The New York Times has published privileged information from Project Veritas amid a defamation lawsuit. The information is speculated to be leaked from phones seized in the FBI raids on PV journalists this week. The feature is titled 'Project Veritas and the Line Between Journalism and Political Spying,' with subtext that reads, "Documents show how the conservative group worked with lawyers to gauge how far its deceptive reporting practices could go before running afoul of federal laws."
Within an hour of the raids, which were conducted over a diary allegedly written by Ashley Biden, the journalists targeted had been contacted by NYT reporters. There is now speculation of a leak and backchannel between the paper and the FBI or U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York that is responsible for the raids.
Though PV did not publish on the diary and turned over the copy they had to law enforcement, O'Keefe and his organization are now embroiled in a legal battle to defend the rights of journalists everywhere. "If they can do this to a reporter for [the] routine act of getting sent source material (and not publishing it), they can do it to anyone," O'Keefe said. "I'm calling on all journalists to take a stand against this."
Civil rights attorney Harmeet Dhillon, who is on O'Keefe's legal team, joined Tucker Carlson Thursday to say:
"I can't say with a certainty how the New York Times got this information, but I can say that they got it in a way that was illegal and unethical.
What we have right now is a very disturbing situation of the U.S. Attorney's office and or the FBI tipping off the New York Times to each of the raids to each of Project Veritas' current and former employees... and they published this hit piece today, which is really despicable... to publish people's private legal communications. And by the way, what does it prove New York Times? All it proves is that Project Veritas is an honest and thoughtful journalistic organization that sought legal advice before making various publications."
Dhillon explained that an emergency injunction to stop the extraction of information from O'Keefe's phone by the government has now been granted by the court. This is all occurring simultaneous to an ongoing defamation suit Project Veritas has brought against the New York Times.
PV had sued NYT and its reporters Maggie Astor and Tiffany Hsu regarding their coverage of a September 27, 2020 video published by PV about ballot harvesting in Representative Ilhan Omar's Minnesota district.
Veritas claimed that the NYT journalists defamed them in choosing the phrases "deceptive" and "coordinated disinformation campaign" while saying PV had no identified sources or verifiable evidence of ballot harvesting. Veritas demanded a retraction, but NYT refused and then published future articles with similar language to describe the same Omar / ballot harvesting report.
According to O'Keefe:
"Remember: the NYT admitted in the lawsuit 'answer' to our defamation complaint, they got the facts wrong, yet they refuse to correct. They also admitted they didn't make calls for comment. The lack of journalism ethics and morals is astounding. They project all of this onto us. That's why this case is so important."
NYT filed a motion to dismiss the case entirely, which was denied. It then filed a Motion for Stay—a request to halt proceedings pending appeal of the dismissal decision. Judge Joan B. Lefkowitz of the Supreme Court of the State of New York denied that motion in August, saying:
"Here, having first failed to convince the Court that plaintiffs case should be dismissed, defendants also failed to demonstrate the extraordinary justification required for the imposition of the drastic remedy of a stay pending appeal."
"Fresh off the press: The New York Supreme Court has sided with Project Veritas: Project Veritas will be permitted to depose The New York Times. And for the first time in history, you'll be right there with us to witness it."
O'Keefe then promised to publish the depositions:
"ONE OF THE BIGGEST THINGS TO HAPPEN IN JOURNALISM IN 50 YEARS! Project Veritas WILL depose The New York Times UNDER OATH and record all of it for the world to see!"
On Tuesday, however, a Supreme Court appellate court ruled to reverse the stay decision, delaying PV's opportunity for discovery and depositions, pending a ruling in NYT's appeal of the motion to dismiss. So PV has now done the next best thing. They've released an NYT deposition tape, but one that was obtained separately. It was recorded in May of 2020:
The tape is the first in what is promised to be a series of releases from "inside the newsroom of the New York Times." It features James Bennet, former Editor, who describes his role at NYT as "ultimate manager of the [editorial] department, the decision-maker of the department." Bennet, who resigned in June of 2020 after 4 years at the position, says that he is "ultimately responsible for the journalism that we produce."
The subject of the deposition is a case brought by Sarah Palin against the New York Times for implying a causal link between a 2011 shooting in Tuscon, Arizona at Representative Gabby Giffords' political event to Palin's Political Action Committee. Palin attorney Shane Vogt questioned Bennet about his involvement in and perceptions of a 2017 NYT editorial that used the word "incitement" regarding the Sarah PAC's use of targets on a map to represent geographical areas that the campaign sought focus from activists.
Bennet is asked whether he stands by the use of the word "incitement." He defends the word choice, saying it was properly used "in the sense I was using the term that day in our editorial." He calls the map, which has gun-sight style targets, "violent imagery."
He is then shown a similar map from the Democratic Legal Council that instead uses bow-and-arrow-style targets to show areas for political focus and asked whether that map would be considered incitement.
"I understand what you're asking me and the comparison that you're drawing. Those don't look like gun sights to me, so I guess I wouldn't use the same term."
When asked what they represent, Bennet says he doesn't know, but when asked, "Do they look like bullseyes?" Bennet admits, "Now that you say that, yeah, I could see that."
Bennet ultimately admits, "We did a very poor job, I did—of trying to express the thought that created an inference for readers that there was a causal link between political incitement and the shooting of Gabby Giffords."
It had already been public that this same James Bennet had given testimony about the editorial in Palin's defamation case against the paper. A quickly docketed evidentiary hearing used Bennet's testimony alone as grounds for dismissal, but a federal court later found that unusual procedure grounds for appeal, which allowed Palin's side to show "actual malice" on merits in a case that continues.
Further questioning in the newly released Veritas video has Bennet confirming that he, his brother, and his father all worked within the Clinton administration in the past.
PV's next video Thursday afternoon showed O'Keefe confronting Bennet on the street, informing him that Project Veritas had obtained a copy of his deposition. Bennet declines to discuss the matter, saying, "I didn't admit any such thing."
The deposition release comes under the "Project Veritas Legal" branding the organization has used for defamation defense services and for various releases, including #ExposeCNN and the Oligarchy music video that celebrates the Project Veritas suit against Twitter.