Right-wing activist James O’Keefe targets Middlebury and free speech
MIDDLEBURY — This past winter ended with a visit to the Middlebury College campus from author and conservative idol Charles Murray that ended in Murray and two college officials being jostled by a group of protesters sending Professor Alison Stanger to the emergency room.
This winter could start with a visit to town of an even more polarizing figure.
Middlebury College students and staff received an email, possibly sent from a MailChimp account, alerting them to an appearance in town this Thursday, Nov. 30, of right-wing provocateur James O’Keefe. The emailed flyer describes O’Keefe as “renowned conservative activist” and says he will be addressing “Middlebury’s Free Speech Problem.” The appearance is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott.
O’Keefe is founder of “Project Veritas,” an activist organization that produces stories and videos that are created to look like journalism but which follows none of the ethical guidelines that journalists follow.
Just this week, The Washington Post published a story that showed how a woman under the direction of O’Keefe’s Project Veritas had tried to trick the Post into writing an erroneous story. The Post said that Jaime Phillips approached the newspaper and told a story of how Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama had impregnated her as a teenager, which resulted in an abortion. The reporters checked out Phillips story and determined it was untrue. When confronted, she told the Post that she was not working for any organization that targets journalists, but on Monday Post reporters saw her walking into the offices of Project Veritas, the Post reported.
The Post published the first stories about several women who said Moore had tried to date them when they were teenagers as young as 14 and he was in his 30s. Many nationally prominent Republicans have said they believe the women and urged Moore to withdraw from the Senate race.
O’Keefe refused to answer questions from the Post about his involvement with Phillips or Moore.
On Monday night O’Keefe shared a video that his organization had made surreptitiously at the Post.
College officials quickly let it be known that the institution was in no way connected to O’Keefe’s visit to town.
“Middlebury College has nothing to do with this event. Mr. O’Keefe has chosen to travel to town to pursue his own political and personal agenda,” VP of Marketing Bill Burger said in an email to the community Tuesday evening, according to a story by the Middlebury Campus newspaper.
The Campus also reported that the college’s American Enterprise Institute club, which had sponsored Charles Murray’s visit to campus, did not support O’Keefe’s appearance and said that it was “likely an attempt to embarrass students.”
O’Keefe’s mass email to the college community said his appearance in town was “hosted by The Preservation Society, a group of Middlebury students committed to bringing freedom of speech back to Middlebury College.”
There is no group on campus called The Preservation Society, but The Campus newspaper reported that such a group is possibly being founded and will formally ask for recognition after the holidays.
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