A New York federal judge Monday asked for more time to rule on the New York Times’ lawsuit against famed conservative activists James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas, the latest chapter in a lengthy legal dispute in which O’Keefe and the Times are at odds over the accuracy of O’Keefe’s videos.
The video-maker, known for baiting liberals and the mainstream media into making mistakes with embarrassing or incorrect statements, selectively edited videos of Times reporters Matt Apuzzo and Jeremy Peters to portray them as sloppy journalists, according to the Times. The edited videos led the Times to fire Apuzzo in April and report that Peters worked for the paper before he received a bureau assignment.
Days later, O’Keefe posted his edited videos on his YouTube channel. The edited videos prompted the paper to fire Apuzzo, again leading the Times to report that Peters had been working at the paper before he arrived at the Washington bureau.
Attorney Douglas Wigdor, who represents the Times, previously told the Washington Post that O’Keefe posted clips from the videos “without Times authorization and without editing, cutting or slanting them in any way.” The Times is seeking damages from O’Keefe and Project Veritas.
O’Keefe was dubbed the “punk journalist” for exposing press bias at liberal outlets including Mother Jones and NPR. He is known for sting videos such as the one in which Todd Akin, the Republican Senate candidate who became infamous for calling abortions after conception “legitimate rape,” talked about abortion.
When the Times published its report about the changes in the video editing, O’Keefe’s project Veritas published a video claiming the original tapes were edited.
Judge Kenneth Karas wrote that O’Keefe’s video explanation “unclear or unconvincing,” “misrepresents” the Times’ claim about the videos, and that the Times had served the project with a subpoena before O’Keefe posted the edited videos.
“These allegations that the [Times] was subject to unfair credit, animus, or slander are based on that one contentious interaction and predicated on three unrelated parts of O’Keefe’s video. The Times took no personal offense to any of the three parts,” the judge wrote.
“The lack of depth to the video explanation by O’Keefe is, by itself, surprising since he stated that the first of his videos, showing the purported interview, was two hours long.”
The judge’s decision to delay his ruling might not be a win for O’Keefe. The long legal proceedings could favor the Times.
The original video shows the Times reporters discussing conversations with their editors and senior executives. The edited video cuts them out of the footage, leaving it just as the reporter says it was supposed to be: without their context. The original video also does not show O’Keefe taking the reporter’s recorder from the reporter and planting it on the subject of pregnancy. The edited video shows O’Keefe following up with the reporter after the talk.
That early video, featuring a different writer named Andrew Yang, prompted Yang to blog in April that the Times’ editing of the video showed that “I had basically gotten scammed.” Yang has also said that he was never interviewed.
Three other videos were released to the Times by O’Keefe in April, but each mentions and attacks another reporter, although some changes are made to each individual video to avoid legally difficult issues that would resurface from prior editing.
In his letter to the judge, O’Keefe’s attorney, Eric Ruderman, said that O’Keefe remains interested in the initial investigation by Apuzzo and Peters.
“To that end, Mr. O’Keefe and Project Veritas continue to explore the possibility of discussing the circumstances behind the Times’ initial interview of Andrew Yang with one of our hidden camera cameras, despite being served with a court-authorized subpoena,” Ruderman wrote.
The two sides were granted a postponement until Sept. 19, after which the judge will weigh the matter.