and her recommendations to young conservative aspiring journalists not to "get carried away" or "become what you are targeting" to Patrick Frey's statement, "I'm sticking out my neck and declaring that I think this will prove to be a big nothing."

O'Keefe's BigGovernment.com colleagues

Giles -- O'Keefe's partner in the ACORN undercover recording scam -- was reportedly "shocked by the reports of this behavior." In a January 27 post on The Corner, National Review Online published the following statement from Hannah Giles:

I am shocked by the reports of this behavior. I am well aware that following the law is an integral part of being a good investigative journalist. I take that responsibility and accountability very seriously. I certainly hope these reports are untrue.

O'Keefe employer Breitbart, who is waiting to "hear the full story" from O'Keefe, condemns media for "leaping to conclusions." In a January 26 BigGovernment.com post titled "MSM leaping to conclusions -- While Big Government waits for facts," Andrew Breitbart declared he "will not speculate" as to O'Keefe's arrest:

Wait until the facts are in.

Mainstream Media, ACORN, Media Matters (all the supposed defenders of due process and journalistic ethics) are jumping to conclusions over the arrest today of James O'Keefe, with the clear intention to smear and, if possible, convict O'Keefe and his alleged co-conspirators in the court of public opinion in order to taint the "jury of their peers."

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Let me state clearly for the record: wiretapping is wrong. But until I hear the full story from James O'Keefe, I will not speculate as to what he was doing in Louisiana.

Breitbart released statement saying BigGovernment has "no knowledge about or connection to" O'Keefe's alleged activities. From a January 26 BigGovernment post:

"We have no knowledge about or connection to any alleged acts and events involving James O'Keefe at Senator Mary Landrieu's office. We only just learned about the alleged incident this afternoon. We have no information other than what has been reported publicly by the press. Accordingly, we simply are not in a position to make any further comment."

BigGovernment E-I-C Flynn: "I don't believe the ends justify the means." In a January 26 statement to Reason.com, BigGovernment editor in chief Mike Flynn said: "I have no idea what he was doing or why he was there. If he broke the law, he should face the consequences. Unlike the left, I don't believe the ends justify the means. In no way do I or anyone affiliated with the site condone his allegedly illegal behavior."

Right-wing television personalities

Buchanan on allegations against O'Keefe: "[I]f this is true, this seems like an absurd action." On the January 26 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, Pat Buchanan said of O'Keefe's alleged actions: "[I]f this is true, this seems like an absurd act." He added: "[I]f that's what they're doing, bugging her -- the New Orleans office of a United States senator? What in heaven's name do they think they're going to pick up?"

Beck says O'Keefe's allegations are "insanely stupid," "Watergate territory." On the January 27 broadcast of his radio show, referring to reports that O'Keefe and his alleged accomplices "were bugging [Sen. Landrieu's] telephones," Beck commented, "If they were doing that, that's Watergate," adding, "It's insanely stupid and illegal." He also stated: "I haven't heard his side, but you don't do anything illegal. That's Watergate territory. You just don't do that. And besides that, I don't even think you go dressed up. I mean, it's a senator. For the love of Pete, it's a senator."

Malkin says reported details of O'Keefe's arrest "damning," urges other young conservatives not to "become what you are targeting." In a January 26 post on her blog, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin wrote that the reported details of O'Keefe's arrest are "damning," adding: "This is neither a time to joke nor a time to recklessly accuse Democrats/liberals of setting this up -- nor a time to whine about media coverage double standards. Deal with what's on the table." She later updated her post, writing:

*Updated* They are, of course, presumed innocent until proven guilty. But for now, let it be a lesson to aspiring young conservatives interested in investigative journalism: Know your limits. Know the law. Don't get carried away. And don't become what you are targeting.

Other right-wing bloggers

Fox Nation on O'Keefe: "There's much more to this story." From the January 27 edition of Fox Nation:

Frey on O'Keefe: "I'm sticking out my neck and declaring that I think this will prove to be a big nothing." In a January 26 post to his Patterico's Pontifications blog, Patrick Frey wrote: "This should go without saying, but: while I have admired O'Keefe's work, and have defended him against unfair attacks, the activity he is accused of is illegal and wrong. I won't declare him guilty without hearing his side. But if he did do it, there is no defending it." He later updated his post, writing:

>UPDATE x3: OK, final word. I'm sticking out my neck and declaring that I think this will prove to be a big nothing. I just don't believe this guy was wiretapping phones or trying to do so. I really don't.

It might not even have been an attempt to show how easy it would be to bug phones. Maybe there is another explanation. But I don't think he was acting in a criminal fashion. I don't.

You can quote me. [emphasis added]

Hoft "hope[s]" "truth shall set" O'Keefe "free." In a January 26 post on his Gateway Pundit blog, Hoft wrote:

The Obama supporting ACORN organization was caught in several lies last year when James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles released tapes exposing ACORN employees promoting child prostitution of illegal aliens.

O'Keefe has not been convicted of any crimes but was arrested yesterday in New Orleans with three other associates after visiting Senator Mary Landrieu's office.

Andrew Breitbart discussed the arrest today with Hugh Hewitt.

UPDATE: James O'Keefe tweeted this a couple of hours ago:

Let's hope so.

Reason editor Moynihan asks if O'Keefe is the Colson or Libby of his generation. In a January 26 post on Reason.com titled, "The Chuck Colson of His Generation?" senior editor Michael Moynihan asked: "Is James O'Keefe, the 25-year-old 'pimp' behind the ACORN sting videos, his generation's G. Gordon Liddy? The FBI thinks so."

Weekly Standard's Ham: "[T]hings do not look good for James O'Keefe." In a January 26 Weekly Standard article, Mary Katherine Ham wrote: "He's innocent until proven guilty, but things do not look good for James O'Keefe."

Hood called O'Keefe's alleged actions a "publicity stunt." In a January 27 post on The Corner, John Hood wrote:

Here's my initial reaction. First, given the facts of the case as reported so far, I doubt the kids were trying to install some kind of wiretap on the senator's office phone system. I doubt they would even have the expertise to pull that off. What I think they were really doing was recording video (and audio, thus the reported use of listening equipment by one of the kids outside the building) of a fake repair visit in order to create a piece ridiculing Landrieu for voting for Obamacare despite the legions of phone calls from constituents against the bill. "Why didn't she listen to the voters?" the gist of the stunt might be. "Were her phones not working?"

This isn't a defense of them. Far from it. They might well still be guilty of some kind of offense for misrepresenting themselves in an attempt to gain entry and access to phone equipment in a federal office.

In fact, let me go further. Whatever you think of these kinds of publicity stunts, they do not constitute investigative journalism. The earlier ACORN videos weren't pieces of investigative journalism, either. It does the growing ranks of investigative journalists at conservative organizations a great disservice to invite a comparison of such publicity stunts with the hard, meticulous, and often boring work of exposing government waste and corruption.

There's a place for creating video parodies and the like. Good for a laugh, make a point, okay. But let's make the right distinctions -- and call out foolish behavior regardless of the intent.

Hot Air's Allahpundit: "You'd think if he was planning to try something as insanely underhanded as this, he might have done, say, a Wikipedia search" to determine legality. In a January 26 post to Hot Air, Allahpundit wrote:

The editors of Big Government claim they knew nothing about it, which is almost certainly true: No way would Breitbart be so stupid as to sign off on tapping a senator's phone. What makes this doubly bizarre, of course, is that O'Keefe was already threatened with legal action by ACORN for surreptitiously videotaping inside their offices. You'd think if he was planning to try something as insanely underhanded as this, he might have done, say, a Wikipedia search about whether it's illegal to, um, tamper with government phone lines.

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I assume the defense is going to be something like, "We never intended to tap the phone, we simply wanted to show how easy it would be if someone wanted to do it," but even so: Ohhhhhhhhhhhh boy. Ten years.

NRO's Lopez: "I have no idea what happened" but "MSNBC insisting that Watergate was in the works ... a bit much." In a January 27 blog post on The Corner, National Review Online editor Katherine Jean Lopez wrote: "I have no idea what happened, other than knowing O'Keefe was arrested. But MSNBC insisting that Watergate was in the works and others deriding a 'lame Woodward and Bernstein' are all a bit much."

NRO's Goldberg: "[I]t sure sounds like O'Keefe and his pals are guilty of a serious and stupid crime." In a January 27 post on The Corner titled, "The O'Keefe Stunt," NRO editor-at-large Jonah Goldberg wrote:

I don't know what the full story is, but it sure sounds like O'Keefe and his pals are guilty of a serious and stupid crime. If that's the case it'd be a shame. But I can't help but get the sense that a lot of folks are much more excited to report on this than they were about the original ACORN story. Heck, it might be news to readers of the Times that O'Keefe even exists.

Ace of Spades on O'Keefe allegations: "A big uh-oh if true." Writing at the Ace of Spades blog on January 26, Ace speculated that the allegations against O'Keefe are a "big uh-oh if true," and that the FBI's affidavit "looks serious, man."

The JAWA Report: "I am postulating that the group was trying to document with video camera that Landrieu's office had either disconnected or re-routed the phones to deflect incoming calls." In a January 27 post at The JAWA Report, Good Lt. wondered whether O'Keefe and his accomplices' "intent was to document that Landrieu's office phones weren't inaccessible because they were busy -- they were inaccessible because her office had made the phones inaccessible":

I am postulating that the group was trying to document (with video camera) that Landrieu's office had either disconnected or re-routed the phones to deflect incoming calls - hence, why they couldn't get through. There have been anecdotal reports that Landrieu's office has received complaints that it has been inaccessible by phone, particularly around the time when she was bought off by the Democrats for the now-infamous Louisiana Purchase.

The "listening device" with the guy in the car? Perhaps he was recording the audio in the office without being there so that any denials or spin from the staff regarding what happened would be documented. I don't know. Perhaps he was calling in and trying to reach the phones in the office. Perhaps the two "phone repair guys" intended to try to reconnect the phone and maybe document that it was in fact disconnected or re-routed.

If we're all going to wildly speculate, I think this wild theory makes the most sense to perhaps explain an undercover operation of this kind. The intent was to document that Landrieu's office phones weren't inaccessible because they were busy - they were inaccessible because her office had made the phones inaccessible.

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Don't mistake me -- I'm not trying to rationalize this. Their lying to get into the office almost certainly ran afoul of the law. However, the trumped up "wiretapping" and "infiltration" and "bugging" nonsense does not appear anywhere in the FBI affidavit, despite hysterical claims (mostly from the left) to the contrary. But if that's all they get, than this was a pretty ballsy operation for a relatively small payoff, IMHO.

RedState's Common_Cents: "This just seems pretty fishy to me." In a January 26 post, RedState blogger Common_Cents wrote that the O'Keefe allegations: "This just seems pretty fishy to me. Would the guy be that dumb after breaking such a big story on ACORN not knowing that he'd be on the radar of many left wing groups? I guess time will tell, or not. I'm sure he'll be enemy #1 to prosecute."

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