the national interest

Conservative Tries to Prove the Washington Post Is Fake News, Proves Opposite by Mistake

James O’Keefe, conservative provocateur and serial failure. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

James O’Keefe is a celebrated right-wing pseudo-journalist whose job consists largely of attempting to prove various conservative conspiracy theories but, instead, accidentally disproving them. O’Keefe’s most recent fail is an attempt to help alleged child molester Roy Moore by tarnishing the Washington Post. O’Keefe recruited a fake source, who attempted to lure the Post into reporting her false accusations and “admitting” on camera that their reporting would affect the outcome of the election.

The scam collapsed for a number of reasons. His fake source provided a flimsy cover story with odd details — she claimed to have only spent a few summers in Alabama, but provided a cell phone with an Alabama area code. The supposed place of employment that she provided did not have any person by that name working there. A search of her name turned up a social-media post in which she explained that she was going to “work in the conservative media movement to combat the lies and deceipt [sic] of the liberal MSM.”

If you’ve ever watched a spy movie, you’ll probably recall that the spies never get caught because they left a social-media post under their real name declaring “I’m enrolling in espionage school to become a spy!”

Another reason O’Keefe’s plot collapsed again is because it is premised on a ludicrously false worldview. The Washington Post does not, in fact, publish unverified accusations just because they’re against Republicans. His various attempts to prove rampant voter fraud have failed in part because voter fraud is not rampant.

But this larger conceptual problem with O’Keefe’s enterprise creates a secondary problem, which is that the people who are dumb enough to believe these conspiracy theories are not generally smart enough to carry out a competent entrapment scheme. O’Keefe attempted to impersonate a Detroit Free Press columnist at the polls, and failed, in part because the poll worker knew the Free Press writer personally. An elaborate effort to sting the League of Conservation Voters failed clumsily because the operatives left their recording devices sitting around. The “Canadians” who tried to entrap staffers at George Soros’s Open Society Foundations into accepting “foreign” donations all gave the same phone number, which turned out to be from “Students for a Conservative Voice.” O’Keefe’s attempt to register the vote of a dead person accidentally used the identity of a voter who is completely alive. His attempt to impersonate a Hungarian donor to the Clinton campaign floundered when its catfisher forgot to hang up the phone and accidentally recorded a long message explaining the details of the operation:

“Hey, Dana,” a voice began. The caller sounded to her like an older American male. “My name is, uh, Victor Kesh. I’m a Hungarian-American who represents a, uh, foundation … that would like to get involved with you and aid what you do in fighting for, um, European values.” He asked Geraghty for the name of someone he could talk to “about supporting you guys and coördinating with you on some of your efforts.” Requesting a callback, he left a phone number with a 914 area code—Westchester County. …

She heard a click, a pause, and then a second male voice. The person who had introduced himself as Kesh said, “Don’t say anything … before I hang up the phone.” …

She continued to listen, and the man’s voice suddenly took on a more commanding tone. The caller had failed to hang up, and Kesh, unaware that he was still being recorded, seemed to be conducting a meeting about how to perpetrate an elaborate sting on Soros. “What needs to happen,” he said, is for “someone other than me to make a hundred phone calls like that.”

Another thing you never see in spy movies is a plot failing because the bad guys left a recording on their target’s voice-mail that details their entire scheme by mistake.

O’Keefe earned more than $317,000 last year. Perhaps we should consider the possibility that O’Keefe is actually a left-wing double agent who is trying to prove that the market doesn’t work.

Correction: This article originally misstated target of O’Keefe’s foreign donor scheme.

Conservative Fails to Prove Washington Post Is Fake News