Andrew Breitbart sent two of his brownshirt “journalists” to Portland on Thursday, and they got what they were after: some video footage that could be used to embarrass Democratic governor candidate John Kitzhaber.
Breitbart is a right-wing agent provocateur who excels at, shall we say, creative video editing. He’s probably most notorious for the hatchet job he did in July on Shirley Sherrod, a US Department of Agriculture official in Georgia.
Breitbart posted on his website a video snippet showing Sherrod making what appeared to be racist statements during a speech to the NAACP Freedom Fund. When the full video was produced, it was obvious that the “racist” statements had been taken wildly out of context; Sherrod actually was telling a story about how she transcended her own prejudices to empathize with a poor white farmer.
After the truth came out, Breitbart apologized – but not before the “story” had been picked up by Fox News and other media outlets and Sherrod had turned in her resignation. She subsequently was offered another post by the USDA but declined to take it.
Flash forward to Thursday, when Kitzhaber was speaking at Emmanuel Temple Church in Portland. Two as-yet-unidentified people – described by Oregonian political blogger Jeff Mapes as “video activists” – showed up with cameras, and a couple of campaign volunteers asked one of the cameramen to stop. He refused, insisting it was his “First Amendment right” to record the speech. Eventually one volunteer, James Posey, got exasperated and ended up pushing the camera into the guy’s face.
The next day the video appeared on Breitbart.tv with the title: “Citizen Assaulted for Filming John Kitzhaber Event.” At the end of it, the cameraman is shown with a small cut on the bridge of his nose.
(Check out the comments below the video and you’ll see the fact that the cameraman was white and the guy who hit him was black was not lost on Breitbart’s audience.)
The video also appears on another Breitbart site under the headline: “Dems Gone Wild: Citizen Assaulted for Filming John Kitzhaber Event.” The byline on the piece – although it’s not clear whether he was one of the cameramen – is that of James O’Keefe, a 25-year-old right-wing operative who describes himself as an “investigative journalist and filmmaker.”
O’Keefe is a busy little boy. He boasts that he “produced the blockbuster undercover investigation into ACORN that revealed systemic corruption in multiple offices nationwide documenting the facilitation of child prostitution, human trafficking and tax evasion.”
O’Keefe’s work resulted in ACORN losing its public funding. However, an investigation by the California Attorney General’s Office subsequently revealed that the videos were “severely edited” to make ACORN officials look bad.
In January, O’Keefe was arrested by the FBI when he and three conservative college newspaper editors were caught inside the federal offices of Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu. Originally charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with intent to commit a felony, O’Keefe later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was fined, ordered to do community service and placed on three years’ probation.
A nice guy to be calling other people “thugs,” huh?
Any real journalist knows that the First Amendment doesn’t give him a blanket right to shoot video or photos whenever and wherever he pleases. For example, rules on the use of cameras and video in the courtroom vary widely across the country, depending on the jurisdiction.
(ADDENDUM: KATU-TV in Portland quotes veteran constitutional lawyer Charles Hinkle as saying the church had every right to prohibit videotaping. "The First Amendment is a restriction on what government can do. It’s not a restriction on what private parties can do,” Hinkle said. “The church and the sponsors of that program had an absolute right to prevent anyone from filming it.”)
The organizers of Thursday’s event said they had made arrangements with KOIN-TV to record it, and made it clear that nobody else would be allowed to shoot video.
Just the same, Posey (as he has admitted) exercised poor judgment by using physical force against the cameraman – and thereby giving him exactly what he came for: footage that could be turned into propaganda against Democrats.
Free advice for Democratic candidates and their handlers: If anybody shows up at an event with a video camera, ask him to show his press credentials. If he doesn’t produce them, tell him to leave. If he won’t leave, call the cops.