Sunday, March 20, 2011

James O’Keefe and unanswered questions about why The Blaze exposed his NPR video as a lie

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The following article addresses the political dirty trick of using dishonest, "undercover" efforts to deceitfully "expose" political targets. This is what James O'Keefe is infamous for. This piece was written by Quinlan Ryan, author of The Glenn Beck Report, which has been previously reviewed here; and it is being reprinted here with permission of the author.

James O’Keefe, Glenn Beck, and the Death of Reputable Journalism

In 2007, James O’Keefe made recordings under false pretenses, selected the few most favorable circumstances, and got black leaders to call Planned Parenthood a genocidal institution and call for defunding. In 2009, James O’Keefe made recordings under false pretenses while posing as a criminal (technically, he doesn’t have to pose at all), selected the few most favorable circumstances, made heavy and misleading edits, and singlehandedly disbanded one of the most influential humanitarian organizations in the United States. And now, in 2011, James O’Keefe and his friends broke the law to make a recording under false pretenses, selected the most favorable lines, edited the video to show them completely out of context, and it now looks like America’s most reputable, honorable, non-partisan news station might lose support of public funding. His patsy, Ron Schiller (NPR’s VP of fundraising) has now been forced out of a job.
James O’Keefe is a criminal. Unlike most things he’s said recently, that’s no lie -- it’s not even taken grossly out of context. Fraud, entrapment, slander, his list of crimes just keeps getting longer and longer. He was arrested in January 2010 trying to interfere with the phone lines of a U.S. Senator (wonder what he was going to do with those). In August, he lured a CNN reporter onto a boat filled with sex toys -- he’d told her he was going to give her an interview for her story on young conservative activists. O’Keefe is a bad man. He’s a criminal. He’s a liar, and he’ll do whatever he wants to get people to come to his way of thinking.
"James O'Keefe" is to "pimp" as "NPR" is to "partisan"
I’ve been caught in some interview situations before. I really want the other party to say certain things so that I can use it against them. But a lot of the time, it just doesn’t happen. I’m not going to force them into saying it, we call that entrapment and it completely invalidates my point. I’m not going to take something they say out of context, because that makes me look bad and thus they look better. And if I interview a hundred people and only one gives me something close to what I want, I might publish that. But I’m not going to call it the official stance of the organization, and I’m not going to assume that the other hundred I’ve already talked to hold the exact same opinions. Sadly, throughout his lengthy history of shady escapades, O’Keefe has managed to do the exact opposite of every single one of these things. What he’s done to NPR isn’t even the worst, if you ask me (I’m still pretty enraged about ACORN). It’s just the latest, and the one that people care about -- with no basis at all.
Some of the stretches of the truth in the tape are infuriating. The narrator, for example, says that the potential donor group Schiller is meeting with is a front for the Muslim Brotherhood. No matter which way you look at it, that’s an outright lie. Furthermore, Schiller had absolutely no way of knowing about any potential (false) Brotherhood ties. The organization was introduced to him as the “Muslim Education Action Center”. I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds entirely innocuous. At another point in the cut, Schiller is shown laughing jovially at MEAC’s mission statement of spreading acceptance of Sharia. Turns out the laughter was taken from elsewhere in the tape -- he was laughing at a restaurant mix-up.

The full, unedited, harmless tape can be found here:

O’Keefe’s edited video -- this will make you angry:

I’ve seen comments comparing O’Keefe’s actions with Chris Hansen’s on “To Catch a Predator”. In that show, he lured in criminals under false pretenses and exposed their previously committed crimes. The NPR tape is not like that. Schiller, an innocent man with largely innocent opinions, was lured in under false circumstances. He was then taped making a lot more innocent statements (some I don’t agree with, but still nothing that should cause a sensation). And then, this innocent man with innocent opinions at an innocent organization was falsely made to look like a conservative-hating lunatic.
But honestly, I’ve spent enough time debunking Jim O’Keefe’s counterintuitive conservative lie-fest. By now, we’re used to conservatives slandering their opponents however they can to get what they want. It’s a disgusting practice, but it’s to the point where it doesn’t even surprise me anymore. What’s heartbreaking this time is that it may lead to the defunding of one of the world’s most important news sources and all-around fantastic in every way media outlets. In the unedited tape, Schiller made it very clear that any opinions he expressed were his own and absolutely not those of NPR. He was entitled to those opinions. I’m not saying that it was a good idea for him to express them, it wasn’t. It’s never a good idea for a high-ranking official to express opinions contrary to those of his organization, especially when that organization tries so hard to remain opinion-free. And whenever this kind of thing happens, history repeats itself and gets angry at the organization for the actions of the ill-advised official. So whether O’Keefe’s filthy edits had been made or not, Schiller was a bit of a fool.
A fool to bring about the most dire of consequences. If federal funding is pulled from NPR, tons of local stations will die. Talk radio may take decades to recover. And most of all, people will lose the most balanced source for news this side of the BBC. Conservatives seem to always have this idea of NPR being the left wing’s Fox News (and of Fox News being unbiased?). That’s not true. Like so many of their other opinions, they hear a sound bite, hear their favorite pundits railing against it, and assume this fraudulent idea that NPR is a bastion of socialism and baby-killing. It’s a lie.
Shirley Sher- oops, I mean Ron Schiller
Anybody who wants to challenge me, please, turn on NPR for two hours. When you’re not hearing a game show or comedy programming of some kind, you’re hearing the news -- as it is. They don’t spin it. They don’t even take a stance on it. They report it. As NPR’s Ira Glass put it, “Go through this morning’s ‘Morning Edition’ and find me even a sentence that smells like political bias to you. Like find one.” And I’m sorry, I truly am, if news without spin seems liberal. It’s called “truth”, and conservatives hate it. CNN has correspondents from both sides of the aisle, and I get sick of hearing them say things that don’t belong in with the news. MSNBC and Fox respectively have taken a definitive stance on one side of the aisle or another, and spin stories their own way or even lie (Ten lies at Fox for every one at MSNBC, of course).
But NPR, it doesn’t do that. Sometimes it pulls in an expert from one side or the other, but they just give their analyses of what’s going on. And if one story is analyzed by a conservative, you can bet the next one will be by a liberal. Even during their non-news programming, the network employees don’t take a stance. I’ve even heard Peter Sagal (Host of NPR’s ‘Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me’) making fun of the entire situation, calling Tea Partiers something along the lines of the most beautiful, educated people he’s ever met.
Federal funding for public radio allows local stations all around the nation to provide people with quality programming around the clock. Without NPR, we’re stuck listening to unprofessional broadcasters putting their uneducated comments on events that they’re probably uneducated about. We’re stuck with two-bit shock jocks and bad music stations where DJs experiment with the sound boards. I really, really don’t want any of those things.
But with NPR, people are exposed to such a wide variety of professional, quality programming that they’ll feel dirty ever going back. Non-partisan humor, talk, stories on every topic from a blind cyclist to Houston’s new girl band. They must have so many awards at this point that they need federal funding just to afford the warehouse in which to store them. In an age where every reporter influences the news, we cannot afford to lose one of the last bastions of truly honest reporting. We can’t afford liars like O’Keefe to leave hundreds or thousands out of a job and millions out of honest news. I don’t know what’s going to happen at this point, but you can be sure that it won’t be O’Keefe printing an NPR-style redaction of incorrect details.
Anyway, that’s just a lot of background information. What you came here looking for, of course, is information on Beck’s now infamous involvement in this whole thing. As many of you have probably heard by now, Glenn Beck’s website “The Blaze” has published an article completely debunking O’Keefe’s tape, meanwhile being quite easy in Schiller. The piece was NOT written by Beck himself, but by Scott Baker, the site’s editor-in-chief. He was working with an analysis of the edited tape done by Pam Key, another employee who often produces video for the site.
"Ira Glass" is to "excellent reporting" as "Glenn Beck" is to "inflammatory falsifications"
When I first heard what was going on, I assumed that someone at The Blaze had gone rogue. But then I heard Glenn accepting compliments for the work done, and I figured maybe he’s one of the conservatives that realizes that NPR isn’t partisan. They’d done a lot of unbiased coverage of his 8/28 rally, after all. But after discussion with colleagues and further thought, I realized that doesn’t seem right either. He’s railed against NPR before. He’s always complaining about taxpayer money going to things like this.
What an article on Beck’s site says is this: Scott Baker was suspicious of the edited tape. He called Glenn asking if he could examine and write about the raw tape. Glenn said yes because, and I quote, “We’re not going to Shirley Sherrod someone.” In the same breath he said that he hated NPR and had no agenda against O’Keefe, but it’s still something very interesting to think about.
Why? Why didn’t Glenn feel willing to “Shirley Sherrod” someone? If you’ll recall, back in July, he was actually defending her. Even saying that she may deserve her job back. I don’t know how his head works, but that’s the truth, that’s what happened. I HATE Glenn Beck.* I wish nobody had ever heard of him. I wish he’d never made it farther in society beyond his little DeLoran crash. He’s caused irreparable harm to thousands, maybe millions of people. But I’m not going to lie about him. I don’t need to. The truth provides me with enough ammunition. And the truth, along with my very reluctant moral compass, tells me that in the case of Shirley Sherrod he… he did something kinda good.
Is this NPR scandal the same? Did he, along with the employees at The Blaze, do kinda good? I don’t want to be quick to make judgments, so until we observe further fallout from this story I’ll remain largely neutral on that one. What I can say is that a lot of people have seen the NPR video debunked because of The Blaze. I can also say that the Blaze article was completely partisan, and that’s absolutely not how it should have been. It wasn’t good reporting. It was downright bad reporting helmed by downright bad people. But sometimes, even good can come of evil. The slogan of The Blaze is “The truth has no agenda.” I don’t think that’s true, and we can see that The Blaze never cares about filling everything up with their agenda. But for some reason, they choose to report the truth now and again -- no matter what consequences it may have for conservatives. I’m even inclined to think that Beck lost a few raving fans over this one -- but gained a few as well. I’ll call it an even trade.
Aw, don't cry Glenn. All the educated people hate you and now Fox News does too, but Tea Baggers still love you. Right?
The truth is, as far as I’ve been able to tell, that Glenn Beck’s moral compass is completely broken. Not in the way that it always points south, but in the way that it points many ways for no apparent reason. He has no problem inspiring killers. He’ll lie about the fairly elected president. He’ll use racial and homophobic slurs, he’ll lie about the founding of this nation, he’ll lie about the constitution, he’ll disparage anybody with religious beliefs that don’t conform to his. But he’ll defend Shirley Sherrod. And he’ll post a debunking of James O’Keefe. Please, don’t be fooled by one good action in the midst of a thousand bad ones. See the forest -- and the trees.
What a lot of people find most interesting about this, of course, is his closeted disagreement with Fox News, which has had no problem accepting and embracing O’Keefe’s video. Many seem to take this as a sign that Beck will leave the network once his contract ends at the end of this year. But from where I stand, the NPR scandal has affected very little between Glenn and the network either way. He’s been hinting at a split for a long time, and just a few days ago he commented of their relationship that “the only thing certain in life is change.” If I were a betting man, I’d certainly put everything I had on Glenn going independent once his contract ended. It’s a poorly kept secret that even Fox has been considering not offering a renewal of his contract. His ratings have been dropping for months. In a disgusting, lying, extremist network, he’s the most disgusting, lying extremist sack of crap they have, and people are starting to notice.
The sad truth is that both Fox and Beck might be better for that split. Beck’s got a diehard core of fans that listen to every show he produces, watches every TV program he’s ranting on, reads his stupid little books and attends his stupid little movies. He’s built himself quite the little empire, and can only go so much farther while he’s tied to the network. And Fox News, as partisan as it is, needs to maintain a grain of sanity if they want to attract a large base of modern conservatives. They’re not going to hire a liberal to replace Glenn. They’ll just hire someone who spins and stretches the truth instead of lies, and who just raises their voice instead of yelling. It’s not a good change. The split will be bad for everyone -- except for Beck and his money, and except for the network and their ratings.

For readers interested in other viewpoints about O'Keefe's dirty trick, see:
For a summary of understanding about Glenn Beck, see "Becoming Paul Revere"

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*  That is Quinlan Ryan, author of The Glenn Beck Report. Owner of this Review does not hate Glenn Beck.


Chris said...

Wow, didn't realize how sleazy conservative fanatics can get. Good article, glad you put it up. I'll have to check out more of thier stuff.

anitamurie said...

Please give me even one example of a lie told on msnbc. I'm sure they have gotten something wrong in the past but I know they correct their mistakes. Name one.

In addition, Beck went along with Breitbart's Sherrod tape until he knew the word was out and Breitbart had been caught by CNN. On his radio show, he seemed very excited by it and made some very different comments at that time. Please check out media matters to hear the true version.

The Glenn Beck Review said...

Anitamurie, I found where Olbermann has a misunderstanding of Beck's transcripts (they were not "scrubbed" as he suggested) and found on PolitiFact something that Olbermann had gotten wrong. I'm not sure if he made corrections on the latter.

The error I found:

And the error on PolitiFact is documented here:

Generally though, you're right. They will correct their mistakes. Maddow is especially vigilant about her errors.