I was disappointed to read a press release from Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill calling on her Republican opponent Josh Hawley, also the state’s Attorney General, to investigate an undercover sting video of her campaign. In the video from the conservative, pro-Trump Project Veritas, several McCaskill staffers can be seen contradicting the campaign’s official platform, while McCaskill herself voices support for Planned Parenthood and a bump stock ban, and opposition to a border wall, politically tricky topics in the red state.
In response, the McCaskill campaign declared the sting not only unethical but illegal. McCaskill campaign manager David Kirby called on Hawley “to uphold his responsibility as Attorney General and appoint a special prosecutor to investigate crimes committed by Project Veritas against the McCaskill campaign.” For his part, Project Veritas chief James O’Keefe denies doing anything illegal.
I am not a fan of O’Keefe or Project Veritas. Their videos claim fewer and less important scalps than they once did; look no further than the McCaskill video, featuring damning quotes from only low-level staffers and the actual candidate voicing positions that don’t actually contradict her previous statements on the issues. Against the meager value of their journalism we must weigh the long history of unethical and dishonest behavior, including conspiring with a political candidate to plant a fake rape claim in The Washington Post in order to discredit credible accusations. They perpetuate the worst stereotypes about conservative journalists and Byron York’s assessment that “O’Keefe really ought to hang it up. Stupidity + maliciousness [is] a bad combination” seems apt.
But this isn’t really about James O’Keefe. You’re free to think Project Veritas is bad journalism, hackish journalism, unethical journalism, “fake news” journalism, etc. But it is journalism. In this case, it unquestionably led to a disclosure of interest to the public, how a U.S. Senator and her staffers speaks on issues when they believe they are not on camera. And for providing that newsworthy information, McCaskill called for state-enforced retaliation, backed by the threat of prosecution.
Of course journalism isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card, and if Project Vertitas actually committed a crime McCaskill would be within her rights to demand it be investigated. But the argument laid out by the McCaskill campaign is laughable.
The press release states that this is a “clear case of fraudulent activity,” that “Josh Hawley is obligated to protect Missourians from fraud,” and that he had “knowledge of the fraudulent activity.” The campaign specifically demands Hawley “exercise his jurisdiction under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act—a law he has frequently touted in the past—to investigate the crimes committed by Project Veritas against the McCaskill campaign.”
But while Project Veritas may have committed “fraud” in a general sense, lying in and of itself is not a crime. People lie and deceive others all the time without facing the threat of prison time, and there’s a long history of undercover journalism. To make it “fraud” in the common legal sense of the word, you usually have to falsely extract something of material value from another person. Any interpretation of “fraud” broad enough to ban the lies Project Veritas told would impact a host of First Amendment-protected activity, whether it’s Sacha Baron Cohen hoaxing public officials in disguise or politicians like McCaskill telling untruths.
AND THE HITS JUST KEEP ON COMING: Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema Attacked ‘Bullshit’ Stay-At-Home Moms For ‘Leeching Off Their Husbands.’
Related: From the “Republicans Pounce!” School Of Journalism: Kyrsten Sinema’s Hilary Rosen Moment, and Her Persistent Verbal Flubbery.
They’re not “flubs” or botched jokes — the quotes from Sinema are what she honestly believed at the time she uttered them, and likely still does. As Michael Kinsley famous said, “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.” Or at least his or her personal “truth,” to borrow from former NJ governor Jim McGreevy.
WITH DNC IN MIND, CITY BANS CARRYING URINE, FECES. Plot Twist: It looks urine might take down a politician in 2018, but it’s not the one Dems were hoping for. “Fox News is reporting that Sen. Claire McCaskill’s husband, Joseph Shepard, was accused of domestic violence by his ex-wife… And it gets worse. According to the report, Shepard verbally abused her, punched her in the chest and … wait for it … peed on her.”
Why is the Democratic party such a cesspit of violence and abuse?
(Classical reference in headline.)