Washington Post Exposes Conservative Scheme To Dupe It With False Roy Moore Accusation
A woman tied to James O’Keefe, the so-called conservative media “watchdog” who has engineered “sting operations” aimed at media organizations, government officials, and others in the past and was once convicted of a Federal crime due to one of his schemes was caught by The Washington Post trying to fool them into running a story about Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore:
A woman with ties to a right-wing activist group falsely claimed to The Washington Post that she had conceived a child with Roy S. Moore, the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, when she was 15, the newspaper reported on Monday afternoon.
The woman, identified by the paper as Jaime T. Phillips, claimed in recent interviews with reporters that she had an abortion after having sex with Mr. Moore in 1992. But The Post said that it had discovered inconsistencies in her account and evidence that the woman concocted the sensational claim to try to dupe reporters and coax them into discussing the political impact her story could have on Mr. Moore.
A reporter with The Post confronted the woman about the holes in her story on Wednesday and then Post journalists saw her on Monday morning entering the offices of Project Veritas, a conservative group that films undercover videos. The organization, led by the activist James O’Keefe, has recently targeted journalists, trying to goad them into revealing biases or unethical schemes to discredit the news media.
“The intent by Project Veritas clearly was to publicize the conversation if we fell for the trap,” Martin Baron, the executive editor at The Post, was quoted as saying. “Because of our customary journalistic rigor, we weren’t fooled.”
A reporter and a videographer with The Post questioned Mr. O’Keefe on Monday outside his group’s office in Mamaroneck, N.Y., about Ms. Phillips’s apparent connections with Project Veritas.
“I am not doing an interview right now, so I’m not going to say a word,” Mr. O’Keefe responded.
Ms. Phillips first contacted The Post in a mysterious email on Nov. 9, the newspaper reported. It was sent just hours after the newspaper had published a story about Leigh Corfman, who said she was 14 years old when Mr. Moore, then 32, engaged in a sexual encounter with her. “Roy Moore in Alabama,” the email to a Post reporter read, according to the story. “I might know something but I need to keep myself safe.”
A reporter at The Post interviewed Ms. Phillips again on Wednesday at a restaurant in Virginia. In that interview, which was partly recorded on video by The Post, the reporter pressed Ms. Phillips about apparent inaccuracies in her past work experiences and about why she had decided to contact the newspaper. The woman then said she no longer wanted to participate in the story.
While researching the woman’s account, The Post found a GoFundMe fund-raising page under the same name as the woman. That woman said she was moving to New York for a new job. “I’ve accepted a job to work in the conservative media movement to combat the lies and deceipt of the liberal MSM,” the page said, according to The Post. “I’ll be using my skills as a researcher and fact-checker to help our movement.”
The apparent elaborate effort to dupe The Post into publishing false claims about Mr. Moore follows similar schemes to discredit the newspaper and other news media. Mr. Moore has denied all allegations of sexual misconduct, and a campaign official called the claims ”a fabricated November surprise.”
The full story of how the Post figured out that they were being duped and the rather amusing tale of how they confronted Phillips as her story is worth reading for its entertainment value alone. In essence, Phillips approached the Post reporter who wrote the initial report about Moore with claims that she too had been abused by Moore when she was underage. This story included the claim that Moore had sex with her when she was under 16 and he was an Assistant District Attorney in the 1970s, that she became pregnant as a result of those encounters, and that he drove her to Mississippi to have an abortion. If nothing else, it does expose the ridiculous lengths that conservatives like O’Keefe are going to defend Moore and deflect attention away from the corroborated reports from nine different women that he either physically molested them when they were under 16 years old, which was and remains the age of consent in Alabama, or how he attempted to pursue relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was an Assistant District Attorney. Once reporters were unable to find any evidence to corroborate these claims and looked closer at Phillips itself, including the fact that she had posted on the Internet about going to work for O’Keefe and his “watchdog” organization Project Veritas, the rest of the story collapsed like a proverbial house of cards.
This isn’t the first time that O’Keefe and his organization have been at the center of what amount to what he claims to be investigative journalism but which often seems to amount to actual or attempted fraud. As Greg Sargent notes, O’Keefe first came on the scene when he claimed to have duped staffers for ACORN to given him advice on setting up a prostitution business. The claims included what was later exposed to be a deceptively edited video of his encounters with several ACORN employees and volunteers. These deceptions weren’t uncovered, though, until the damage had been done and ACORN effectively ceased to exist. As a result of litigation in the aftermath of that scam, O’Keefe agreed to pay one ACORN employee $100,000 in settlement of their claims against him and his organization. Bringing down ACORN, though, is what led to O’Keefe becoming a star inside the conservative movement and garnered him invitations to speak at prominent events on the right such as CPAC and other events.
After the ACORN event, O’Keefe became involved in a number of bizarre failed schemes in which he attempted to expose media bias, or something One of the strangest involved a CNN reporter in which he apparently intended to seduce her for some reason. In another effort, O’Keefe was caught posing as a telephone repairman attempting to gain access to the regional office of former Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu in what was apparently an attempt to bug her office. O’Keefe pled guilty in connection with that scheme and spent several years under the supervision of Federal Court probation, which frequently required him to seek Court permission to travel outside his home in New Jersey to speak at conservative events he was invited to. Another effort, O’Keefe contact an employee at the Open Society Institute, a group funded by George Soros. Whatever scheme he was planning there fell apart after he forgot to hang up his phone and was recorded talking with others discussed a plan to infiltrate the organization. On another occasion, O’Keefe donned an Osama bin Laden mask and recorded himself crossing the Rio Grande River from Mexico into the United States. O’Keefe’s organization has also been linked to the efforts to discredit Planned Parenthood by setting up sting operations in which people attempted to unveil what they claimed was a common practice by the organization of selling the body parts of aborted fetuses for medical research.
As Greg Sargent notes, O’Keefe is just part of a wider industry on the right that gained popularity in recent years:
To be clear, there are many perfectly legitimate organizations on the right who do the work they claim to do. But there’s also a grift machine generating huge amounts of money for conservatives who know just how gullible their marks are — and know how important it is to keep them angry and ignorant. As I said, some conservatives have tried to expose this ongoing scam, but the problem is that it’s been woven too deeply into the conservative movement for too long. (Rick Perlstein offers a vivid history of “the strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers” using “tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place”).
The success of that scam is why conservatives don’t cast someone like James O’Keefe out. It’s why a serial fraudster such as John Lott, who has been caught creating a false identity and almost certainly falsifying data, is treated on the right as an honored policy expert. It’s because conservatives think their rank-and-file are too dumb to identify the con men in their midst, and barely seem to care whether they’re being lied to.
O’Keefe counts on rank-and-file conservatives not understanding how journalism works or what kinds of information can be trusted. And that, of course, is the foundation of much of the conservative media world: don’t believe anything you hear from anybody other than us. It depends on people having no critical faculties of their own but just outsourcing anything resembling thought to Rush and Sean and Tucker.
The scam reached its apogee with the campaign and election of Donald Trump, not only because he declares any information he doesn’t find amenable to be “fake news” but because he found tens of millions of conservatives perfectly happy to support a candidate who lies to them constantly. It isn’t just the size of his crowds or the spectacular accomplishments of his presidency that he lies about, it’s also the promises he makes about the future — that he’ll bring all the coal jobs back, that North Korea will do whatever he says, that a tax bill larding riches on corporations will actually improve the lot of the middle class, that there will be a great, big, beautiful wall on our southern border, and on and on.
It’s unlikely that this latest failed scheme of O’Keefe’s is going to dim his star on the right. As with Donald Trump, Breitbart, and the talk radio crowd, the true believers on the right see people like O’Keefe as crusaders taking on the “fake news” and what Sarah Palin, another example of the intellectual fraud that has been allowed to fester on the right, called the “lamestream media.” As a result, while the reasonable conservatives who have begun to see the light will see this as confirmation of what they concluded last year with the rise of Donald Trump, the vast majority of people on the right will either dismiss this exposure of yet another O’Keefe fraud or simply ignore in much the same way that they dismiss the daily outrages from Donald Trump. Until that base wakes up, what passes for movement conseratism as it exists today will continue to rot from the inside and the absurdity that is the Trumpidian Republican Party will continue to get worse.