O'Keefe's tapes show Ron Schiller and his deputy, Betsy Liley, at an upscale cafe in Georgetown for lunch in February. They meet with two men posing as officials with an Islamic trust. The men are actually O'Keefe's associates — citizen journalists, he calls them.This is the difference between Ian Murphy, the guy who prank called Governor Scott Walker, and James O'Keefe. Though Murphy shouldn't have posed as an actual person, he went into the phone conversation with little expectations. He allowed the story to create it's own narrative based on Walker's responses. He then released the video in its entirety and didn't mke claims the recording couldn't support. O'Keefe, on the other hand, creates a story in his mind and then tries to force the footage to match his imagination where the evidence doesn't. If some creative editing and voice dubbing make that all the more possible, then so be it.
O'Keefe also posted a two-hour tape that he said was the "largely raw" audio and video from the incident so people can judge the credibility of his work.
The Blaze — a conservative news aggregation site set up by Fox News host Glenn Beck — first took a look late last week and found that O'Keefe had edited much of the shorter video in deceiving ways.
"There was certainly a lot there for conservatives and people of faith and Tea Party activists to be bothered about — but we felt like that wasn't the whole story," said Scott Baker, editor in chief of The Blaze. "There were a lot of other things said that may have been complimentary to conservatives and to people of faith and Tea Party activists in the same conversations."
My review was conducted with several colleagues. I also relied on outside people, including Baker, who have expertise in analyzing video and audio to review the two tapes.
Broadcast journalist Al Tompkins said he was initially outraged by what he heard in that first, shorter video by O'Keefe. Tompkins now teaches ethics at the Poynter Institute, a journalism school in St. Petersburg, Fla.
"What I saw was an executive at NPR expressing overtly political opinions that I was really uncomfortable with," Tompkins said. "Particularly the way the video was edited, it just seemed he was spouting off about practically everything."
But Tompkins said his mind was changed by watching that two-hour version.
"I tell my children there are two ways to lie," Tompkins said. "One is to tell me something that didn't happen, and the other is not to tell me something that did happen. I think they employed both techniques in this."
Sacramento, Calif.-based digital forensic consultant Mark Menz also reviewed both tapes at my request. He has done extensive video analyses for federal agencies and corporations.
"From my personal opinion, the short one is definitely edited in a form and fashion to lead you to a certain conclusion — you might say it's looking only at the dirty laundry," Menz said. He drew a distinction between that and a compressed news story.
O'Keefe highlights the problem we have with journalism in this country. It's a bit appalling actually.