New Orleans Oh, mercy, I’ve done it now. I’ve hurt the far-right wing video scammer, James O’Keefe’s feelings.
I used the common catch-all description “break-in” for O’Keefe and his crew’s escapade when they were caught infiltrating the Hale Boggs Federal Building in New Orleans with plans to tamper with the phone system in Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu’s office. I should have said he and his co-conspirators were caught “entering real property under false pretenses with intent to commit a felony,” which was the exact language of the arresting charge. It was “intent” because they caught the clowns disguised as telephone repair workers before they could get their act together to actually commit the felony. My bad, I was just being interviewed and used the shorthand, vernacular rather than the technical legalistic language that led to O’Keefe’s guilty plea and three-year probation.
After he successfully bullied the Arkansas Democrat Gazette where my freewheeling expression of the unvarnished facts, they published a correction day in order to explain why they had cut several sentences out of the on-line version of the movie review and interview. Here’s their take:
James O’Keefe and three other men were dressed as telephone repairmen when they were arrested in New Orleans in January 2010 and charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony, at the office of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. The charges in the case were reduced from a felony to a single misdemeanor count of entering a federal building under false pretenses. O’Keefe pleaded guilty to “entering real property belonging to the United States under false pretenses.” He was sentenced to three years of probation, a fine of $1,500 and 100 hours of community service. A quote by ACORN founder Wade Rathke in a story in Friday’s editions characterized the incident as a break-in. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette May 13, 2018)
Hmmm? That’s not much of a correction? Seems more like one of those situations in which you say to-MAT-o and I say TO-mato.
Was that really the O’Keefe beef? I can’t believe he’s all that happy dredging up all of the details about how they were able to cop a plea and didn’t do time for their mischief? Maybe what really bothered him was my question in the interview that has been on everyone’s lips for years, whether they called it a “break-in” or “entering a federal building under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony” or not? My question in the article was, “What late-night revelry could you have been part of to think that was a good idea?” What’s the answer? It would be a huge community service if the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette got an response to that query. They should share it. If they didn’t, then why did they excise the question from the article in the on-line version? We seem to have crossed the line from the slender O’Keefe complaint on the technicality of his “entering a federal building under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony” to their allowing him to bully them into restricting a perfectly valid question, oft asked, and never answered, that pretty much sits smack besides colorful expression and, dare I say, FREE SPEECH. Seems strange that they would allow O’Keefe to edit the interview in their paper?
Admittedly this has always been an albatross O’Keefe has been carrying around his neck and a chip on his shoulder ever since he was caught red-handed in this juvenile prank, disguised after the fact as journalism. When it happened, his buddies on the right were none to happy. For example, this story in the Chicago Tribune laid it out plainly:
WASHINGTON — Conservative activists backed away … from a young video producer who was arrested with three others accused of posing as telephone repairmen in the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. He and three other men were arrested …at the federal building housing Landrieu’s office in New Orleans and accused of attempting to tamper with the senator’s telephone system. “If they were doing that, it’s Watergate,” Fox News host Glenn Beck said on his radio program…. “That’s insanely stupid, and illegal — if it’s true.” Andrew Breitbart, a publisher of conservative websites who had promoted O’Keefe’s …work, said in an interview with a conservative radio host that he pays O’Keefe “a fair salary,” but not for what is alleged in New Orleans. Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado is also backing off on his support for O’Keefe. He sent reporters a statement … saying the alleged break-in was “unacceptable and wrong.”
O’Keefe is just real sensitive about all of this from day one until, as we’ve seen, the present. He’s misunderstood. He’s maligned.
Here’s the report from The Hill about one of his first interviews after he got out of jail after his arrest:
The filmmaker caught breaking into the office of a U.S. senator … defended the tactics he used while describing his arrest as “a huge misunderstanding.” James O’Keefe, in his first interview since his arrest after breaking into Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-La.) New Orleans office last week, restated that he will likely adjust his tactics but maintained his innocence and accused reporters of “slandering” him by publishing false information. The conservative activist called the incident “a huge misunderstanding,” while on Fox News’ “Hannity” show. “I’m trying to expose the truth.”…O’Keefe went further, accusing reporters who used the charge of slander. “Never even thought about interfering with phones. A lot of these reporters flat out, I think, just slandered me,” he said. “It’s journalism malpractice what they’ve done on this story and it’s inexcusable.” “Investigative journalists have been using a lot of these tactics for years,” he said. “I pose as something I’m not to get to the bottom of the truth.”
So, even though, as reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune (May 26, 2010) he “pleaded guilty … in federal court to entering real property belonging to the United States under false pretenses,” and “Magistrate Judge Daniel Knowles III sentenced Stan Dai, Joseph Basel and Robert Flanagan each to two years probation, a fine of $1,500 and 75 hours of community service during their first year of probation,” and “James O’Keefe, as leader of the group and famous for posing as a pimp in ACORN office videos, received three years of probation, a fine of $1,500 and 100 hours of community service,” it is clear that despite the probation and the plea, in O’Keefe’s narcissistic view of himself and the world, he’s still innocent as a new born babe. In the O’Keefe fantasy there was no “revelry,” no bad judgement, no fools’ errand, no arrest, no plea – and certainly no heartfelt confession or contrition – and no probation. He was just another hard-working journalist dressed up as telephone repairman trying to get a story and can’t believe other journalist don’t band together with him as a member of the scribe tribe.
In this instance somehow, he convinced the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that a fellow journalist had been wronged. For my part, sorry I was too flippant about O’Keefe “entering real property with the intent to commit a felony” or the lesser plea of “entering real property under false pretenses.” I meant no harm. In my world we call that an attempted “break-in,” rather than journalism.
I still will always wonder, until I read the answer in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, what in the world these brothers were thinking when they thought this was a good idea and a smart plan?
Meanwhile I’ll try to comfort myself with the knowledge that despite O’Keefe’s whining and bulling about all of this – poor thing! – my report on his being a bully and a whiner is on the first page of any Google search about his escapade. When you step in something this badly, there’s no way to clean it off your shoes, no matter what you call it.