Conservative media personality Andrew Breitbart is backtracking from his association with right-wing “prankster” James O’Keefe for his failed, sexually explicit “love boat” sting against a female CNN anchor, demanding his longtime ally apologize to fans.
“[In] my dealings with [CNN reporter Abbie] Boudreau, she and her producer, Scott Zamost, conducted themselves professionally, and I believe James owes them a candid and public explanation,” Breitbart wrote Friday evening.
“From what I’ve read about this script, though not executed, it is patently gross and offensive. It’s not his detractors to whom he also owes this public airing. It’s to his legion of supporters.”
Both right-wing figures have been criticized for less-than-honest attacks in the media. Breitbart was a highly vocal defender of O’Keefe after the he crafted a deliberately misleading attack on anti-poverty group ACORN, which Republicans had long cast as a bogeyman potentially working to steal elections.
When O’Keefe and fellow conservative activist Hannah Giles released the tapes last fall, purporting to show ACORN employees advising them on how to set up a child prostitution ring, the story was promoted heavily by Fox News and swallowed uncritically by most of the mainstream media. It resulted in Congress acting to de-fund the organization.
Footage later released by California Attorney General Jerry Brown, who obtained the film in exchange for an agreement not to prosecute O’Keefe, showed he was not actually dressed as a flamboyant “pimp” when he visited ACORN in San Diego.
The edited video released by O’Keefe appears to show an ACORN employee advising him on how to smuggle underage girls into the United States. O’Keefe is heard off-camera saying, “What things do you need from me in terms of the shipment information,” and the employee replies, “It’s better if it’s in Tijuana … because I have a lot of contacts in Tijuana.” O’Keefe then goes on to say, “There’s twelve of them. … Twelve girls, they’re like 13 to 15 years old.”
However, the unedited, unreleased footage shows the ACORN employee kept asking for detailed information about the girls, such as when and where they would arrive, along with how he could get in contact with O’Keefe. According to Brown’s report [PDF link], after the O’Keefe left, the employee notified police.
But the news came out too late — Congress had already pulled public funds when the unedited footage was released.
Even in the face of evidence illustrating O’Keefe’s dishonest tactics, Breitbart was adamant about defending him. And after O’Keefe was caught attempting to “interfere with” telephones at Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office in Louisiana, he was given space on Breitbart’s blog to deny the stunt was an attempt to “wiretap” a public official.
Breitbart and O’Keefe’s media alliance seems logical when the blog mogul’s recent controversies are examined with any level of skepticism.
Breitbart was behind a video that triggered the firing of former USDA employee Shirley Sherrod: footage that was offered severely edited and out of context, lending itself to a total misrepresentation of the facts.
Once Fox News picked up the footage, which appeared to show Sherrod describing to NAACP members how she denied government aid to a white couple, conservatives across the spectrum took to slandering the black government employee. She was fired a short time later, but video soon surfaced showing her full speech in context.
Her story was actually about overcoming racist attitudes: Her father was murdered by a white farmer when she was just a girl, as has been widely reported, and when she encountered another white farmer many years later, she struggled with her own prejudice and fear, only to become this family’s saving grace. Contacted by members of the press, the couple in question said they remained friends with Sherrod, decades after she came to their aid.
Breitbart did not apologize. Sherrod, who declined the offer of a new job in the Department of Agriculture, vowed to sue the right-wing blogger, saying she hopes he gets shut down.
A Fox News anchor later denied the network covered the story until after Sherrod was fired, when they were actually the first to carry Breitbart’s video.
CNN journalist Abbie Boudreau agreed to meet with O’Keefe for a series of reports on young conservative activists. When she arrived at his home, O’Keefe’s assistant, Izzy Santa, told Boudreau that she was about to be the subject of a sexually explicit stunt in which O’Keefe would invite her onto a boat and attempt to seduce her on camera.
“I was prepared for him to videotape me,” she said, according to watchdog group Media Matters. “I never believed it would lead to some bizarre Love Boat situation.”
She also noted that in documents later released by CNN, O’Keefe and crew referred to Fox News employees as “friendlies” who might help them embarrass CNN by revealing the truth of a false story they’d considered feeding reporters.
Since news of the failed stunt broke, Breitbart has distanced himself from his one-time “protégé,” as Talking Points Memo characterized O’Keefe.
Breitbart admitted in January that he pays O’Keefe to publish on his blog.
O’Keefe’s last post to Breitbart’s site was on Sept. 24.