One thing missing from all of the coverage of the “hidden video” in which Mitt Romney criticized the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay income tax was a discussion of journalistic ethics. The tape was played over and over with no caveats, hand-wringing, or speculation that it might have been doctored.
The coverage of the Romney tape on Monday night was so intense that the candidate had to hold an emergency press conference to explain his remarks. Mother Jones, the left-wing publication that first reported on the tape, waited an entire day before posting the full video so his comments could be viewed in context.
Conservative journalist James O’Keefe has said the treatment the tape received starkly contrasts to what he got after his famous sting operations, including soliciting advice as a fake pimp from the voter-registration group ACORN, posing as an Islamist donor to NPR, and having a 22-year-old assistant obtain attorney general Eric Holder’s ballot at a Washington, D.C., polling place to prove how easy voter fraud can be.
“I think that there’s definitely been a double standard amongst professional journalists here because they’ve been pretty much raking Project Veritas [his company] over the coals for about three years,” O’Keefe told Yahoo News.
“There are no questions about whether it [the video of Romney] was dubbed or doctored, whether there are criminal, potentially state crimes committed in the course of taking that camera around, whether somebody left the camera there and walked away.”
O’Keefe noted that — unlike his videos — the source of the Romney tape remains anonymous and that “in the full raw video, the video starts apparently in the middle of the speech. . . . Journalists have to learn to be consistent. If they want to create these rules, they have to abide by them.”
Even after he released his full, raw tape of the ACORN incident, O’Keefe was viciously accused of doctoring his videos, which showed employees of the group advising him and an assistant on how to establish a house of prostitution using underage girls who were also illegal aliens. ACORN quickly lost its federal funding and soon went bankrupt. That didn’t prevent Salon.com and others from accusing him of racism.
After he released a tape showing his assistants obtaining the ballots of dead people during the New Hampshire primary, government officials and news outlets accused him of committing a crime, even though none of the ballots were actually cast. (Later, the state of New Hampshire passed a voter-ID bill to combat fraud over the veto of Democratic governor John Lynch.)
Criticism of O’Keefe picked up in 2010 after he and some of his assistants were arrested at the offices of Louisiana senator Mary Landrieu while posing as telephone repairmen. It’s certainly true that he later was convicted of a misdemeanor, entering a federal building under false pretenses, for that incident. But O’Keefe says he learned valuable lessons from that experience and is continuing his work.
He agrees that release of the Romney tape is “an effective tactic that has a place in a democracy to expose the truth, to expose circumstances behind closed doors.”His problem, he explained, is with the media’s double standards: “No journalist has any question about how this video tape was obtained. Were they dressed up like telephone repairmen? Did they leave the tape in the conference room and then leave? Which would be a state crime, to leave the tape filming?”
The Romney tape appears genuine and undoctored. But it remains remarkable that mainstream-media outlets have displayed very little curiosity about it at all, despite its origins with a clearly ideological source.