The O’Keefe Project: The Times at work

In November and December I published a series of 14 posts under the heading of “The O’Keefe Project.” The series arises from the work of James O’Keefe/Project Veritas in the matter of Ashley Biden’s diary and the 2020 election.

O’Keefe et al. were raided last year under a federal search warrant procured by the FBI. Although O’Keefe was instructed to remain mum, the authorities promptly leaked news of the raids to the New York Times.

The New York Times is a key player in the saga. Times reporters including Michael Schmidt have been working the Project Veritas/Ashley Biden diary story like the Russia hoax. Indeed, Schmidt is a Washington correspondent for The Times who covers national security and federal investigations. He was part of the Times team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for the Times’s amplification of the Russia hoax that was perpetrated by the Clinton campaign and our national security establishment.

Schmidt’s friends in the national security establishment have turned their attention to Project Veritas in the matter of Ashley Biden’s diary. There is a story there, but I seriously doubt it is the one pushed by the Times.

Project Veritas has now posted the video of what is described as a phone call between an unnamed Project Veritas employee and Schmidt (below, with language warning). Project Veritas has itself posted the video with minimal background here. Project Veritas does not even provide a date for the call. (I have asked its publicist.) My comments below are based on the linked Project Veritas post and email from Project Veritas’s publicist.

Unleashing a series of f-bombs, Schmidt seems intent on portraying himself as just one of the guys. He says he is only trying to “figure out what happened with a stupid ******* diary” — the stupid diary to which Schmidt has devoted a great deal of excited attention.

Project Veritas notes that, despite Schmidt’s previous reporting on the matter, Schmidt holds himself out as viewing Project Veritas’s actions as possibly within the bounds of standard operating procedure. “Would you [Project Veritas] be the first organization on the face of the earth to go out and buy something in the middle of a political election and try to publish a story? No. There’s a strict, you know, a stream of American journalism in that area,” Schmidt says. Later in the call, however, Schmidt expresses mystification at Project Veritas’s self-conception as journalists (like the Times) rather than operatives (unlike the Times).

Schmidt also holds himself out as a reporter who can be trusted not to hurt a source. “If I was in the business of saying to people like you, ‘Hey, look. Level with me. I’m trying to figure out the facts,’ and turned around and ******* you? Then, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. I just wouldn’t and it would also be the wrong thing to do,” Schmidt said. “Not that I’m some moralist or, like, whatever. I’m just some dude out there with a ******* blank notepad in the crazy ******* world trying to figure out what the ****’s going on.”

I have been interested in the story behind the story — the FBI’s apparent assault on Project Veritas on behalf of the Biden family and the collaboration of the Times with the national security establishment in this project. The video raises a different issue. It presents a case study in the questionable ethics of journalism that Janet Malcolm famously explored in The Journalist and the Murderer. See, for example, David Graham’s Atlantic tribute “Janet Malcolm the magician.” Schmidt to the contrary notwithstanding — “Not that I’m some moralist or whatever” — Malcolm was on to something.

At 6:00 a.m. (Central) I asked Schmidt (via Twitter) to confirm that it was he who is on the recording of the call Project Veritas has posted and whether he has any comment on it. I advised that I intended to post my comments within an hour. I gave him my email address and phone number. I told him I would post any comment verbatim. As of 7:00 a.m. (Central), I have received no response. If any is received I will post it here in an update. In any event, the video states at the end that there is more to come.

UPDATE: Schmidt has not responded to my questions. Project Veritas has responded to my questions as follows: “The video depicts one call with Schmidt. It happened within the last few weeks. R.C. Maxwell from Project Veritas asked Schmidt for comment….He has not responded to us either.”

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