Muckrakers Needed to Uncover Truth That ‘Those in Power Want Kept Hidden’: James O’Keefe

By Ella Kietlinska
Ella Kietlinska
Ella Kietlinska
Ella Kietlinska is a reporter for The Epoch Times focusing on U.S. and world politics.
and Joshua Philipp
Joshua Philipp
Joshua Philipp
Joshua Philipp is an award-winning investigative reporter with The Epoch Times and host of EpochTV's "Crossroads" program. He is a recognized expert on unrestricted warfare, asymmetrical hybrid warfare, subversion, and historical perspectives on today’s issues. His 10-plus years of research and investigations on the Chinese Communist Party, subversion, and related topics give him unique insight into the global threat and political landscape.
February 20, 2022Updated: February 23, 2022

In a world where independent voices that question authority are canceled and the media relays to people what it’s told to by those in power, there’s a need for a new type of journalist—muckrakers who will make public the information that the powerful want to keep hidden, according to James O’Keefe, founder of Project Veritas.

Exposing this kind of information requires the use of “disguise and undercover techniques” that raise ethical questions, O’Keefe said on EpochTV’s “Crossroads” program.

Beat reporters who need to focus on certain issues become wholly dependent upon their access to those in power, and they don’t want to jeopardize their relationships with those people, O’Keefe said. As a result, “they tend to play stenographer precisely when they should exercise independence,” he said.

“The only way that I found to not be so conflicted is to use hidden cameras and then use disguise,” the journalist said.

When O’Keefe founded Project Veritas, a nonprofit investigative journalism enterprise, his journalists had to infiltrate the organization they were investigating and use pretense to get inside it.

For example, O’Keefe and his colleagues infiltrated an Antifa-linked group and secretly video-recorded some group members plotting at a meeting how to violently disrupt President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, according to Project Veritas’s website.

O’Keefe took the video to the FBI and other authorities, and as a result, three group members were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit an assault, the website said.

“Now, we don’t really have to do that anymore. People on the inside come out to be whistleblowers. … I think the future is whistleblowing,” O’Keefe said.

Although most people might not want to speak the truth out of fear of repercussion, he thinks that a majority of individuals are very good people, including most people inside the Department of Justice.

“But, of course, they have a pension, and they have their mortgage. … They’re afraid of what would happen to them if they speak the truth unspoken.”

What It Means to Be Muckraker

A muckraker has to “operate without fear or favor,” O’Keefe said.

“The characteristic of an American muckraker is one who is so passionate about seeing the truth come to be … that nothing is going to get in their way … and anything that gets in [their] path is just a distraction,” whether it be a lawsuit or threat of jail, O’Keefe said.

A muckraker is passionate, committed, and never gives up, he said.

People might not want to speak the truth for fear of losing their Twitter account, or mainstream media doing a hit piece on them and then having an established narrative appear on their Wikipedia page that damages their reputation, the journalist said.

Media power to influence people is mostly “the power to shame and the power to humiliate,” and this power was given to them by Big Tech, O’Keefe said.

In such situations, there are only two options: “You can follow your conscience and give up your livelihood, or you can maintain your livelihood and have to live with yourself for living by lies,” O’Keefe said, citing Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a Soviet dissident and Nobel laureate.

“The second option sounds like the more pleasurable option, but you’ll only survive in a superficial bodily sense. And the only way we’re going to reverse the tide and save society from collapse is by creating a mass movement of these truth-tellers who give up their livelihood for the public’s right to know.

“In a world where now you have American reporters, my colleagues, being put in handcuffs, their home is raided for having been sent a document. In this world we find ourselves in, we have to create a way forward, we have to show people how to do it.”

O’Keefe’s home and the homes of people linked to Project Veritas were raided by the FBI in November and O’Keefe was handcuffed and thrown against a wall during the raid.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” O’Keefe said. “When you’re attacked the way that we are, and recently with the FBI raids—that’s one of the reasons why the source came to us with those Department of Defense documents, because it has engendered trust to those who come to you. And they share that pain with you and that trauma of being gaslit in their own institutions where they see how things are projected is so different than the way things really are.”

Project Veritas obtained never-before-revealed documents regarding the origins of COVID-19, gain-of-function research, vaccines, potential treatments that have been suppressed, and the government’s effort to conceal all of this, according to the organization’s website.

O’Keefe said these documents originated from the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and weren’t obtained from his sources. Project Veritas, however, has acquired a separate report to the Inspector General of the DoD written by U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Joseph Murphy, a former DARPA fellow, and reached out to the author for comment.

The response was “pretty poignant,” O’Keefe said. Murphy wrote in his response, “There are good people striving for the truth working together in and out of government, and they succeed.”

This statement “would indicate to me that there are more documents” that would corroborate the allegations, O’Keefe said.

“There are people on the inside who are good people, who are ethical people that took an oath. … But a lot of people are struggling because they wrestle with this idea of betraying this institution which has betrayed them,” he said.

“These are the brave heroes, the anonymous everyday people that know what’s going on on the inside. [They] give up their livelihood and follow their conscience, because we all suffer in life in one way or another, but might as well do the right thing.

“The only way people are going to blow the whistle and speak truth is witnessing other people do it and following their lead.”

Epoch Times Photo

O’Keefe wrote the book “American Muckraker: Rethinking Journalism for the 21st Century,” in which he features stories of such people.

One of them is Richard Hopkins, a post office worker and brave whistleblower who reached out to Project Veritas after the 2020 election alleging that he overheard his supervisors discussing the backdating of ballots.

Another is Cary Poarch, a brave CNN insider who came to Project Veritas and decided to wear a hidden camera to expose anti-Trump bias at the cable giant.

O’Keefe said a journalism professor criticized his undercover reporting methods as deception. His answer was: “What’s more important to you, deceiving your source or deceiving millions of people? … If I have to choose between one of those, I’d rather deceive my source.”

“These are paradoxes in journalism,” O’Keefe said. “Some ethicists say a failure to deceive your source can sometimes be morally wrong when you know that source is lying to you.”