James O’Keefe is a lot of things. But ‘crusading media critic’ isn’t one of them.
One of the most illuminating statements in Slate’s profile of Andrew Breitbart back in March was the conservative activist’s disclosure that he doesn’t care about actual policy. For Breitbart and his protege James O’Keefe (the man behind the controversial ACORN videos), politics is merely a competitive sport. Leftist nonprofits, Democratic politicians, the mainstream media: the objective is to beat them, because they are the other team.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise when O’Keefe pulls a stunt that seems as pointless and as mean-spirited as a prank from a snobs-vs.-slobs comedy. Whatever it takes to win, right?
According to documents obtained by CNN, O’Keefe attempted to disrupt the filming of the news network’s upcoming documentary series on the young conservative movement. (CNN, like TIME, is owned by Time-Warner.) This is itself is not surprising — O’Keefe publicly likes to be known as a muckraker — but what is somewhat bizarre is the way he allegedly intended to disrupt it: By secretly filming himself attempting to seduce CNN investigative reporter Abbie Boudreau. On a boat. For serious.
According Boudreau, O’Keefe had asked to meet with her to address his concerns about the documentary series. She detailed what happened next on her CNN blog:
When I showed up, there was no office, as promised. Instead, he wanted to get me on a boat, which we later learned, was staged as a “pleasure palace.” One of his colleagues, Izzy Santa, who was in Maryland that day, told me about the plan and stopped the punk before it happened.
Izzy told me he had “strawberries and champagne” waiting for me on the boat, and that he planned to “hit on me” the entire time. She said it would all be captured on hidden cameras that had been set up on the boat and in the back yard. She said the sole purpose of the “punk” was to embarrass me, and to make CNN look bad.
A pitch proposal for the prank obtained by CNN lists the props needed: condoms, dildos, a ceiling mirror, posters of naked women, issues of Playboy, candles, “fuzzy handcuffs,” Viagra and a blindfold. Under ‘music’ it suggests Alicia Keys and recommends avoiding Marvin Gaye: “too cliche.”
As to how such a video would embarrass CNN and not O’Keefe, a scripted portion of the video would explain:
“I’ve been approached by CNN for an interview where I know what their angle is: they want to portray me and my friends as crazies, as non-journalists, as unprofessional and likely as homophobes, racists or bigots of some sort…”
“Instead, I’ve decided to have a little fun. Instead of giving her a serious interview, I’m going to punk CNN. Abbie has been trying to seduce me to use me, in order to spin a lie about me. So, I’m going to seduce her, on camera, to use her for a video. This bubble-headed-bleach-blonde who comes on at five will get a taste of her own medicine, she’ll get seduced on camera and you’ll get to see the awkwardness and the aftermath.”
Still can’t find the funny part? Here’s the joke spelled out:
“The joke is that the tables have turned on CNN. Using hot blondes to seduce interviewees to get screwed on television, you are faux seducing her in order to screw her on television.”
If any readers were looking for political satire there, don’t bother because there isn’t any. It’s a simpleminded juvenile thought process: Boudreau works for CNN, so she is part of the other side, so she deserves to be humiliated. It’s the kind of bullying dressed up as humor that’s only funny if you really, really dislike the target.
O’Keefe has denied to CNN that he was going to follow through with the script, though Santa has provided the network with emails that verify the plan. Santa remains with O’Keefe’s organization, though she has been stripped of her responsibilities. O’Keefe is on probation after pleading guilty to entering Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office under false pretenses. (via CNN)
UPDATE: Esquire has an interview with stunt planner Ben Wetmore. Wetmore mostly sticks to his talking points, but his misreading of some of the objections to the skit is interesting: “James isn’t a lothario of sexual conquest at all. [The stunt] was supposed to be awkward, not sexually aggressive.”