James (Jimmy the Sting) O’Keefe figured this caper was a lock for the Front Page.
The self-styled conservative “guerrilla journalist” recruited a woman to pose as a long-ago adolescent inamorata of Judge Roy Moore, the U.S. Senate candidate from Alabama who has been accused of lechery for ingenuous and/or underage females.
O’Keefe is the brains of Project Veritas, a serial sting operation that often flails at the media–and fails spectacularly.
The high concept of its latest scheme was to record and expose Washington Post reporters salivating over fake news that might well bring down Moore–and the entire GOP superstructure.
Imagine O’Keefe’s giddiness: Dirty politics! A duplicitous press! Another triumphant media bunco job!
The only things missing from this storyboard were Hildy Johnson and a roll-top desk.
But O’Keefe’s sting target was Beth Reinhard of the Washington Post, a savvy, smart and sharp-elbowed veteran political reporter from Florida who moved to the Post this year from the Wall Street Journal.
She quickly sniffed out the scam, as the Post reported Monday afternoon.
As a result, O’Keefe’s reviews were not good, even in the conservative press. Some are beginning to wonder whether he’s worth $300,000 a year as chief GOP media opposition operative.
Dan McLaughlin, writing in the National Review, said O’Keefe “had yet another of his undercover sting operations blow up in his face.”
“O’Keefe has gotten a lot of funding and benefit of the doubt from the Right because he’s one of the few people doing it, and he undoubtedly has some talent,” McLaughlin wrote. “But his track record over the past several years has been increasingly embarrassing.
“Even if you set aside the factual integrity of his reports – and there are those on the Right who believe that ‘war by the other side’s rules’ means not worrying about such things – and judge O’Keefe strictly on activist terms by the scalps he collects, he’s been startlingly ineffective for several years now at actually damaging any of his targets.
“Moreover, because he’s handsomely paid for what he’s currently delivering, he seems to have no incentive to actually accomplish anything for the conservative movement besides grabbing headlines for himself. It really would serve the movement if his funders would consider financing someone more effective.”
McLaughlin noted that O’Keefe used particularly poor judgment in his attempt to sting the Post on the Moore story.
“If you want to catch people doing wrong, the secret is to get them when their guard is down,” he wrote. “Major media organizations do run shoddy hit jobs on Republicans and conservatives, and they are more likely to do so when nobody thinks they are watching.
“Instead, O’Keefe chose the one story (sexual predation by Roy Moore) on which Washington Post reporters and editors were least likely to be motivated to run thinly-sourced drivel, and most likely to be on their guard.”
Writing in New York Magazine, Jonathon Chait took up the same theme.
“Another reason O’Keefe’s plot collapsed again is because it is premised on a ludicrously false worldview,” Chait wrote. “The Washington Post does not, in fact, publish unverified accusations just because they’re against Republicans.”
Chait continued, “But this larger conceptual problem with O’Keefe’s enterprise creates a secondary problem, which is that the people who are dumb enough to believe these conspiracy theories are not generally smart enough to carry out a competent entrapment scheme…O’Keefe earned more than $317,000 last year. Perhaps we should consider the possibility that O’Keefe is actually a left-wing double agent who is trying to prove that the market doesn’t work.”
And writing in the Washington Post, Erik Wemple said some might feel “glee” at another failed media sting by O’Keefe.
But he noted that the Post was forced to invest many days of work by more than a few of the newspaper’s employees–“resources that might otherwise have been deployed investigating other senators, chief executives or potentates.”
Wemple wrote, “These, however, are ridiculous times, in which proving that the media checks out its sources is a towering imperative.”
David J. Krajicek (@djkrajicek) is a contributing editor with The Crime Report. He welcomes comments from readers.