Updated 1:05 p.m., April 26, 2022.
On Wednesday night, James O’Keefe, author and founder of non-profit organization Project Veritas, visited campus for a talk hosted by the Dartmouth College Republicans. Over the course of an hour, O’Keefe discussed his organization's work in front of approximately 100 guests. Topics included several cases Project Veritas covered of alleged corruption among political, media and private figures, which O’Keefe said amounted to “threats to democracy.”
According to its website, Project Veritas “investigates and exposes corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud and other misconduct in both public and private institutions to achieve a more ethical and transparent society.” Using undercover journalists, the organization has recorded both politicians and public figures and produced videos of the encounters — often misrepresenting subjects through edited footage, according to The New York Times. The organization is currently under federal investigation for how it came into possession of Ashley Biden’s belongings.
Attendees were offered logoed apparel such as stuffed animals labeled “Retracto Alpacas,” hats reading “The New York Lies” — an apparent spoof on The New York Times — and other apparel as they filed into Filene Auditorium.
Chloe Ezzo ’22, president of the Dartmouth College Republicans, opened the event by introducing O’Keefe and Project Veritas, which she said had “exposed” the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Big Pharma, Big Tech, CNN, National Public Radio, the New Jersey Teachers Association, The New York Times, Planned Parenthood and the U.S. government.
“Faith in the mainstream media is at an all-time low and for good reason,” Ezzo said at the event.
O’Keefe began his presentation with a speech of an opinion column published in The Dartmouth on Tuesday. The piece was written by senior staff columnist and former editor-in-chief Kyle Mullins ’22. In his column, Mullins expressed discontent with the College Republicans’ decision to bring a “bad faith” speaker to campus. O’Keefe called Mullins’ claims “serious accusations” and proceeded to tell the audience he would “write a $10,000 check” to anyone who could name an instance in which O’Keefe had “deceptively edited” journalism in the past decade.
“Every argument he’s written [in the column] appears to be false,” O’Keefe said.
In a written statement to The Dartmouth, Mullins said that he was aware O’Keefe had discussed his piece during the event and said that the event did “nothing to create open or productive discourse on campus.”
“O’Keefe’s accusations of intentional bias — on my part or on the part of The Dartmouth — hold no water, and his efforts to undermine trust in the free press nationwide are damaging to democracy and free speech,” Mullins wrote.
Mullins added that his own views do not represent those of The Dartmouth — “either during my tenure as editor-in-chief or now.”
“The divide between opinion writing and news reporting is clear,” Mullins wrote.
O’Keefe then discussed a range of Project Veritas’ coverage, which he called “things that powerful people don’t want to expose” — including an ABC news tape concerning coverage of Jeffrey Epstein, a video of a Texas woman facing charges of election fraud and a video of a CNN staffer discussing how the network worked to favorably portray then-presidential candidate Joe Biden during the 2020 election.
“There's nothing wrong with CNN being a network that's dedicated to ‘getting Trump out,’ but why don’t you just call it ‘CNN — dedicated to getting Trump out’ as opposed to ‘CNN — the most trusted name in news?’” O’Keefe asked. “I don't hide anything I believe in.”
O’Keefe noted his concerns over a “lack of real investigative journalism.”
“We need people to be brave and do something, which is our motto [at Project Veritas],” O’Keefe said.
O’Keefe also discussed a number of pending Project Veritas lawsuits, including the group’s recent efforts to sue The New York Times. Project Veritas has accused the newspaper of violating attorney-client privilege rights. However, a decision by a New York state appeals court in February ruled in favor of The New York Times, temporarily allowing The Times to publish Project Veritas documents.
O’Keefe also discussed Project Veritas’ work to obtain Ashley Biden’s diary — an effort that has been the subject of an investigation by federal prosecutors. Project Veritas has denied any wrongdoing, maintaining that Biden’s belongings were abandoned.
In an interview with The Dartmouth after the event, O’Keefe said the talk was “well-attended,” adding that he was “happy to be here and talk about truth and journalism in the modern era.”
Seven Sassano ’22 said she was surprised by the lack of student attendance at the event.
“It was mostly [Upper Valley] community members,” Sassano said. “We didn’t really have any student involvement, which was a little disappointing.”
Correction appended (April 26, 1:05 p.m.): A previous version of this article stated that Chloe Ezzo ’22 is the vice president of the Dartmouth College Republicans. Ezzo is the current president of the Dartmouth College Republicans. The article has been updated.