James O’Keefe on the Power of Media, and the Public’s Right to Know at Any Cost—American Thought Leaders

February 11, 2019 Updated: April 5, 2019

For James O’Keefe, the American system of government depends on an informed citizenry, and it’s the responsibility of journalists to get out the facts.

O’Keefe sees much contemporary media as having deviated from that responsibility, focusing instead on providing opinion, and plenty of it, often without transparency.

In his quest for truth-telling, O’Keefe founded Project Veritas, which equips reporters with hidden cameras to conduct undercover investigations. His videos—exposing crime and corruption inside government and government-funded organizations—have undeniably had an effect, but also have led to repeated personal attacks, lawsuits, and an arrest.

In my interview with him, O’Keefe tells us why he believes the public’s right to know justifies his controversial methods, and why it’s worth the risk.

Jan Jekielek: You describe yourself as both a muckraker and as an investigative reporter, and I wanted you to give us a bit of a picture of what these roles mean to you.

James O’Keefe: Well, muckraking, a term I believe was coined by Ida Tarbell, is about creating righteous indignation. Righteous indignation is the most motivating force in politics. We believe at Project Veritas—and as my mentor, Andrew Breitbart, said—that politics and policy are downstream from the culture. So we have to inform the people, and journalism—investigative journalism—is from our vantage point, the most powerful thing you could do to expose the truth. I was reading a book recently, and the way they put it is that investigative journalists are the custodians of conscience, that we allow the people to formulate an idea of what is and what is not moral in a society. So these sorts of things are the foundation of how people are informed. The American system of government depends upon an informed citizenry. So I would submit to you that the American people are just not informed. It’s not that they’re not intelligent enough to make public-policy determinations, it’s just they don’t have the information necessary to make informed determinations. What we need is muckrakers and investigative journalists to get this information in a raw and true form, in order to help make that happen. That’s what I’m committed to doing, and my organization, Project Veritas, is the tip of the spear of this endeavor.

Mr. Jekielek: There’s plenty of folks that describe themselves as investigative journalists today and I guess you’re suggesting that they’re not actually providing that. I guess you’re calling it moral guidance for society. How does that work? Are people misleading us in saying that they’re actually doing investigative work?

Mr. O’Keefe: To be clear, I think that journalists are providing too much moral guidance. I think the proper role of an investigative reporter is to really make news judgments to provide people with what is newsworthy, and not the moral opining. The custodian of conscience is your testing and affirming of what is and what isn’t an outrage to people by providing them with facts. This has sort of become a cliche, but journalism today is just all about opinion. It’s all making moral judgments about the news, and we’re not really getting any actual raw information. And in fact, arguably, journalists think that you shouldn’t have the raw information, that the raw is dangerous that it creates herd instincts, it could create prejudice, and this is getting ahead of myself here in this interview. But what happens is social-media companies are starting to censor raw information, that the wrong information would lead to the wrong public-policy solution. And we’re getting too far ahead of ourselves. This all started happening in the 1960s and ’70s in newspapers. They got away from doing reporting. Watergate happened and people viewed their positions in journalism; they wanted to become celebrities or pursued power. They viewed it as a way to get to power when back in the day, it was all about just exposing facts. This is why we choose video as the medium; it’s the purest and rawest and most uninhibited form that properly educates the people. That’s why we shoot video in the way we do.

Mr. Jekielek: I want to tackle a few things head-on here: specifically about using video, for example. A number of people, as you well know, have basically accused you of cutting your videos in such a way as to misrepresent the context of the situation. What would you say to them?

Mr. O’Keefe: I would say that all journalism is edited selectively; the very nature of journalism is you have to edit the story to fit it. If you just release a torrent of gibberish and raw words, it won’t make sense. You have to write the story. But the thing about video is that there’s a beginning point, and there’s an endpoint, and it captures reality accurately. The words—and I have a lot of respect for the work you guys do—but newspaper reporters can’t capture reality as accurately as video, because, with video, you pick up on a person’s intonation, you pick up on subtleties that printed words don’t pick up on. You pick up on body language and no matter if you’re the best writer in the world, you can’t pick up on all the nuances that a video camera can capture. You might say, well, the video is edited; so are sentences. Sentences are arranged and juxtaposed in the way that the artist or the author wants. I don’t know about you, but when I read The New York Times every day, it gets worse and worse. They patronize you, they omit, and the video camera can’t; I can’t omit when I film you over the course of an hour. I see what I get. I would argue that we need more of these visuals, we need more of these cameras in these dark corners. And that’s just the bottom line. They can say all the stuff that they want but, at the end of the day, I’m not lying about what I see. I get sued, and I get deposed, and I have to swear on the Bible and raise my right hand that what I saw was real, and so help me God. The other thing I’ll tell you is that they say that we edit, but they never actually give you a specific example. It’s all hyperbole, just an accusation without a specific. If you have a specific example of a specific edit, please name it. And third, a lot of the people that we’ve filmed have admitted they said what they’ve said and they resigned. So if you resigned and admitted you’ve said what you said, where is the veniality. Where is the example of the supposed deceptive editing? They simply can’t name it.

Mr. Jekielek: Do you then present longer full raw videos, in addition to the clips, that you feel encapsulate the reality?

Mr. O’Keefe: We sometimes have done that. The problem is, and this has become one of their logical fallacies, let’s say it’s a two-hour encounter with a subject like the NPR investigation that we did, about seven years ago. We did a story on National Public Radio. [It] was a two- or three-hour long interview and I decided to release the entire interview. Then, various conspiracy theorists—this is what they did with the Planned Parenthood videos as well—will go into the raw and say, “It looks like minute marker 2 hours, 11 minutes isn’t exactly matched with …” And this is actually what happens. The conspiracy theorists come out and say [there] is some type of problem with it. So we decided we can’t possibly placate these individuals. Another thing that they’ll do is, if you release the full raw, they’ll say, “But how do we know that you didn’t leave the building and then walk back in”… These people will never be placated. They’ll never be satisfied. And by the way, video of an encounter is above and beyond the standard that any newspaper reporter will have; you can just use anonymous sources or you just say this is what the person said. Why don’t we ask The New York Times to provide unedited notebooks and videotape of all of their quotes? It’s a preposterous standard. It’s a standard that no journalist could possibly abide by. At Project Veritas, I could simply say Person X said this, and not provide any video at all. So, again, releasing video of quotes is a standard that goes above and beyond what any other reporter is supposed to do. And if they want to hold me to the standard of releasing raw tapes to buttress quotes, I believe that’s a standard they also should hold themselves to. This is not the issue at hand; the issue is really who is a journalist, and what is a journalist? These are the more essential questions, and the more underlying reasons why they attack me in the first place.

Mr. Jekielek: A lot of this work that you’re describing with NPR and Planned Parenthood was undercover work, where the journalists or you were posing as someone else. And that’s been described by some people as being unethical. What would you say to the people that say that?

Mr. O’Keefe: I would say there are two different issues. You’re correct, the proper response is that you’re secretly recording these people and you’re using false pretenses. Let’s take these issues one at a time. First, the secret-recording matter. In each and every case where we film someone, I’m always a party to the conversation. In other words, let’s say I’m secretly recording you and you don’t know that in New York City.

Mr. Jekielek: Maybe you are.

Mr. O’Keefe: Right. There’s tech cameras all around here. But let’s say I’m secretly recording you some other place: in a restaurant or something, and you don’t know that. But what you do know is I’m talking to you. You know that, and we know each other somewhat, but we know we don’t know each other terribly well. We’ve met each other two or three times, I believe, in the past. But I’m kind of a stranger. What the bottom line is from an ethics perspective, is that I could be writing down everything that you’re saying, and I could blast it to the whole world tomorrow. You have no expectation of privacy. So from an ethical perspective, I would argue that recording you does more justice than merely writing down what you say. From an ethical or moral perspective, the secret recording isn’t a problem, so long as you know the recording is on me. In other words, where we would cross the line is if I put a recording device down and walked away. That’s zero party consent. We don’t do that at Project Veritas. So the secret recording is not the moral quandary our opponents would lead you to believe. The other issue is the false-pretense issue. That’s a more tricky one. We could talk for hours about that. I’ve got some things to say about the false pretenses, but we argue it’s necessary. We argue that deception, in some cases, is required to uncover the truth, because some issues are of vital and profound public importance. And, of course, history is replete with investigative reporters who’ve done this. But that’s a more complicated subject and ask away if you wish.

Mr. Jekielek: This is actually one of my questions. What is responsible journalism? How do you see responsible journalism?

Mr. O’Keefe: In terms of the deception, for example, or just generally?

Mr. Jekielek: I think in general.

Mr. O’Keefe: I would answer that by saying journalism is defined as some people have said in history: it’s telling the truth and shaming the devil. Journalism is about telling the truth to the audience. You have to be truthful. You have to give them the truth. And if you look through history, usually it’s by any means necessary. Now, where’s the line? Well, for me, it’s you have to tell the truth to the audience, even if it means deceiving your subject. By the way, this is not unique to me. Journalists deceive subjects all the time. I mean that journalists bribe, seduce. Seduction doesn’t only take the form of undercover. I mean New York Times reporters, you should hear how they talk to subjects on the phone. They make you think they’re your friend, your best friend in the world. And then they break the story and all. And then the subject is, “Oh, how could I have possibly trusted this person.” This is not unique to Project Veritas. Seduction, broadly speaking, is what most reporters do and are supposed to do to get you to trust in them. Veritas does it in a different way. We use pretense. We use undercover techniques, but the most important thing is to tell the truth to the audience. Most people are more honest when they don’t know they’re talking to a reporter. So if you’re a reporter and you’re talking to a subject and that subject is feeding you b.s., feeding you things that they want the public to know, guess what? You may not be doing responsible journalism. You may be giving the public the thing the source wants you to give to the public. So you have to be very careful if you’re a reporter and you’re just relaying information. At Project Veritas, we don’t have that problem as much, because the person does not know that they’re being recorded and it’s visual, it’s video. It’s real: cinema verite. You are capturing this person in a real, unguarded moment. It’s aesthetically true and often, in rare cases, where they are making it up, like Nick Dudek at The New York Times saying, “I’m Nick, I’m James Comey’s godson,” even in the cases when he is b.s.-ing, it becomes newsworthy. It’s a very interesting distinction between when the subject knows that they’re being recorded and when they don’t.

Mr. Jekielek: It’s very, very interesting. In American Pravda, you explore the concept of “fake news,” which I guess is somehow the opposite of what you’ve been describing. But this term has actually been used by all sorts of people and all sorts of ways. It’s almost a weaponized term. Can you explain what fake news means to you?

Mr. O’Keefe: That’s a very loaded term these days, used by both sides of the equation. I believe it was Steve Bannon who originated it, and Glenn Greenwald wrote a piece about that. Fake news, I think to me, it embodies this American Pravda, the book I wrote, it better encapsulates it this way. You look at CNN is an example of a network where it’s all about narrative. There’s no actual facts. There’s no actual new information. It’s the way they use chyrons …

Mr. Jekielek: There is all sorts of breaking news?

Mr. O’Keefe: Yeah.

Mr. Jekielek: I don’t understand what you mean there is no actual original reporting.

Mr. O’Keefe: There’s no currency in investigative journalism. This is what I think. There’s no actual investigative journalism happening on these platforms. It’s all just opinion; it’s all just talk. Ninety-five percent of people on the panels constantly talk in gibberish. I don’t care what you think. I want to see the information. Maybe “fake” is too strong of a word but I’m just tired of the opining, and the opinions, and the angles, and the coloring of information. I just want to see the information. I’m not a hypocrite. If you look at my stories, the extent of my involvement is: I’m James O’Keefe, check this out. That’s it. That’s all I want you to say. I don’t need to hear it, so I don’t know if fake is the right adjective. These people are expressing their opinions, but their opinions have no basis in reality. We did a video last year, two years ago, on The Washington Post and there was a guy—I believe his name is Adam Entous. My colleague might know his name, but he said something like, “Our editorial page is wrong on the Russia story.” He said that, and we caught him on hidden camera saying that, and I got so much flak, and people said, “James doesn’t know the difference between the editorial page and a news page.” If you read Jill Abramson’s new book—she’s no right-winger by the way—she says the same thing. She says they’re being merged together. So if there’s no difference between your opinion page and your editorial page, then where’s the real news. If the subject-matter expert on the Russia investigation, Adam Entous of The Washington Post, says listen, there’s no difference between the two, and the people on the opinion pages are wrong on their report, then what is their opinion based on? If it’s not based in fact or reality, and if 92 to 100 percent of what we’re seeing on cable news networks is opinion, with no basis in reality, then, that is fake news.

Mr. Jekielek: President Trump has called out various journalists and various media at times as fake news. And some people have said that by doing so. he’s undermining the credibility of the profession in its entirety. How do you see that?

Mr. O’Keefe: I actually think [it is] one of the greatest virtues of this president, and one of the greatest synergies with this president. What we’re doing is waking—getting people woke about the media. Let me just make this clear to your audience, the media has all the power; the media is everything. Know that everything is downstream from media and by media, I don’t just mean CNN and The New York Times. I mean Silicon Valley, and also the social-media companies. They are media companies because CNN, The New York Times, and NBC News circulate their messages through social media, they work together, they distribute their messaging together. In some cases, they have business arrangements together. That’s what Nick Dudek told us at The New York Times about his relationship with YouTube. He works with [them], so the media has all the power. So I think one of the greatest virtues of Trump is his ability to get people to think about whether what they’re getting is real—to question that. This is what some would consider his biggest problem. I think it is his greatest virtue; of Trump, is making people question and be skeptical of what they see, the Pravda. The difference between the Soviet Pravda—Pravda was the Russian word for the Soviet newspaper—is that everyone in the Soviet Union knew that it was a joke. They knew that they were being lied to.

Mr. Jekielek: It’s so ironic. Pravda is truth.

Mr. O’Keefe: Pravda is the word for truth in Russian. They knew that it was a lie, but they just didn’t have the moral courage to do anything about it. In other words, the vast majority of people in the Soviet Union said this is a bunch of b.s., but if I protest, they’ll send me to the gulag. In the United States, I would say more than 50 percent of people actually believe a lot of the lies in the media. So the greatest virtue of this president is calling attention to that and making people question that. Maybe this is not real? Of course, with the media, they’re just happy because they’re making more money than ever, just being negative and antagonistic toward this guy. So that’s where we are right now.

Mr. Jekielek: You’ve actually said that the media has more power than the legislative branch of government: 100 percent. Can you unpackage that for me?

Mr. O’Keefe: It’s 100 percent true. The media has more power than all three branches of government. And I’m not the one who originated this. This was a man named Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who said that in his Harvard address to a bewildered commencement. All these Harvard people expected Solzhenitsyn to say what they wanted him to say. And he says the media has more power than all three branches of government combined. Think about that for a second, because that’s very counterintuitive, right? But let me explain that because this is very important. When you turn on the TV, do these legislators today actually do any legislating or they spend most of the time in front of a camera on CNN? They understand that politics is downstream from an informed population and most people get their information from the media. And the media is not limited to CNN, The New York Times, NBC News. It also includes Google, Facebook, and Twitter. So you better believe that these politicians spend most of their time dealing with CNN, The New York Times, NBC, Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Trump has chosen to be antagonistic with these organizations. I think that that is an inflection point in American history right now, right here. And I believe that Solzhenitsyn is and was correct. Andrew Breitbart taught this to me. … He said, “James, the media is not just something to consider.” He said the media is everything. Breitbart, who himself was mentored by Arianna Huffington and Matt Drudge, was editing The Drudge Report when I met him. He said, “James, the media is everything.” He said that you have to get out and you have to talk to The New York Times. He said, talk to these organizations; don’t cower, don’t be in a fetal position. Get out in front of the story. I don’t think people realize this, but when they do, it changes your strategy. It affects how you conduct yourself and how you approach these issues. It actually speaks a little bit to how I got into media, frankly.

Mr. Jekielek: But it’s really fascinating. So I guess Project Veritas could be seen as a kind of a new media, in a way; I suppose The Epoch Times is also a kind of a new media. So how does this new media contrast with, and I hesitate to say the word traditional, so let’s say the mainstream media, or what we think of more conventionally as the big media in our society?

Mr. O’Keefe: This is a very good question. On one hand, I would say stop complaining about the media and become the media. And what does that mean? You guys started a newspaper, which is a Herculean effort. I think what I would say to you is that we don’t want to create a media company like other companies create, and have their little distribution. We want to get covered by the mainstream media. In other words, our model—and this is not our model, it’s a vision, I suppose, for the citizens—is to get in The New York Times, get on CBS. This is what Breitbart taught me: get covered by them. This is very counterintuitive to an independent-minded person who criticizes these venues, and I just did criticize them. However, as critical as I am of these organizations, I recognize their power. In other words, here in Manhattan, if it’s not in The New York Times, it doesn’t exist to the people in Manhattan. People criticize me and say, “James, you’re giving them too much power.” I say yes, but we can still get covered by The New York Times if the story is big enough. If this story resonates, if this story is powerful, if the content is strong enough, if The Epoch Times breaks a massive story on whatever scandal, let’s say the Justice Department, you just may get The New York Times to cover the fruits of your labor. If the Justice Department scandal that The Epoch Times uncovers is so big and embroiled various executives in the Justice Department, that those folks get subpoenaed or themselves resign, The New York Times has to cover the results of your labor, so the vision, therefore, is to do journalism. The vision is to do journalism to such a degree and to such a scale that it forces the non-journalists to cover the journalism that you do. You see that’s the vision that these people maintain, and, by the way, there are some good journalists out there in these mainstream publications, a few of them; maybe I can count them on one hand. In any event, if we do the journalism ourselves and we do it right, we’ll be the change we wish to see in the world, and we set the example. We will force the mainstream media to cover our work. That’s the vision behind Project Veritas. But I would argue that it’s really not my vision. I’m just trying to be a facilitator. I’m trying to let people know that you can do this. You don’t need a journalism degree. You don’t need to work for an established publication. What you really need is the moral courage and the willingness to go out and just go do it. And the metrics will be how many New York Times front pages you get to force them to cover your work. This is like the Holy Grail of results: a New York Times headline above the fold, covering something that you’ve done. So that’s my vision, in answering your question about a vision for how to interact with or replace media.

Mr. Jekielek: It’s very interesting that you would say that. A few weeks back, that pretty much exactly what happened for us, except the story was spun so wildly that the headline, I believe, was something to the effect that the president was under investigation for being a Russian agent. And I think I counted nine paragraphs into it [until] there was a line saying there was no evidence to support that.

Mr. O’Keefe: Right.

Mr. Jekielek: Very interesting that you say that. I guess we’re on the right track to your school of journalism.

Mr. O’Keefe: You need to keep doing it. You need to keep going. You’re right, you are on the right track. And I would say, keep that momentum. Maybe in the next story, they’ll be forced to admit there was evidence. I’ll give you one or two quick examples; we did this in The New York Times. I’m using The New York Times as a scapegoat here. But with the ACORN investigation; this happened in 2009. We did this investigation into ACORN. I posed as a pimp and we did all these offices. It was a long story, a big story; it put Project Veritas on the map. Both houses of Congress were Democratic-controlled, and the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to defund ACORN because of the videos that Hannah and I did, before The New York Times even assigned a reporter to the story. The New York Times had their ombudsman print an apology to their readers, saying we tuned in too late. They apologized for not only not covering the story but said, in the future, they would assign an additional reporter to cover stories that we broke. Now that is unbelievable. And, in 2016, The New York Times printed an A section story on our story on our Democracy Partners, where I believe the headline was something to the effect of: Democratic operative caught doing dirty tricks. So, this is certainly possible. It’s like one small step for man, one giant leap for citizen journalism, one step on the moon. Hopefully, there’ll be more steps. But the answer is that you guys are absolutely on the right track. Keep going. Keep doing it.

Mr. Jekielek: Thanks, James. So you actually have a whole new crop of young undercover journalists from December and January were doing this work. I understand there’s some news that’s going to come out of that. Can you give us any previews?

Mr. O’Keefe: We were very busy during the election cycle. We broke some dozen stories on various senators and governors, some of which prompted some resignations in Florida and Missouri and elsewhere. In the last two months, we’ve been just very busy recruiting undercover journalists and even recruiting some people on the inside various institutions. I would say one of our big focuses right now is Silicon Valley—some of these large tech companies like Google, and Facebook, and Twitter. People on the inside are so fed up by what they are witness to—and some of them are quite aligned with some of the things I’ve said here—that they’ve proactively reached out to me and some of those people themselves are willing to wear a camera. So you may see imminently some things happen there that we’re in New York state here, where Andrew Cuomo just recently passed a law regarding the issue involving late-term abortion, and some things happening on that issue, and in some matters involving some post-birth issues, where right now, a bill is being debated. Senator Ben Sasse is talking about that, so there’s that issue, and I would say there’s the education issue, which you guys have done a great job of covering. I loved your insert in your newspaper about the education issue I saw. And then there’s the election of 2020. There’s a lot going on in this country. So my job is to find—I guess you could say—the unreasonable man, who is willing to strap a camera to themselves and do the unthinkable. These are not easy people to find, and there is a lot of work training and equipping them before we send them out. So we’ve spent the last two months getting a whole new crop of people. You’ll see, in the next 30 days, some new stories come out.

Mr. Jekielek: So this part about the new people that are in this crop is fascinating. But you mentioned that there’s actually people on the inside that you’ve connected with or they’ve reached out to you and they’re wearing cameras. What compels someone to do such a thing?

Mr. O’Keefe: So we were, you and I, talking about this off the air recently. And I think that we’ve done a lot of thinking and reading and studying the characteristics of these people, and some of these things are sort of trade secrets, but I can tell you that the No. 1 commonality that the people who do this, and I’m not talking about just an undercover journalist, I’m talking about someone who actually blows the whistle. You guys deal with that, your colleagues find those people, and you have a unique expertise on this, as well—it seems to me they all share what I call a justice complex. They’re so passionate; they believe so deeply. One of the people that we’re talking to actually said: “I found what this organization was doing is so bad that I felt the public had a right to know.” It’s almost like their commitment to that idea is greater than whatever … significant sacrifice that they themselves are making in their personal lives. Their belief in something is greater than their belief in worrying about their safety—if that makes sense. These people do exist; they are out there. I would say the vast majority of people are afraid and are so concerned with their own well-being; what I’m interested in are the people who are not as concerned in their own well-being. And it takes a somewhat unreasonable person, but the most progress in human society is based upon the unreasonable person pushing the boundaries. What I realized is Project Veritas needs to find the unreasonable people who are on the inside, who believe so deeply. Now, where are these people, like actual examples? Ed Snowden is an example—some people don’t like him. But let’s just take him for what he is. He was the personification of someone who just basically blew himself up to expose the National Security Agency. And he changed the world; he changed policy. Also, James Damore at Google: here’s a guy who was an unwitting whistleblower; he was blown up by a memorandum. There are not very many people like this. Most people are afraid but I think we are at a point in American history. Our country seems to be on the brink, doesn’t it? It seem to be like the center cannot hold? Things fall apart. There’s a brewing civil war of sorts culturally that these people exist. I cannot tell you, unfortunately in this interview, the nature of where these people are but I can tell you that Project Veritas has recruited a bunch of them—a bunch of people like that. Some of them are retired, some of them are not. Some of them are on the inside. Some of them work in elections; some of them work in Silicon Valley. It’s my job to create an army of them, which is what we’re going to do. And they all share, in common, the justice complex.

Mr. Jekielek: Very interesting. So I noticed that you’re actually promoting your tip line a lot, and your Twitter feed, and social media, and so forth. How many tips do you actually get a month?

Mr. O’Keefe: We get hundreds if not thousands; it’s growing.

Mr. Jekielek: How many are credible? I am sure you get a lot of stuff you can’t use.

Mr. O’Keefe: There’s different things that we get. We get people who want to be full-time journalists. For example, we get thousands of those—we get about a thousand applications to become a journalist. We get people who have ideas; for example, one such idea would be “Have you thought about going into ACORN dressed as a prostitute?” I mean this is just an idea but it’s a good idea. And I did it. We get tips that are [from] people on the inside who are informants, who have access to something, but are not willing to film. This is like a common anonymous source. But because we’re a visual organization, we have to corroborate that. And then, we have what I call unicorns: people who are on the inside, who have access, who are morally courageous, and who are willing to film. These are the people that we’re focused on. Now, your question is how many of our total tips are the unicorns, one out of every 10,000 or something like this but we have a process and yes, in this interview, I would solicit people to go to ProjectVeritas.com. If this is you, I’d like to make a call to action here, but we definitely want people to think about their purpose in life and why they were put here. Life is about more than commodities, and having a house, and getting by. This is a way for you to serve your country. Just like people who go to war, people do a lot of things, people run for office. This is a way to serve your country, to inform your fellow man. If you are witness to something—if you’re a janitor, a school teacher, a union member, a government worker—and you hear us here and you see something and you’re disgusted by it, I can equip you. Be brave about it. Do something. People say “What can I do?” You can do something; you can film it.

Mr. Jekielek: You don’t have to be willing to film to come to talk to you? Do you have to be ready to film?

Mr. O’Keefe: You don’t have to be ready to film. There’s two different types of people. There’s the people who have access to this, who see it, who know it, and who can talk to us anonymously. Then, there are the people who sort of say, “This rises to the standard that I’m willing to film it and maybe even be known for doing so.” Some of the people in the first category just need a little bit of convincing or hand-holding to become the second category. I’ve already found dozens of people who are willing to actually do it. That’s my call to action. And I actually believe that once these people come out of the woodwork and actually show themselves and get up on the stage—get up on the world stage—I think there’ll be more and more and more and more. They’ve awakened a sleeping giant. They can stop one man but they can’t stop a thousand people. Project Veritas will have, in the next few years, 1,000 people doing this.

Mr. Jekielek: Whenever you publish one of these videos, there’s probably a lot of people that are quite angry at what they see.

Mr. O’Keefe: That’s an understatement.

Mr. Jekielek: It ends up being tough, maybe lonely, work. How do you deal with that?

Mr. O’Keefe: That’s a really interesting question. There was an article in The New Yorker, I believe, last week or two weeks ago about a whistleblower who did the qui tam lawsuits on the government. And I guess that’s a little bit of a different situation, I suppose, because the qui tams, you’re working for the FBI. Some say you’re like a snitch or something like this, but you know it’s honorable work. It’s a little bit different than this because you’re going directly to the people. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is because people say, “Well, what’s in it for me?” Project Veritas will protect you. Project Veritas will pay your legal bills. Project Veritas will employ you, and pay you a full-time salary, but there’s something so gratifying about breaking these stories and educating people about the atrocities. And actually if the story is good enough, if it’s really, really bad what I think what’s going to happen is—Martin Luther King says the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice—in the beginning, they might try to play games but over time, Leviathan will actually not retaliate, OK? I am a living and breathing example of this; I’m a free man, I’m not in jail. My headquarters is in Westchester, New York, and in 2014, Andrew Cuomo did indeed try to shut me down, and audit me, and do all these things. But, over time, he sort of backed off. In other words, I think these powerful organizations, and powerful corporations, and powerful people that we investigate will not retaliate against the whistleblowers if we create an army of people doing it. Because it’s in the public interest, because it’s the right thing to do, because it’s the morally courageous and the correct thing to do. What are they going to do, retaliate against innocent people who blew the whistle on something so shocking to the conscience? We’re talking about things that shock the conscience. We’re talking about deeds so bad and so evil that 98 percent of people think they’re wrong. You’re telling me that some mega-corporation is going to put their big thumb on and squish these people. I hope they do. That’ll only make the story bigger. It’s exactly what Saul Alinsky argued: push a negative large enough and it breaks through to its counter side. So, it’s a long way of answering your question, but I believe that these people will get so much gratification from breaking these stories, and I believe that the public will thank them. And I believe that there’s more to life than just going about your day. There’s a noble purpose. There’s serving people. Don’t people want to serve? Isn’t that what life is about? This is about service. This is—as far as I’m concerned and maybe as far as you’re concerned—why we were put on this earth: to educate people and to serve a purpose. And I think there’s millions of people in the United States who agree with that. I don’t need a million people. I just need about 100, and I’ll find them.

Mr. Jekielek: This is a wonderful place to finish up. Thank you so much, James.

Mr. O’Keefe: Thank you.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

American Thought Leaders is a new Epoch Times show available on Facebook and Youtube.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Follow Jan on Twitter: @JanJekielek
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