NYU journalism professors targeted in James O’Keefe’s latest video ‘sting’

Dylan Stableford

When James O'Keefe, the conservative activist, provocateur and filmmaker, visited Occupy Wall Street earlier this month, he said he was "busy producing a video," which led some to speculate the largely liberal-led protests were next on his video hit list.

They may yet be--but in the meantime, it seems that O'Keefe was working on videos targeting journalism professors. Last week, O'Keefe released a video that purportedly "caught" Huffington Post political reporter Sam Stein's former professor Columbia University telling students that Stein takes sources out for drinks to loosen them up.

Now, O'Keefe has released another video, in which an operative posing as a prospective journalism student secretly taped New York University professors and noted media bloggers Clay Shirky and Jay Rosen.

Shirky was a guest of Rosen's class earlier this month, as was "Lucas," the O'Keefe operative.

Rosen explains:

It started with a request from a staff person at NYU to allow a prospective graduate student named "Lucas" to sit in on my class on October 17. This is something that happens 8-10 times a semester. Students want to know what they can expect if they come to study at NYU. I said yes because I always say yes. [ . . . . ]

We did what college professors do thousands of times a day at universities everywhere.  We tell stories with ideas inside them and share how we think.

Rosen met with "Lucas" a few days later to talk more. Then:

He said he had a tape of a Tea Party gathering in which some ugly and extreme (the implication was racist) things were said. He said it was gruesome stuff. He wanted to know how he could get it to the media. To the New York Times. I said the New York Times wouldn't be interested in something like that, and that he might try to contact Max Blumenthal of the Nation.

A week later, O'Keefe called Rosen, repeating some of the things said in class that were apparently taped by the operative.


The intended story line, worked out in advance, was lefty journalism professor jumps at the chance to assist with the discrediting of the Tea Party by passing along sensational footage to his buddies at the Times. "Lucas" was there to get me to say the words that, when diced and spliced, would sound like that. But it didn't work. I told him the Times wouldn't be interested. So no portion of that tape appears in O'Keefe's video.

Rosen claims that other portions of the resulting 10-minute video--entitled "To Catch a Journalist"--are taken out of context. If so, it would follow the format O'Keefe has used in his past releases: a mash-up.

"There's not much to [else] say because it's so incoherent, context-less and, frankly, boring," Rosen wrote. "As Erik Wemple of the Washington Post put it: 'Just a couple of professors prattling on in not-so-fascinating ways about media and politics.'"

And unlike O'Keefe's previous hits on ACORN and NPR, the latest videos won't result in anyone losing their jobs. The only tangible effect of O'Keefe's latest "sting" is having on the journalism world is that Rosen says he now won't allow guests in his classroom:

My students are now shocked and angry that their learning environment has been invaded by a trickster like O'Keefe. I need to prevent that from happening again. But the only way I can do so is by closing my classroom to all outsiders, or by looking into the background, motivations and character of potential visitors, which is creepy and offensive.

You can watch O'Keefe's footage of the stingless "sting" below:

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