Project Veritas: The Musical!

Project Veritas: The Musical!

This is not a metaphor. This is a thing that really happened

Sometimes, I lovingly craft the articles you find here. I think about a subject, research it, write an outline, turn it into prose, then fiddle with the wording until it’s just right. I record the audio in as many takes as needed, lovingly put the work together, and then hit “publish” with confidence and a feeling of accomplishment

This is not one of those times.

On Saturday, January 29th, I attended the Project Veritas Book Release Party in Miami Beach, Florida. James O’Keefe promised an “unforgettable performance” and I have to say, the man delivered.

The Rolling Stone paid me to write about it, and I’ve spent the last 3 days doing just that. You can read the end result here:

(If you hit a paywall, it would be very wrong to go to and look at it there, and I would never advocate that you do this)

Which brings us to today’s Substack.

Here’s the thing. I have slept approximately 6 hours in the last 3 days. When I hit “publish” this time, I will do so with relief and a feeling of complete exhaustion

In the meantime: while working on this article I did that thing I do, sometimes, where I wax philosophical and get sidetracked from the main point of the story. I had to cut an entire section about What Journalism Is, Really. It wasn’t right for the article, but I like it.

Here it is, plus a lead-in for context:

Tonight, Trump’s standard-bearers in Congress have come to pay their respects. Before the performance, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Madison Cawthorn, and Matt Gaetz addressed the crowd as kindred spirits, and the audience responded in kind.

“What we have to do is we have to make sure that we bring the fights to the Democrats in 2022,” Greene exhorted the crowd. “But even more than that, let me tell you what’s important: We have to hold our own party accountable.”

“When Project Veritas releases one of these exposé videos, it shows people what’s really going on,” Cawthorn declared. “I believe that sometimes the sheep really need to feel the teeth of the wolves to remember [the] dangers that exist in this world … and have we not noticed a lot more Americans starting to wake up?”

The crowd cheered every word. This is MAGA country.

Anyone listening to the cheering crowd, or observing the list of special guests, or reviewing Project Veritas’ targets over the past twelve years, could perhaps be forgiven for suspecting the group is a right-wing organization.

Project Veritas does not see it that way. “We can say with absolute certainty that we are a non-partisan organization,” a spokesperson informed me when I asked about the guest list. “Project Veritas would be happy to host politicians from any party at our events.”

“They’re one of the few real journalistic enterprises left in this country,” agreed Steve Merczynski, a guest with a hand-painted MAGA tie who sells Trump-themed hammocks. “60 Minutes used to cover stories exposing mainstream elements in our society which were doing wrong things and were applauded. Now the mainstream place IS the elite. That you’re not allowed to touch. So Project Veritas is giving us the truth that the elites and the mainstream media hide behind.”

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, Project Veritas has to maintain their nonpartisanship for tax purposes. The fans, on the other hand, have no reason to dissemble. Many of those same people expressed relief at being among like-minded conservatives who would not judge or despise them for their beliefs. Lying to your enemies is one thing. Why would you lie to your friends?

The simplest explanation is that the attendees truly believe that Project Veritas tells the raw, unbiased truth. It’s just that the truth tends to arc rightward. If you see the world through a right-wing lens, news without a right-wing slant feels leftist. Biased. Fake.

For the past decade, mainstream journalists have torn their hair out at Project Veritas’ assertions of journalistic integrity, and often their rebuttals have to do with right-wing bias. Unlike real news organizations, they fail to present the facts objectively.

The argument is nonsense. Comforting nonsense, but nonsense nonetheless.

An article can present only facts, but it cannot present every single fact. Such an article would be unreadable; such an article would occupy several bookcases. A video can provide an exact record of an event, but only from a single angle. The viewer can only look where the videographer points their camera and is at the mercy of cuts and edits, starts and stops. Every journalist, in every medium, decides which facts to include and which to throw away. I am doing this right now. We curate the facts that best support our interpretation of what happened, and that interpretation is inherently biased. Every article does this. Project Veritas does it too.

The things that place Project Veritas outside the realm of journalism have nothing to with bias, but rather an overall disdain for truth. O’Keefe likes to boast about how few retractions Project Veritas has issued over the years, for example, but this is nothing to be proud of. The organization admits to just five mistakes in 12 years. One of those mistakes involves ACORN’s Vera–the employee who alerted police to O’Keefe’s stated plan to smuggle and sexually expoit underaged girls. The mistake, according to Project Veritas, was settling with Vera instead of fighting the defamation case. 

This is a callback to an earlier paragraph in the article, which reads as follows:

Only a few weeks after the first video dropped, however, the narrative began to fall apart. Juan Carlos Vera, who appeared to help plot ways to smuggle underage prostitutes across the Mexican border, in fact called the authorities the moment the duo left his office. It did not save his job, and it did not save ACORN either. Six months later, in March 2010, the organization disbanded. A vital resource for America’s most vulnerable citizens vanished overnight. It was never replaced.

Truth is complicated. Everyone makes mistakes. Ethical journalists admit their mistakes, correct the record, and fact-check more thoroughly in the future. Project Veritas does not.

Journalists report the news. Project Veritas manufactures it. Their reporters do not simply ask questions, but instead work to elicit the reactions they already decided they want through manipulation and social pressure. Undercover reporters sometimes go on dates with their targets, make outrageous statements, and take advantage of the natural desire to impress a romantic interest. Worse, the group often targets low-level customer service workers, who must mollify even the most aggressive and unpleasant customers or risk losing their jobs. The undercover reporter holds all the power in this situation, and exploits this power ruthlessly to capture sensational footage and, often, ruin lives.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pass out for a million years

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A Newsletter by Laura Jedeed