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Posted by on Sep 29, 2010 in Media, Politics | 0 comments

Conservative Activist O’Keefe Allegedly Tries to “Punk” CNN Reporter

Precisely how far has American politics now sunk so that someone would allegedly try to basically set up a reporter from a cable network in an indescribably sleazy way — a way that should earn this person repudiation from right, left and center, and mean commercial and readership poison for any website that runs his “work?”

It has fallen far, indeed.

So far down that the American polity should soon file a massive insurance claim. That is, if it proves to be what it looks like at first glance (more news at 11?).

I mean, if true, then what adjectives can you use ( how about “smelly, armpit-scratching, disgusting, sleazy, nose-picking, vomit inducing, repulsive, reprehensible”) to describe THIS:

A conservative activist known for making undercover videos plotted to embarrass a CNN correspondent by recording a meeting on hidden cameras aboard a floating “palace of pleasure” and making sexually suggestive comments, e-mails and a planning document show.

James O’Keefe, best known for hitting the community organizing group ACORN with an undercover video sting, hoped to get CNN Investigative Correspondent Abbie Boudreau onto a boat filled with sexually explicit props and then record the session, those documents show.

So (again assuming that this turns out to be what it is at first glance) exactly what has happened to our politics that a)someone would try something like this b)someone would feel there is a market for a set up like this c)someone would perceive a REPORTER of a network that may run stories the person doesn’t like as a virtual enemy to…entrap?…frame? You choose the word yourself. Candid Microphone (radio days), Candid Camera, Spy TV, Punked Out — the concept has been around for years and used in a good-natured way.

This alleged episode is political rattlesnakery.

The plan apparently was thwarted after Boudreau was warned minutes before it was supposed to happen.

“I never intended to become part of the story,” Boudreau said. “But things suddenly took a very strange turn.”

O’Keefe is best known for making a series of undercover videos inside ACORN offices around the country in 2009. The 40-year-old liberal group was crippled by scandal after O’Keefe and fellow activist Hannah Giles allegedly solicited advice from ACORN workers on setting up a brothel and evading taxes….

…O’Keefe’s next big splash ended with his arrest after he taped associates entering Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office in New Orleans posing as telephone repairmen. He ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of entering a federal office under false pretenses and is now on probation…

The incident occurred in August, when Boudreau agreed to meet O’Keefe to discuss CNN’s request to be present on set for a music video shoot in which O’Keefe stars.

We’re sure in this instance CNN won’t mind us quoting more of its story than we would normally do here:

For months, CNN had been following a group of young conservative activists, including Christian Hartsock, the director of the music video. The activists will be featured in a documentary, “Right on the Edge,” that will air October 2 and 3.

Hartsock said O’Keefe did not want CNN to shoot on the set of the music video, but said he would encourage O’Keefe to call CNN to discuss the request.

O’Keefe called Boudreau on August 10. During the conversation, he said he preferred that Boudreau meet him in person in Maryland and asked that she come alone.

“I just want to talk,” O’Keefe told Boudreau on the phone. “I just want to have a, you know, meeting with you, and talk to you face to face about this. Because, I don’t, I feel sort of, let’s just say reserved about, about letting people into my sort of inner sanctum, about letting, letting people sort of take a glimpse into, into, behind the scenes, so that’s why you know, I just feel more comfortable if it was just me and you and we just had a face-to-face meeting before I agree to, to let you guys come out and shoot the video shoot out there.”

The phone call was recorded without Boudreau’s knowledge, but CNN obtained a copy of the recording after O’Keefe e-mailed it to friends and colleagues. Boudreau agreed to the meeting, which she understood would be in his office.

“The purpose of the meeting was to explain [the CNN story] in person to James,” Boudreau said.

CNN was forwarded an e-mail, sent from O’Keefe’s e-mail address, to the executive director of Project Veritas, Izzy Santa; and two conservative activists, Ben Wetmore of New Orleans and Jonathon Burns of St. Louis, Missouri, dated after the call with Boudreau.

“Getting Closer,” the e-mail states. “Audio attached conversation with Abbie. What do you think of her reaction guys. She said she could do it Monday, Tuesday. Ben, you think I could get her on the boat?”

Boudreau flew to Baltimore, Maryland, on August 17, rented a car, and drove to suburban Lusby, where O’Keefe wanted to meet. O’Keefe sent a text message to Boudreau that morning, saying that Santa would meet her when she got there.

When Boudreau arrived at the address, a house located on a tributary of the Patuxent River, Santa approached her with a tape recorder in her hand and said she wanted to talk in the car, Boudreau said.

“I noticed she had a little bit of dirt on her face, her lip was shaking, she seemed really uncomfortable and I asked her if she was OK,” Boudreau said. “The first thing she basically said to me was, ‘I’m not recording you, I’m not recording you. Are you recording me?’ I said, ‘No, I’m not recording you,’ and she showed me her digital recorder and it was not recording.”

Santa told Boudreau that O’Keefe planned to “punk” her by getting on a boat where hidden cameras were set up. Boudreau said she would not get on the boat and asked Santa why O’Keefe wanted her there.

“Izzy told me that James was going to be dressed up and have strawberries and champagne on the boat, and he was going to hit on me the whole time,” Boudreau said.

A short time later, O’Keefe emerged from a boat docked behind the house. In that brief conversation, Boudreau told O’Keefe that he did not have permission to record her, and reminded him that the meeting was solely to discuss the upcoming music video shoot, and he had never mentioned that he wanted to tape their meeting.

Boudreau ended the meeting and left. After the incident, Santa gave CNN a series of e-mails she says shows O’Keefe intended to try to embarrass both the network and Boudreau through an elaborate plan.

No it isn’t funny. Its sad.

Its one more example of what the influence of what I call the “talk radio political culture” which views politics as a combination of politics, virtual war, and political professional wrestling.

It’s a way of talking and dealing with politics that has raised the decibel level and lowered the intelligence and policy-specific level in our politics, making noise, personality promotion — and personality destruction — charges, rage and sensationalism fun for those who watch and listen and profitable for those who work so tirelessly to lower our country’s political bar.

The good news: many conservatives are rejecting O’Keefe and denouncing him.

One website reportedly used the story to attack CNN.

No the issue here is NOT CNN…not whether it is competitor of Fox News.

Not whether CNN is to the right of Fox and liberal (in fact, some MSNBC fans consider CNN conservative).

The issue here is not whether you like Rick Sanchez’s list or prefer Sean Hannity’s talking points.

THE issue is a reprehensible “prank” from someone apparently enabled by a belief that if he could just get that footage it might get widespread airing, be on the Internet or strike out at an ideological enemy. Or all three.

One tantilizing question is whether he went into this with even a verbal that if he juuuuuuuuuust could get this footage it would get a place to call home on X, Y or Z.

Here’s the CNN report on yet another instance of the decline of American political “discussion” and “debate”:


On another CNN post Boudreau writes among other things:

As a woman in the news industry you have to be tough. I have always had to work harder than my male counterparts to be taken seriously and to be treated with respect. As a woman in the news industry you have to ignore all of the silly talk from your managers about the clothes you should wear on-air or what color your hair should be. I have had my share of conversations like that, and to be honest, it stings. I’m left wondering, “When will my work stand on its own? Why does this always have to be part of the conversation?”

Recently, I was the target of a failed punk. James O’Keefe, the so-called “pimp” in the ACORN expose videos, was participating in a detailed plan to “faux” seduce me on his boat. For months, I had been working on a documentary about the young conservative movement. James had called me about concerns he had regarding an upcoming shoot. He asked me to meet him to talk about the shoot. I agreed to fly to Maryland and then drive to his “office” for a face-to-face conversation with him.

When I showed up, there was no office, as promised. Instead, he wanted to get me on a boat, which we later learned, was staged as a “pleasure palace.” One of his colleagues, Izzy Santa, who was in Maryland that day, told me about the plan and stopped the punk before it happened.

Izzy told me he had “strawberries and champagne” waiting for me on the boat, and that he planned to “hit on me” the entire time. She said it would all be captured on hidden cameras that had been set up on the boat and in the back yard. She said the sole purpose of the “punk” was to embarrass me, and to make CNN look bad.

Why do I get a feeling that Izzy might not be invited to too many tea parties anymore?

She also got a list that was to be used for the “CNN Caper” which included the following items:

Equipment needed

a. Video

1. hidden cams on the boat

2. tripod and overt recorder near the bed, an obvious sex tape machine

b. Props

1. condom jar

2. dildos

3. Music

a. Alicia keys

b. 80s romance songs, things that are typically James

c. avoid Marvin Gaye as too cliche

4. lube

5. ceiling mirror

6. posters and paintings of naked women

7. playboys and pornographic magazines

8. candles

9. Viagra and stamina pills

10. fuzzy handcuffs

11. blindfold

James was supposed to tape the following script before the meeting on the boat.

“My name is James, I work in video activism and journalism. I’ve been approached by CNN for an interview where I know what their angle is: they want to portray me and my friends as crazies, as non-journalists, as unprofessional and likely as homophobes, racists or bigots of some sort…”

“Instead, I’ve decided to have a little fun. Instead of giving her a serious interview, I’m going to punk CNN. Abbie has been trying to seduce me to use me, in order to spin a lie about me. So, I’m going to seduce her, on camera, to use her for a video. This bubble-headed-bleach-blonde who comes on at five will get a taste of her own medicine, she’ll get seduced on camera and you’ll get to see the awkwardness and the aftermath.”

“Please sit back and enjoy the show.

Will the stench of this “caper” be enough to write “fin” to this kind of thing — or will there be more of the same, some political set up caught on tape, which gets a market and encourages more of this?

UPDATE: Here’s the post by Newsbusters’ publisher and Media Research Center Brent Bozelle:

The MRC unequivocally denounces James O’Keefe for his attempted assault on CNN. It isn’t just childish and immature; it’s ugly, dishonest and filthy. There is no place in the conservative movement for this type of behavior and that’s exactly what I warned about in a commentary piece I submitted to CNN.com just two days ago.

“Could the Citizen Journalist abuse the public trust?” I wrote in this piece that should run in the next few days. “Hypothetically, of course. Conservatives must all guard against this. Let there be scrutiny, by all means.” And I repeat: there must be scrutiny.

Bottom line: We want nothing to do with O’Keefe or his dirty antics.

SOME OTHER REACTION TO THIS STORY. Quotes are from the linked sites and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of TMV or its many writers:
The Atlantic’s Chris Good:

There are a couple things about this that don’t make sense, for whatever reason–either because Boudreau’s account is somehow inaccurate, or because O’Keefe tried to execute a horrendously stupid plan. From this planning document, it looks like O’Keefe had some hazy ideas of what he wanted to do.

Why would O’Keefe’s female associate tip Boudreau off? Why was there dirt on her face and why was she so shaky when she talked to Boudreau? Hearing Boudreau explain it before she gets to the meat of the story, it sounds like part of the alleged con. And why would O’Keefe videotape himself hitting on a CNN reporter? If she got on the boat to meet with him, so what? Yeah, it would be weird that she was on a boat with him, but how exactly does a video of Boudreau rejecting O’Keefe’s advances incriminate CNN?

Crooks and Liars:

Why exactly was CNN even talking to O’Keefe? That’ll teach ’em.

Maybe now is the time to start asking people exactly why ACORN was killed by Congress — and doing something about it.

Doug Mataconis:

There are many on the right for whom O’Keefe has become some kind of bizarre folk hero thanks to the ACORN videos — which, incidentally, did not result in a single arrest or indictment — but his actions since then have been, to put it nicely, odd. The Landrieu stunt was apparently intended to address claims by some that her Senate office was not answering phone calls from opponents of health care reform, but it ended up resulting in actions that violated the law. A few months ago, he came out with a video that essentially provided the rather obvious conclusion that government workers cheat on their time cards every now and then. And now there’s this.

As always there are two sides to every story, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what the point of pulling a Borat-like stunt on a CNN reporter actually is. Unless it’s to get your name on CNN, that is.

Shakesville:

If you’ve been hanging out in Feministville for any length of time, there’s a good chance that you’ve noticed the propensity of many activists to treat women as objects. While this is a problem on the left, conservative activists seem to have a particular knack for treating women as means to an ends, or merely as objects for their own sake….

…Confusing the work of a woman with seduction? Honestly, when’s the last time Wolf Blitzer was accused of seducing anyone? Of course, Blitzer’s not a bleach-blonde. I’m not sure that look would suit him.

And the screwing. Always with the screwing.

Always with the screwing because rape culture is alive and well. Always because this is the nth time the same man has tried to get away with using similar tactics. And conservatives will hail him as a once and future hero in three, two, one…

Charles Johnson:

This may go down in history as the single creepiest stunt ever attempted by a dishonest right wing hack.

Steve Benan:

The problem isn’t that there are far-right activists who engage in their brand of “investigative journalism.” The problem is that these activists appear to be idiots….James O’Keefe, the future of conservative political activism.

Mediaite:

CNN correspondent Abbie Boudreau was interviewed by Rick Sanchez this afternoon regarding the now-dominant story of ACORN pimp James O’Keefe’s attempt to lure her onto a boat “filled with sexually explicit props and then record the session,” a “prank” that even conservative media figure Brent Bozell called an “attempted assault.”

Balloon Juice:

Any thoughts what O’Keefe thought he might accomplish? Any chance this will be made into a movie like that one about Facebook? That guy in the Facebook movie looks a lot like O’Keefe, but I don’t see who JT plays in this one.

Salon:

After his success destroying ACORN, a lobbying and community organizing group for poor people, James O’Keefe was hailed as a right-wing hero, a crusading muckraker for a new generation of conservative journalists. Except he is actually a dumb clown, as he proved when he was arrested for sneaking into Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office while pretending to be with “the phone company.” His latest backfiring stunt is even stupider, and makes even less sense: He attempted to lure a female CNN reporter onto a sex boat, of some kind… to embarrass her?

Alan Colmes:

By this time, any credible journalist should know that having nothing to do with James O’Keefe would be the right thing to do.

The Democratic Strategist:

Several weeks ago TDS predicted that the exposure of the deceptive editing of a videotape of a speech by Shirley Sherrod–and the resultant discrediting of right-wing propagandist Andrew Breitbart — would produce a trend toward even more extreme tactics by the media “action groups” now functioning on the right.

Yesterday, CNN reported on one such action — a plan by Andrew Breitbart’s most famous protégé, James O’Keefe, to trick a female CNN reporter into entering a phony “pleasure palace” filled with pornography, alcohol and sex toys and then to attempt to seduce her while secretly taping the encounter. The goal of the plan was either to embarrass and discredit CNN or else to essentially blackmail them into improving their treatment of right-wing activists in an upcoming documentary.

At first glance the plan seems utterly absurd and infantile – so much so as to be literally delusional (O’Keefe apparently believed that he actually had a realistic chance of succeeding in the planned seduction) and many in the media will be tempted to ignore it on these grounds.

But this is a tremendous mistake. Even a person who explodes in furious indignation at a vile set-up like this the very first instant they encounter it can be made to look like a participant by careful video editing and stage management (e.g. the con-man can say “But this is what you said you wanted yesterday on the phone” or “That’s not the impression you gave me when we had that hot phone call last night”. Carefully edited, a secretly taped video of something like this trap can easily be made to appear ambiguous or even incriminating simply by innuendo – e.g. “Why was she there in the first place?”, “Maybe she just got cold feet at the last minute”)

The Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri:

He reportedly planned to surprise CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau on a boat and attempt to seduce her, as a commentary on the news? Or something? The planned script has him saying: “Instead of giving her a serious interview, I’m going to punk CNN. Abbie has been trying to seduce me to use me, in order to spin a lie about me. So, I’m going to seduce her, on camera, to use her for a video.”

Is this really how CNN does its reporting? Seduction? If so, why hasn’t Anderson Cooper invited me anywhere yet? I know a lot of things about stuff…..

Well, according to James O’Keefe, it wasn’t he. He claims the plan “was sent” to him. This is what happens to me every time I’m going to meet a CNN reporter. People just send me 13-page lists of things of I could do on a pleasure craft. Maybe they’d thought he’d be down for it. Remember, he dressed up as a pimp to interview members of ACORN. By the time he was done editing this footage, it might have looked like a romantic evening instead of a ludicrous, nonsensical stunt. Talk about things that are typically James.

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