A new profile of the right-leaning provocateur tries to examine the controversy surrounding his work, but it leaves out the most damning material
As a longtime observer of James O'Keefe, the right-leaning provocateur best known for his hidden video stings, I am frustrated by the profile about him just published in The New York Times Magazine. The writer, Zev Chafets, capably sketches his subject's biography, and correctly intuits that any worthwhile feature story on the 27-year-old must grapple with the ethical questions raised by his activism. But the grappling is woefully incomplete, leaving readers unaware of the most damning critiques of O'Keefe's work and unable to render an informed judgment.
Totally absent is any mention of CNN Correspondent Abbie Boudreau, who contacted O'Keefe in 2010. At O'Keefe's bidding, she traveled to Maryland, expecting to interview him. But he and his team had other plans. It was their intention to lure her onto a boat where O'Keefe would be waiting below deck, hidden camera rolling. In planning documents obtained by CNN, there was a list of potential props: "condom jar, dildos, posters and paintings of naked women, fuzzy handcuffs."
O'Keefe later claimed he didn't approve such props. In any case, once he got her down there alone, he planned to make her uncomfortable by attempting to seduce her. Then he'd somehow humiliate Boudrea and embarrass CNN by releasing footage of the bizarre incident. It was averted at the last minute when a female member of O'Keefe's team became uncomfortable with the plan, and tipped off the reporter to what was intended. In the aftermath of the incident, which made national headlines when it happened, publisher Andrew Breitbart commented, "From what I've read about this script, though not executed, it is patently gross and offensive. It's not his detractors to whom he also owes this public airing. It's to his legion of supporters."