EP 2396-9AM HUGE Victory For Project Veritas in Fight Against Fake News
- The New York Times cited 52 sources including Wikipedia in its motion to dismiss our defamation lawsuit, in an attempt to claim that Project Veritas is “libel proof.”
- The Gray Lady argued they could print whatever they want about Project Veritas, because Wikipedia and other media outlets said bad things about Veritas first.
- New York Supreme Court disagreed: “Polling does not decide the truth nor speak to evidence, and Defendants have not met their burden to prove that the reporting by Veritas in the Video is deceptive.”
- Justice Wood: “There is a substantial basis in law to proceed, to permit the plaintiff [Project Veritas], to conduct discovery, and to then attempt to meet its higher standard of proving liability through clear and convincing evidence of actual malice.”
- The New York Times is “one of the largest newspapers in the world since Abraham Lincoln,” the ruling stated. And it’s “claiming protections from an upstart competitor [Project Veritas] armed with a cell phone and a web site.”
- Judicial order denying New York Times’ motion to dismiss: “The [New York Times] Articles could be viewed as exposing Veritas to ridicule and harm… because the reader may read these news Articles… and conclude that Veritas is a partisan zealot group, deceptively editing video, and presenting it as news.”
- The order continued: “Upon review of the total context and tone of the stories… the court concludes that a reasonable reader could very well believe that the challenged statements were conveying facts about Veritas.”
- Constitutional Law Professor Jonathan Turley called the decision a “major victory” for Veritas: “I expect to be teaching this case next year in my torts class when we deal with defamation.”
[WESTCHESTER, N.Y. – Apr. 5, 2021] Project Veritas founder and CEO James O’Keefe gave an update on the organization’s defamation lawsuit against the New York Times today, explaining how a recent court ruling could potentially flip the script on the mainstream media.
Justice Charles D. Wood wrote there is “substantial basis in law” for the suit to proceed, despite The New York Times citing Wikipedia as a source (along with various mainstream media outlets), to claim Project Veritas was “libel proof.”
Wood also wrote in his decision, taking into account the “total context and tone of the stories,” that the actions of The New York Times could cause “harm” to Veritas’ “reputation as a media source — because the reader may read these news Articles, expecting facts, not opinion, and conclude that Veritas is a partisan zealot group.”
O’Keefe said the ruling from the New York Supreme Court judge could act as a journalistic game-changer by raising the bar for the fourth estate, when it comes to telling the truth.
Veritas approached New York Times’ Executive Editor, Dean Baquet, to inquire as to why his outlet would cite Wikipedia as a source, and his response was to laugh maniacally rather than answer the question.
George Washington University Law School Professor Jonathan Turley credited Veritas with scoring a “major victory” with “potentially wide reach” and even said he would cite the case in the classroom when teaching his students about defamation.
If anyone has information regarding corruption inside the media, government, or other high-powered institutions, they can send an encrypted message to: VeritasTips@protonmail.com
About Project Veritas
James O’Keefe established Project Veritas in 2011 as a non-profit journalism enterprise to continue his undercover reporting work. Today, Project Veritas investigates and exposes corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct in both public and private institutions to achieve a more ethical and transparent society. O’Keefe serves as the CEO and Chairman of the Board so that he can continue to lead and teach his fellow journalists, as well as protect and nurture the Project Veritas culture.
Project Veritas is a registered 501(c)3 organization. Project Veritas does not advocate specific resolutions to the issues raised through its investigations. Donate now to support our mission.
Trump congratulates Project Veritas legal victory over New York Times for election fraud reporting
Former President Donald Trump congratulated the conservative Project Veritas after it scored a legal victory over the New York Times.
“I want to congratulate Project Veritas on their big win on the New York Times,” Trump said in a video posted by Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe on Twitter. “Now the suit will continue, and whatever you can do for their legal defense fund, we’re with them all the way. They do incredible work. They find things that nobody would even believe possible. So James, congratulations.”
“Thank you, thank you very much,” O’Keefe responded.
The video comes after a New York judge denied the New York Times’s request to dismiss the Project Veritas lawsuit against the paper over an article that claimed Project Veritas’s reporting on alleged voter fraud was “deceptive,” “false,” and “with no verifiable evidence.”
“The facts submitted by Veritas could indicate more than standard, garden variety media bias and support a plausible inference of actual malice,” New York Supreme Court Justice Charles Wood wrote in the ruling. “There is a substantial basis in law to proceed to permit the plaintiff to conduct discovery and to then attempt to meet its higher standard of proving liability through clear and convincing evidence of actual malice.”
“If a writer interjects an opinion in a news article (and will seek to claim legal protections as opinion) it stands to reason that the writer should have an obligation to alert the reader, including a court that may need to determine whether it is factor opinion, that it is opinion,” Wood continued.
Mario Balaban, Project Veritas’s media relations manager, said O’Keefe was “very pleased” to have met Trump and “even more pleased” that he signaled support for the outlet’s legal defense fund “so that more lawsuits can be filed in the future against dishonest media outlets.”
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The New York Times’s embarrassing defense in the Project Veritas case
Check out this post from Washington Examiner
It’s big news that a justice of the New York state Supreme Court has allowed a libel suit by the conservative activist group Project Veritas against the New York Times to go forward. The outlet had asked the judge to throw out the suit, but in a 16-page opinion Friday, Justice Charles Wood ruled that there is “a substantial basis in law to proceed” and that Project Veritas “is entitled to try to establish whether the New York Times writers were purposely and/or recklessly inaccurate, sloppy, or something less.”
The suit focuses on two articles about Project Veritas published by the New York Times. One, a Sept. 29, 2020, piece headlined “Project Veritas Video Was a ‘Coordinated Disinformation Campaign,’ Researchers Say,” was by reporter Maggie Astor. The other, an Oct. 25, 2020, article headlined “Conservative News Sites Fuel Voter Fraud Misinformation,” was by reporter Tiffany Hsu. The stories focused on a Project Veritas video that “reported on illegal voting practices taking place in Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s congressional district and specifically within the Somali-American community of Minneapolis, Minnesota,” according to the suit.
Project Veritas had several objections to the stories, but the most basic focused on the New York Times’s
The Project Veritas lawsuit said, “There was nothing ‘deceptive’ about the Project investigative report, nor did Project Veritas selectively edit or doctor any of the interviews or recorded conversations therein.” It described the main thrust of the piece this way:
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.”
To win the libel lawsuit, Project Veritas has to prove not only that some part of the article was false and defamatory but also that the New York Times published it with “actual malice” — defined in the law as “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”
Early arguments in the case included remarkable exchanges between New York Times lawyers, Project Veritas lawyers, and Judge Wood. But from the standpoint of readers interested in the state of journalism today, perhaps the most remarkable was the outlet’s defense that Astor and Hsu, both news reporters, freely injected opinion into their reports. Even though the stories were published in the news section of the paper, the New York Times argued, Project Veritas was not entitled to sue for libel because the opinions expressed were “unverifiable.” “Unverifiable expressions of opinion are not actionable and cannot be defamatory,” the paper argued in its motion to dismiss the case. “A defamation action must be based on statements of objective fact, not on an expression of opinion, which by definition cannot be true or false … In this politically-charged context, the term ‘deceptive’ is not susceptible to an objective meaning and is therefore a non-actionable opinion.”
“The use of the term ‘deceptive,'” the New York Times concluded, is “non-actionable pure opinion.”
In other passages of its defense, the newspaper’s lawyers argued that the use of “deceptive” and other phrases Project Veritas found objectionable were “either substantially true, do not have defamatory meaning, or are nonactionable statements of opinion.” Whatever the case, they argued — the suit should be thrown out.
But the New York Times had to back up its case, and its effort to do that was nothing less than embarrassing. Early in the suit, it relied on the authority of Wikipedia — yes, Wikipedia — to support its use of “deceptive” to describe the Project Veritas video. “[Project Veritas] is described on its Wikipedia page (and just about everywhere else) as ‘an American far-right activist group founded by James O’Keefe’ that ‘uses undercover techniques to reveal supposed liberal bias and corruption and is known for producing deceptively edited videos about media organizations, left-leaning groups, and debunked conspiracy theories,'” the outlet’s lawyers wrote. The New York Times’s argument was that if the anonymous authors at Wikipedia called Project Veritas’s work “deceptively edited,” well, then, it must be true.
The appeal to supposed authority did not end there. The New York Times legal team also enlisted Google to make its point. “A simple Google search for ‘Project Veritas and deceptively edited videos,’ for example, yields about 166,000 matches,” the paper’s brief said. Who can doubt the authority of 166,000 Google matches?
On the other hand, what is in those Google matches? A Google search for “Project Veritas” and “deceptively edited videos” yields as its first result … the Wikipedia page. And then, an article from the Huffington Post. And then, the Daily Beast. And then, Media Matters. These are some of the authorities upon which the distinguished lawyers at the New York Times based their defense.
Most of the sources cited by the outlet had claimed that other Project Veritas reports were deceptive. But the New York Times also pointed to some sources that purported to speak to the video in question in the lawsuit. Those sources included a local Minneapolis TV station and also an article in Forbes that included 48 words, none of them based on any reporting, on the Project Veritas video, and then a report from “prominent researchers from Stanford and the University of Washington” who “speculated that the timing of the video’s release suggested that it might have been part of a coordinated disinformation campaign.”
The point of the New York Times defense was that the paper’s reporters were relying on this mishmash of information when they declared the Project Veritas video “deceptive.” “The reporters … believed their stories to be true, and, at the time they published the articles, knew of Project Veritas’s reputation for selectively editing videos, of the widespread criticisms of the video, and of the excellent reputations of the independent news outlets, fact checkers, and researchers that agreed with the assessment of the video contained in the articles,” the lawyers wrote.
The reporters had no reason not to believe what the Huffington Post or Forbes had said, the New York Times attorneys argued, so they just passed it off as their own conclusion. But what about doing some reporting on their own? It was not necessary, the paper’s lawyers wrote. “[Project Veritas] also alleges that Defendants failed to investigate further by seeking comment from Project Veritas or the individuals in the … video,” the lawyers said. “But it is well-established that failing to investigate or verify statements does not, as a matter of law, establish actual malice.” The New York Times additionally argued that “even an ‘extreme departure from professional standards does not establish actual malice.'”
The outlet’s attorneys relied on one last argument. There have been so many attacks on Project Veritas, they said, that its reputation is ruined. It would be impossible to defame. The New York Times cited an unrelated case in which a judge wrote, “There are persons so notorious that they have insufficient reputation on which to base a defamation lawsuit. Their suits are necessarily frivolous. They are said to be ‘libel-proof.'” Project Veritas, the New York Times attorneys said, “is a libel-proof plaintiff.”
On that motley mix of argument and speculation, the paper argued that the Project Veritas lawsuit should be dismissed.
Wood did not agree. In particular, he objected to the New York Times’s argument that the news reports were based in part on opinion. The paper’s ethics policies “prohibit news reporters from injecting their subjective opinions into news stories published by the New York Times,” Wood noted. “Upon review of the total context and tone of the stories, which clearly disparage Project Veritas and the video,” he continued, “the court concludes that a reasonable reader could very well believe that the challenged statements were conveying facts about Project Veritas. The articles certainly could be viewed as being purposely designed to appear that [the New York Times is] imparting facts and evidence that Project Veritas’ videos were deceptive.”
The judge was also unimpressed by the array of sources cited by the New York Times to prove Project Veritas’s reliance on “deception.” “These sources resoundingly describe Project Veritas as ‘partisan zealots,’ with ‘a history of distorting facts or context,’ ‘running cons,’ ‘misleadingly editing video,’ and being ‘known for its deceptively-edited videos,'” Wood wrote. “While this is a lengthy media list, polling does not decide truth nor speak to evidence, and defendants have not met their burden to prove that the reporting by Project Veritas in the video is deceptive.”
Wood denied the New York Times’s motion to dismiss the case, and now it will go forward. “The court finds that the documentary proof and the facts alleged by Project Veritas are sufficient to meet its burden,” Wood wrote. “The facts submitted by Veritas could indicate more than standard, garden variety media bias and support a plausible inference of actual malice. There is a substantial basis in law to proceed to permit the plaintiff to conduct discovery and to then attempt to meet its higher standard of proving liability through clear and convincing evidence of actual malice. Malice focuses on the defendant’s state of mind in relation to the truth or falsity of the published information. Here there is substantial basis in law and fact that defendants acted with actual malice, that is, with knowledge that the statements in the articles were false or made with reckless disregard of whether they were false or not.”
It is still early in the proceedings. Project Veritas might fail in the next round; it is very, very hard to win a libel case. But the judge’s analysis does not sound good for the New York Times, and now the paper faces what could be a grueling period of discovery. The Project Veritas lawyers will be entitled to delve into the workings of the outlet that resulted in the stories at issue. In the end, Wood’s opinion “could prove a critical shot across the bow for many in the media that the blurring of opinion and fact could come at a high price,” George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley wrote. That price, for the New York Times, could be paid for a long time to come.