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Gotcha journalism gets punk'd

September 29, 2010 | 10:26 am

O'Keefe 165 Professional journalists like me have failings aplenty, as the quotidian recitations of corrections and clarifications demonstrate. (None by me so far today!) So perhaps I should leave it to someone else to take potshots at new media bad boy James O'Keefe, the gotcha journalist who brought down ACORN.

Still, I have to say that his latest effort to capture bad behavior with hidden cameras was beyond brain-dead.

According to CNN, O'Keefe -- who evidently gets his romantic advice from Smoove B. -- tried to lure the network's Abbie Boudreau onto a boat laden with sex toys to "seduce" her on camera. Given the setting, "sexually harass" would be a more accurate description. The plot was sabotaged by the executive director of O'Keefe's Project Veritas, Izzy Santa, who intercepted Boudreau as she made her way to the meeting and told her what O'Keefe was planning.

CNN later obtained a plan for the scheme apparently written by Ben Wetmore, who'd worked with O'Keefe on a botched attempted sting at Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in New Orleans. Showing himself to be a true team player, O'Keefe told CNN this about Wetmore's document: "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." Nice knowing ya, Ben!

According to CNN, O'Keefe also relieved Santa of all her duties at Project Veritas, although she's still on the payroll.

It's worth reading the excerpts from the plan that CNN posted, if only for the larger context in which the Boudreau "caper" apparently fit. The group's apparent goal was "to create an operation that could spoof CNN, hurt their [sic] credibility and show the 'big lie' that they operate under, showing the truth that is unknown to the general public." The document continues:

Potential 'big lies' as it regards CNN:
1. Their general bias against conservatives
2. Their own internal racism against whites
3. Their potential internal racism against minorities
4. Shoddy journalism, and low journalistic standards

The plan called for planting a fake story with CNN by providing "false video evidence," "false textual evidence and documents," and/or "false interviews."

What's mystifying to me is why anyone would feel compelled to concoct fake news to undermine CNN. The new media environment that's given O'Keefe's crew a platform to compete with CNN is, in and of itself, the best protection against the "big lie" that his group sees in CNN's work. The company makes it easier than ever to measure the quality of its journalism -- it's all there for people to fact-check and compare against the many, many other sources of news and opinion that compete with the cable network.

CNN's record speaks for itself. If there's a "big lie" to be proved, CNN provides all the footage necessary to do so.

Photo: James O'Keefe. Credit: Patrick Semansky / Associated Press

-- Jon Healey

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