The 33-year-old who tried to trick the Washington Post with a fake sexual harassment story has a long history of sting operations backfiring

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesConservative sting operation mastermind James O’Keefe holds a news conference at the National Press Club in 2015.
  • James O’Keefe, a conservative provocateur, failed to uncover bias at The Washington Post after one of his undercover journalists pretended to be a sexual harassment victim of Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.
  • O’Keefe is a self-described “muckraker” who tries to dig up dirt to expose mostly left-leaning individuals and organisations.
  • His most recent attempt at uncovering bias at The Washington Post is just the latest in a string of failed undercover operations.

A woman who posed as a victim of Roy Moore, the embattled Republican Alabama Senate candidate whose campaign has been roiled by multiple allegations of misconduct, appeared to be involved in a sting operation meant to disgrace The Washington Post, the newspaper reported Monday.

The attempted sting operation failed after Post reporters discovered the woman, who identified herself as Jaime Phillips, was actually working for an organisation called Project Veritas, led by the conservative activist James O’Keefe.

O’Keefe is a self-described “muckraker” whose mission is to “investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct in both public and private institutions in order to achieve a more ethical and transparent society,” according to the Project Veritas website.

In the past, he has targeted Planned Parenthood, a Democratic senator, voting rights group ACORN, and CNN by secretly taping conversations and using undercover operatives to bait people into admitting wrongdoing or bias.

His most recent failed attempt at uncovering liberal bias among reporters at The Washington Post is the latest in a string of undercover operations gone wrong.

Here are some highlights of other failed stings (h/t The Hill’s Will Sommer):


A Project Veritas employee blows her boss’ cover by leaking details of an imminent undercover sting targeting CNN.

In 2010, O’Keefe planned to embarrass CNN journalist Abbie Boudreau by bringing her on a boat with sexually explicit props and recording the two in awkward conversation. Boudreau was working on a film about the conservative activist movement and planned to meet and interview O’Keefe in his office.

Just before the their scheduled appointment, Izzy Santa, then Project Veritas’ executive director, warned Boudreau of O’Keefe’s intentions. Boudreau didn’t follow through on the interview.

The incident hurt O’Keefe’s credibility as a serious muckraker and led to a lack of funding for his organisation.


O’Keefe is charged and convicted of a misdemeanour for tampering with the phones of a former US senator.

That same year, O’Keefe was sentenced to complete three years probation, log 100 hours of community service, and pay a $US1,500 fine after attempting to break into the phones of former Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

O’Keefe and his assistants had planned to investigate whether Landrieu’s office was ignoring constituents’ calls about the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, but were arrested after impersonating telephone repairmen and tampering with Landrieu’s phones.


O’Keefe sports a mustache and pretends to be a 45-year old while looking for evidence of voter fraud in Colorado.

James O’Keefe/TwitterJames O’Keefe disguises himself as a mustachioed college professor during one of his sting operations.

During the 2014 mid-term elections, O’Keefe and two of his staff members tried to bait Democratic field staffers in Colorado into endorsing voter fraud.

To avoid being recognised, O’Keefe said he grew a moustache to disguise himself as a 45 year-old.

During a campaign event, one of O’Keefe’s colleagues introduced himself as “Nick Davis” to a Democratic staffer and “asked the staffer if he should fill out and mail in ballots for other college students who had moved away but still received mail on campus.” The staffer told him not to because that would be considered voter fraud.

After receiving repeated questions about submitting other people’s ballots, Democratic staffers suspected that they were being punked. They connected the dots to O’Keefe after coming across a photo O’Keefe had posted on Instagram showing him with a moustache – the same one he used while undercover.


Hollywood film director Josh Fox secretly records O’Keefe operatives while they attempt to swindle him.

In 2014, O’Keefe made an appearance at the Cannes Film Festival and unveiled a 20-minute long video apparently showing top Hollywood film directors, including Josh Fox, accepting money for an anti-fracking movie from Middle Eastern oil interests.

The video, however, deceptively edited Fox’s comments. Luckily, Fox had secretly recorded his full conversations with the Project Veritas employees. Fox is the director of the Oscar-nominated, anti-fracking film, “Gasland.”

In late 2013, Fox received emails from a group called Beacon International. The group claimed to want to fund the director’s next anti-fracking film, but Fox became suspicious of the group’s lack of transparency and announced that he would not accept any donations until he knew more about those behind the funding.

Fox’s full-length recordings of his conversations absolved him of the hypocrisy that O’Keefe had attempted to expose.


O’Keefe accidentally records himself describing plans to infiltrate and embarrass executives at a foundation funded by George Soros.

Last year, O’Keefe called Open Society Foundations – a group founded by the liberal activist George Soros – and left a lengthy voicemail for Dana Geraghty, who spearheaded its pro-democracy program in Eurasia at the time.

In the voicemail, O’Keefe claimed to be a man named Victor Kesh, a Hungarian-American who wanted to help out with Soros’ activism.

But just a few minutes into the voicemail, Geraghty realised the caller forgot to hang up.

The message continued to record O’Keefe’s private conversation with fellow Project Veritas employees, during which he described how he was planning to infiltrate OSF to expose embarrassing activities within the foundation. It didn’t work.


A Project Veritas operative infiltrates the American Federation of Teachers as an intern, and her and O’Keefe get sued for trespassing, eavesdropping, and theft.

Brendan Orsinger/TwitterAn activist on Twitter warns others about Maris Jorge, an undercover ‘citizen journalist’ affiliated with James O’Keefe.

In September, O’Keefe became the subject of a lawsuit brought on by the American Federation of Teachers in Michigan.

As reported by The Intercept, the labour union argued in its lawsuit that one of O’Keefe’s political operatives, named Marisa Jorge, infiltrated the organisation as an intern and obtained access to confidential databases to “use private, proprietary information to attempt to embarrass [the AFT] and adversely impact labour organisations representing public schools.”

Employees became suspicious when Jorge’s internship ended and she returned to the office, asking for more work. The staff later found images of Jorge unsuccessfully infiltrating inaugural protests and realised that she had been working for O’Keefe all along.

O’Keefe and Jorge are being sued for trespassing, eavesdropping, and theft, among other accusations.

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