Conservative media fixture James O’Keefe rose to stardom in 2009 after posting an undercover video supposedly showing employees of the now-defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) agreeing to help him smuggle underage prostitutes into the US. The video circulated widely in the conservative blogosphere, where activists saw the clip as proof that ACORN, a major force in community organizing and voter registration drives, was corrupt. O’Keefe’s sting destroyed ACORN’s reputation and the employee, Juan Carlos Vera, was fired.
Only later did it come to light that Vera called the police to report O’Keefe after he left. Four years after the video went viral, O’Keefe has agreed to pay a $100,000 settlement to Vera, as first reported by Wonkette.
By filming Vera, O’Keefe may have violated a state law against secret recordings of an individual’s voice and image. Though he was granted immunity from criminal prosecution after turning over the raw videos to the California attorney general’s office, Vera and other ACORN employees sued O’Keefe privately:
In the settlement, O’Keefe says that before the video was shown on TV or posted on the Web, he was unaware of Vera’s assertion that he had called the police to report O’Keefe and Giles for proposing an illegal act. […] The lawsuit was filed on the assertion that O’Keefe broke a state law prohibiting the surreptitious recording of someone’s voice and image.
O’Keefe’s other videos have been exposed as either complete lies or deceptively edited. ThinkProgress reported last year that O’Keefe’s attempt to expose voter fraud by non-citizens actually featured US citizens. The conservative activist has also been arrested for trying to bug a Senator’s phone. In his ACORN pimp sting, O’Keefe deceptively edited in the famous pimp costume later, though he actually wore a suit and tie at the ACORN office.
O’Keefe’s settlement is the latest blow to the credibility of conservative media. Breitbart.com made a stir by accusing now-confirmed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel of taking money from a shadowy organization with the outlandish name “Friends of Hamas” — a group that turned out to be fictional. Soon after, allegations by the Daily Caller that Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) had hired a prostitute turned out to be entirely fabricated. The fake scandal had also been shopped around to the New York Post and the Star-Ledger Time, but neither could find any evidence to publish the story. Larger conservative media outlets like the Drudge Report, however, enthusiastically amplified these stories with little or no scrutiny.
Despite the payment, O’Keefe is refusing to back down. In a statement, he absolves himself of any liability, saying, “The settlement admits no liability and there is no benefit from extending this ridiculous lawsuit…Sadly, this is the cost of exposing the truth.”