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Guerrilla Journalist James O’Keefe Sues NYT For ‘Defamation’
ILLUSTRATION - Various editions of the New York Times newspaper are on display on a table in Berlin, Germany, 23 April 2014. Photo: Ole Spata/dpa | usage worldwide (Photo by Ole Spata/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Ole Spata/picture alliance via Getty Images

Self-described guerrilla journalist James O’Keefe is suing The New York Times, two of its reporters, and five of its editors for alleged defamation.

O’Keefe, who runs the non-profit investigative outlet Project Veritas, filed the lawsuit in Westchester County, New York, on Friday. The lawsuit also names reporters Maggie Astor, Tiffany Hsu and five “John Does” identified as the reporters’ editors.

The complaint explains:

This defamation action arises out of the publication of a false and defamatory news story authored by Defendant Maggie Astor, a politics reporter for the New York Times, and published in both the online and print versions of The Times. The story was first published on The New York Times website on September 29, 2020 with the headline, “Project Veritas Video Was a ‘Coordinated Disinformation Campaign,’ Researchers Say,” repeated the same day in an abbreviated form online with the headline, “Researchers say a Project Veritas video accusing Ilhan Omar of voter fraud was a ‘coordinated disinformation campaign,’” and then published the following day in the print version of The Times with the headline, “Project Veritas Releases Misleading Video, Part of What Experts Call a Coordinated Effort.”

The Times’ coverage was over a Project Veritas sting that purportedly uncovered evidence of voter fraud in a Somali community in Minneapolis, Minn. The undercover investigative group published a video in September of Liban Mohamed, the brother of a Minneapolis city council member, allegedly harvesting absentee ballots.

“Just today we got 300 for Jamal Osman. I have 300 ballots in my car right now. … Numbers don’t lie. You can see my car is full. All these here are absentee ballots. Look, all these are for Jamal Osman,” Mohamed says in a Snapchat video he took that was featured in the Project Veritas report.

According to the lawsuit:

The centerpiece of the Project Veritas investigative report was a series of videos posted to Snapchat in early July 2020 by a Minneapolis man named Liban Mohamed. Mr. Mohamed, who is the brother of then-Minneapolis City Council candidate Jamal Osman, filmed himself bragging about “harvesting” hundreds of absentee ballots from Minneapolis voters—a practice that is plainly illegal under Minnesota election law. In one video, Mr. Mohamed displayed a vast number of ballots littering his car’s dashboard while boasting in Somali, “[n]umbers don’t lie! You can see my car here is full. All these here are absentee ballots. Can’t you see? Look at all these, my car is full,” and “[j]ust today we got 300 (ballots) for Jamal Osman.” In another video, Mr. Mohamed filmed himself exiting an apartment complex with his hand stuffed with voters’ ballots and boasting, “[t]wo in the morning. Still hustling.”

After the video was released, Osman alleged that he was offered $10,000 by a community activist to claim he was collecting ballots for Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), casting doubt on the veracity of Project Veritas’ reporting. O’Keefe denied Osman’s claim and stood by his group’s work in a statement to Minnesota’s FOX 9, which first reported on Osman’s allegation.

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