By Art Gallagher
James O’Keefe is blaming the Bayshore Tea Party for the BPR (bad public relations) he’s suffering from as a result of his demanding that the Asbury Park Press’s videographer not record his presentation to the group’s St. Patrick’s Day Celebration on Thursday evening.
O’Keefe told MoreMonmouthMusings, “I wish the Tea Party hadn’t told the press that I didn’t want the event videoed,” before saying that he was on another line and promising to call back. He hasn’t called back.
The rambunctious gumshoe didn’t leave Charles Measley and Barbara Gonzalez, the BTPG members who appeared on the APP.com video, much choice. No one knew O’Keefe didn’t wanted the event recorded until he failed to take the podium after an inspirational introduction by BTPG Chairman Bob Gordon and an enthusiastic standing ovation. He was hiding in the mens room and had be coaxed to make his presentation with the press present.
It was only after Measley promised to get the videographer out of the room that O’Keefe emerged from the commode to address the admiring crowd. There were reporters in the room. O’Keefe’s delay required an explanation. The videographer was in the room when O’Keefe started. Measley and Gonzalez handled the situation well. Steve Grossman, the former Hazlet GOP Chairman who is heard off camera arguing with Gonzalez, handled himself just as those of us who know and love him have come to expect.
For someone who has demonstrated that he is quick on his feet, O’Keefe handled this one very poorly. He gave the media, who he is a ferocious critic of, a story to discredit him where there wasn’t one.
O’Keefe knew that reporters and photographers were in the room during his presentation. At one point while showing a video clip of a Star Ledger interview of one of the teachers exposed in his Teacher Gone Wild video, O’Keefe asked, “Are there any Star Ledger reporters in the room?” Seeing none, he showed the clip that made the point that the mainstream media is out to protect those he is exposing and to discredit him.
Unfortunately, James gave his detractors in the mainstream media the ammunition to embarrass him this time. There was no upside to banning the videographer. There was plently in the presentation that had already made national news, but nothing that would have made a new national story. Only O’Keefe knows if he altered his presentation because reporters were present. Had he allowed the presentation to be videoed, APP.com might not even have posted the video.
APP reporter Alesha Boyd William’s initial story on O’Keefe’s presentation was excellent. A fair and accurate report on what happened. The story was featured prominently at APP.com on Friday morning and was front page above the fold in the Friday print edition. I’d link you to the story, but it appears to be gone from the APP site, replaced by the far juicer “gotcha” story, that is now national news.
James O’Keefe is doing important work. He is right when he says that the mainstream media no longer does investigative journalism and that their news coverage has devolved to “punditry, stenography and promotion.”
O’Keefe has the potential to become a long term major journalistic figure and make a real difference. However, he needs to step up his game in handling the inevitable blow back from his work. He needs to stop blaming others for his own missteps. Otherwise he’ll be a flash in the pan.