Right-wing group targets New York Times reporters who aggressively exposed its spying tactics

The videos caused a stir within The Times in part because of Rosenberg’s inappropriate comments about fellow reporters. But, according to people familiar with the matter, he was viewed by many Times reporters as part of a larger campaign of harassment and intimidation that Project Veritas waged against the paper for extensive reporting on the internal functioning of the group.

The right-wing group, led by conservative activist James O’Keefe, has targeted three journalists in particular over the past year: Adam Goldman, Mark Mazzetti and Michael Schmidt.

These three reporters, all Pulitzer Prize winners themselves, stand out because they are the Times reporters who wrote a series of exposes revealing how Project Veritas uses spy tactics and relies on ethically dubious reporting to target perceived liberals.

This story was followed by a series of others about the group, including one in which they reported that Project Veritas had run so-called “honeypot” operations, a tactic that involves using an undercover agent who pretends to be in love with someone, then exploits that relationship to extract information from it.
In a November article, Goldman and Mazzetti, drawing in part on internal Project Veritas legal memos obtained by the newspaper’s reporters, reported that the group had worked “with attorneys to assess the extent to which its misleading reporting practices could go before breaking federal laws”.
And Schmidt has separately written stories with Goldman about how federal authorities investigating the theft of a diary belonging to President Joe Biden’s daughter executed search warrants targeting locations associated with Project Veritas.

The stories obviously got under the skin of O’Keefe and his organization.

Project Veritas sued the Times in late 2020 for defamation over an article written by another journalist, a case the newspaper took to court. Then late last year, after Goldman and Mazzetti’s November article was published, the right-wing group asked the court to stop the newspaper from publishing memos prepared by Project Veritas lawyers, arguing that the newspaper had violated Veritas’ professional secrecy by publishing such material.

The latest dispute has raised significant First Amendment concerns and is being watched closely by press advocates, as a New York state judge originally ordered the Times to stop publishing stories based on the documents. from Project Veritas that he had obtained. An appeals court later stayed the order. The case is still pending before the courts.

But while Project Veritas has tried to muzzle the Times through the legal system, it has also executed what amounts to a campaign of public harassment against Goldman, Mazzetti and Schmidt.

O’Keefe even publicly flagged that he drew attention to reporters, mocking them all in an on-screen graphic featured in a recent Project Veritas video that dubbed reporters “The NYT Hardy Boys.” .

When O’Keefe publicly targets a reporter, it often – if not always – results in a flood of harassment against the reporter. The volume of harassment has the potential to deter reporting on O’Keefe and Project Veritas, though it failed to deter Times reporters.

People familiar with the matter told CNN that Times reporters continued to report on Project Veritas in the face of, as one of the sources described it, a “barrage” of “constant” harassment. But the Project Veritas campaign has resulted in heightened vigilance among prominent journalists in Washington, the people said.

That’s partly because Goldman, Mazzetti, and Schmidt have all featured prominently in videos released by Project Veritas.

In the latest video, posted Thursday, O’Keefe confronted Mazzetti at a cafe where the reporter worked. O’Keefe then made a video in which he sat right next to Mazzetti and made derogatory comments about him, Goldman and The Times.

Throughout the confrontation, Mazzetti attempted to ignore O’Keefe and continue working. Mazzetti eventually left the cafe, but O’Keefe followed him with a camera crew and continued to harass him. Mazzetti remained silent, making it clear that he was not going to engage, but O’Keefe pestered him anyway with a series of leading questions.

In February, Project Veritas released a video in which Schmidt attempted to recruit someone associated with Project Veritas as a source. The video did not capture Schmidt saying anything inappropriate. In fact, it showed Schmidt on the level of the person he was talking to, telling him that his “sole purpose” was to report an accurate story. Nonetheless, O’Keefe took the opportunity to poke fun at both Schmidt and Goldman.

In a video posted last March, O’Keefe bragged that the Times issued a correction when Mazzetti and Goldman misidentified the age of a Project Veritas agent. She was 25, and the duo reported that she was 23. (The article also had a headline, the Times said in its correction, which “misrepresented the origin of information about Erik’s role Prince in the recruitment of a former spy”. The Times said in its correction that “the information came from interviews with sources, not from documents in the context of a lawsuit.”)

O’Keefe said in the video that he hung the correction above the Project Veritas office toilet so that when people “poop” it would be visible. The video also showed O’Keefe confronting Goldman, who was reporting a story on Project Veritas at the time, during a phone call and asking why he refused to be recorded.

The Times views the targeting of Goldman, Mazzetti and Schmidt as a harassment campaign aimed at retaliating against journalists for their reporting, people familiar with the matter told CNN.

A Times spokesperson did not comment on the story. The spokesperson did not respond when asked if Rosenberg, Goldman, Mazzetti or Schmidt had comments.

But Dean Baquet, editor of the Times, has previously denounced O’Keefe and Project Veritas.

In 2017, Baquet said he found both O’Keefe and Project Veritas “despicable”. At the time, Baquet went so far as to say that Project Veritas had committed a “deadly sin” by sending a “young woman” to trick a young reporter into saying “really stupid stuff” about an undercover film. .

In a statement provided to CNN, O’Keefe claimed it was The Times that harassed him and his organization. O’Keefe said the Times is like “an elite Ivy League fraternity, which thinks it’s above all scrutiny.”

O’Keefe added in his statement, “We’ve only just begun.”

O’Keefe has targeted other news organizations in the past, including CNN, which he is also suing for alleged defamation. That case, which CNN is aggressively fighting in court, is still ongoing.

Project Veritas uses its stings against news outlets to raise funds. For example, the blog post on the Project Veritas website featuring Rosenberg’s video asked supporters to submit a donation “to support our mission.”

The news agency stings also generate a lot of publicity and attention for Project Veritas. They have often featured prominently on Fox and receive significant attention in the right-wing media universe.

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