James O’Keefe’s getting a bad rap from reporters today on what this new clip was designed to prove, although it’s partly his own fault. He tweeted this morning, “Today we show you our second undercover video within @washingtonpost…this time exposing Nat’l Security [reporter] Adam Entous who ADMITS that the Russia story is a ‘f*cking crap shoot’ and ‘maybe it doesn’t exist at all.’” The way he phrased that (“ADMITS”!) made it sound like he thought he’d scored a gotcha on Entous, who, as you’ll see below, is professional and objective about the Russiagate story. It’s another self-own by Project Veritas, hooted journalists on social media! They don’t even know a fair reporter when they see one.
But O’Keefe acknowledges that Entous is a fair reporter. (Entous co-wrote the story revealing that Hillary’s campaign paid for research that ended up in the infamous Trump dossier, in fact.) His point isn’t that Entous is a biased hack, it’s that the paper’s editorial page is biased hackery, continually inflating the Russiagate story into some sort of mega-scandal when their own reporter admits there may be no wrongdoing by Trump. The editorial page’s craving for an anti-Trump narrative is leading them to ignore their own news section’s appropriate skepticism. True enough, I guess, although the fact that a major paper’s editorial board might be eager to take down Trump is a “dog bites man” story. O’Keefe could have made that point without even interviewing Entous. Just show a few examples of WaPo news reporting on the Russia probe and compare them to how those stories were distorted on the editorial page — if you can.
I say “if you can” because O’Keefe doesn’t offer any juicy examples of editorial-page hackery in the vid. He shows images of three “editorials” but two of those are blog posts by anti-Trump opinion writers at WaPo. One is left-wing Paul Waldman, the other is center-right Jen Rubin. If you want to smack them for being too credulous about Russiagate, okay, but that’s an individual criticism, not an institutional one. (A better institutional criticism would be that WaPo should hire some op-ed authors who are to Rubin’s right.) The third example is a bona fide WaPo editorial from July titled “The Trump campaign’s attempted collusion.” Read it for yourself and see if it comes off as wild-eyed or irresponsible to you. The subject of that editorial was one of the strongest pieces of evidence of the Team Trump’s interest in collusion that’s come to light so far, Don Jr’s meeting with a Russian lawyer to try to obtain dirt on Hillary Clinton. Junior’s friend Rob Goldstone, who arranged the meeting, explicitly told him that what the lawyer had for him was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort sat in on the meeting. That doesn’t mean Trump Sr knew about it or condoned it, but does it amount to attempted collusion by the campaign? Sure it does. In fact, just this afternoon the House Intelligence Committee announced that Don Jr will meet with it next week. Guess what he’s going to be asked about.
The irony is that O’Keefe’s sitting on a much bigger story than “editorial board leans left.” Over the past week, in no fewer than three incidents, he’s showed that the Post’s reporters aren’t biased hacks. They appear to be doing their jobs responsibly. There’s Entous, there’s that busted sting a few days ago sniffed out by reporters Beth Reinhard and Stephanie McCrummen, and there’s the second video below in which national security reporter Dan Lamothe agrees with PV’s premise that the editorial board sometimes gets ahead of the facts because it has an agenda. The core conservative critique of media bias, particularly in the Trump era, is that the news itself is being distorted in order to damage a Republican administration. Of course the editorialists are hacks, but no one cares about them. (How many editorial boards endorsed Clinton over Trump last fall? How influential was that?) The real influence is in the news section, the people who bring you the alleged truth. O’Keefe is building a case, however inadvertently, that you can trust WaPo reporters to be diligent and fair, which is a big deal coming from a populist right-wing outfit given how many times the Post has dinged Trump with exposes over the past 10 months. Viewed in its best light, PV’s WaPo series thus far has been an experiment to see if D.C.’s biggest paper is publishing fake news or not. So far all signs point to “not.” That’s a conclusion worth reporting and even emphasizing. But O’Keefe’s audience doesn’t want to process that information so instead we get this strained clip in which Entous is used as some sort of cudgel against the editorial board.
Besides, is conservative media in any position to rail about narratives distorting the news? The country’s most prominent right-wing outlet, Fox News, has a primetime line-up composed of three of the biggest Trump fans in American media. Sean Hannity has for years defended the bias on his program by noting that he’s not a journalist and doesn’t claim to be. He’s an activist and an opinionator. Recently, however, he told the Times, “I’m a journalist. But I’m an advocacy journalist, or an opinion journalist.” How many Fox viewers in primetime believe they’re watching news rather than opinion or “opinion journalism”? The chief distinction between WaPo and Fox is that everyone understands Fox leans right whereas WaPo makes a pretense of objectivity, but c’mon. It’s 2017. There’s no serious dispute which way the wider media leans ideologically. The question is whether their reporting is accurate. To watch PV’s clips this week, you’d have to assume it is.