Controversial filmmaker speaks at UNH, pledges return to catch voter fraud in N.H.

  • James O’Keefe in New Hampshire on Jan. 31, 2018. Paul Steinhauser / For the Monitor

  • James O’Keefe visits New Hampshire on Wednesday. Paul Steinhauser / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Thursday, February 01, 2018

The founder of a conservative group that used undercover videos to expose alleged voter fraud in New Hampshire in the 2012 and 2016 elections vows that he’ll be back in the Granite State for this year’s midterm elections.

“This year, we’re going to get some smoking-gun evidence in the 2018 elections, and you better believe that we’ll be back in New Hampshire,” James O’Keefe said in an interview Wednesday with the Monitor. O’Keefe was in the Granite State to promote his new book, American Pravda.

O’Keefe is the founder of the nonprofit group Project Veritas, which has a history of using disguises and hidden cameras to uncover supposed liberal bias in the mainstream media and among left-leaning organizations. The organization has made headlines over the years targeting Planned Parenthood, teachers’ labor unions, and the community organizing nonprofit group ACORN.

O’Keefe’s 2009 videos of officials at ACORN, which helped register voters and organize campaigns in low-income areas, eventually led to the collapse of the organization. But in 2013, O’Keefe agreed to pay $100,000 to a former ACORN employee who had sued over being secretly recorded.

O’Keefe and his group have been repeatedly criticized over the years for selectively editing their videos in order to promote their narrative.

A few weeks ago, a federal judge shot down a bid by O’Keefe to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Democratic organizations and activists his group targeted during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“I’m disappointed that I have to fight for my right to exist without being jailed,” O’Keefe said.

“We’re facing audits from the California attorney general, threatening letters from the New York attorney general, 12 civil actions. We’re being sued in federal court. My journalists are detained and harassed at the borders,” he said.

And O’Keefe, who has also targeted leading mainstream media organizations such as CNN, the Washington Post and NPR, claimed that “if this were any other situation and the shoe was on the other foot and I was exposing something that they would consider to be a non-sacred cow, they’d be lionizing the activities of our journalists.”

“But because they don’t like the facts that we’re exposing, it doesn’t fit their narratives, they say, ‘Off with his head,’ ” he added.

O’Keefe made headlines the past two presidential election cycles in New Hampshire.

In 2012, a video he put out after the first-in-the-nation primary highlighted Project Veritas “undercover journalists” at polling places in the Granite State giving the names of dead people and then receiving ballots.

“We exposed that ballots were being given out in the name of the dead. We got some dozen ballots offered to us. We didn’t procure the ballots so we didn’t break any laws,” he argued.

Instead of being applauded, he was criticized by then-Democratic Gov. John Lynch, and the incident was reviewed by state officials.

In the 2016 primary, O’Keefe released a trio of videos allegedly showing voter fraud. After being subpoenaed by the state attorney general’s office, O’Keefe turned over hours of raw recordings that he used to highlight how an out-of-state resident who was a top official with the Bernie Sanders campaign in New Hampshire used his campaign office as his residence when registering to vote.

The material also spotlighted poll workers allegedly giving advice on how to skirt residency requirements to out-of-state voters seeking to cast a ballot in the New Hampshire primary.

O’Keefe described his actions as an “example of democracy in action” and said, “We’re just bringing facts to the public.”

And he touted the 2016 videos, saying they “actually got some people to change their mind on the issue” of voter fraud, including some leading national law professors.

He said he believed his videos helped fuel Republican support in New Hampshire for a bill that GOP Gov. Chris Sununu signed into law last year tightening state statutes on voting.

O’Keefe spoke with the Monitor before heading to Durham to speak and sign books at a gathering of University of New Hampshire College Republicans. Later, O’Keefe traveled to Bedford to discuss his book at a fundraising reception hosted by the conservative 603 Alliance.

O’Keefe said that in his new book he defines journalism as “an activity, not an identity.”

“They can call me names – journalist – nonjournalist – activist –SpongeBob SquarePants – they can refer to me with all these different names, but in the final analysis it’s about the actual activity that we’re doing, which is exposing people,” he said.

Still, O’Keefe has strong opinions about his approach to documenting the world and what journalistic ideals should be.

“If journalists are simply reporting what their sources tell them, unchallenged without skepticism, to fit a narrative, then we don’t want to do that type of journalism,” O’Keefe said. “Our goal is to shame the devil, break through the palace guard. That ought to be the role of journalists.”

O’Keefe said his new book “tells the war stories and the sort of moral courage required to circumvent the mainstream media.”

He was far more complimentary of smaller, local media outlets, like the ones in New Hampshire.

“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to local reporters because they’ve covered the facts more fairly,” he said. But he lamented that due to economic factors, “there aren’t as many reporters at the local level anymore.”