Saturday, February 06, 2010

James O'Keefe and the white supremacists: As Breitbart runs screaming for cover, bigger questions loom

-- by Dave

James O'Keefe and his boss, Andrew Breitbart, already are having trouble keeping their stories straight on O'Keefe's illegal attempts to access Sen. Mary Landrieu's phone system.

And now that Max Blumenthal has ripped off the facade from O'Keefe's background as a race-baiting right-wing dirty trickster the other day, they're having even more trouble.

Blumenthal reported in Salon that O'Keefe was actively involved in helping promote a white-nationalist conference in 2006:

Now an activist organization that monitors hate groups has produced a photo of O'Keefe at a 2006 conference on "Race and Conservatism" that featured leading white nationalists. The photo, first published Jan. 30 on the Web site of the anti-racism group One People's Project, shows O’Keefe at the gathering, which was so controversial even the ultra-right Leadership Institute, which employed O'Keefe at the time, withdrew its backing. But O'Keefe and fellow young conservative provocateur Marcus Epstein soldiered on to give anti-Semites, professional racists and proponents of Aryanism an opportunity to share their grievances and plans to make inroads in the GOP.

According to One People's Project founder Daryle Jenkins, O'Keefe was manning the literature table at the gathering that brought together anti-Semites, professional racists and proponents of Aryanism. OPP covered the event at the time, sending a freelance photographer to document the gathering. Jenkins told me the table was filled with tracts from the white supremacist right, including two pseudo-academic publications that have called blacks and Latinos genetically inferior to whites: American Renaissance and the Occidental Quarterly. The leading speaker was Jared Taylor, founder of the white nationalist group American Renaissance. "We can say for certain that James O'Keefe was at the 2006 meeting with Jared Taylor. He has absolutely no way of denying that," Jenkins said. O'Keefe's attorney did not respond to a request for comment on his client's role in the conference.

After reporting this, Andrew Breitbart -- O'Keefe's employer, and one of the chief promoters of his lawbreaking brand of "investigative journalism" -- went on the offensive. A writer for his "Big Journalism" site attacked Blumenthal's report as a "lie":

Here is the story they actually have:

James O’Keefe attended a forum years ago that dealt with race and politics. The forum was located at a Georgetown University building (that’s right, a 21-year-old man attended an event on a college campus). The forum had as one of its three speakers a controversial figure, Jared Taylor, with a track record of making racist statements. He was being debated by two other people including Mr. Martin (taking issue with the racist figure). Mr. Taylor has also appeared with Phil Donohue, Queen Latifa and Paula Zahn on their TV shows to debate race. Are the audience members of the Donohue show racist for sitting and watching that debate?

Honestly, that isn’t much of a story. But… you put Mr. O’Keefe at a table full of racist literature and you say that he was manning the table. And you say you have a picture proving it. And you make it sound like he was one of the organizers of this event. And you call the event a “White Supremacist Conference”. Well… now you’ve got a story.

Only problem: It’s all a lie.

Except, as Max pointed out subsequently, it was perfectly true:

According to an otherwise fact-challenged post on Breitbart, the website that has paid O’Keefe, O’Keefe said that he “attended the event with many of his Leadership Institute co-workers since it was right across the street from their building in Arlington, Va., and it was organized by other LI associates.”

In fact, a photographer who covered the event told me O’Keefe was helping its chief organizer, Marcus Epstein, and was not an innocent bystander, as he has claimed. But more on that later. First, O’Keefe vs. Breitbart…

Andrew Breitbart, who has paid O’Keefe and attempted to defend him by calling my reporting “FALSE,” has been undermined by O’Keefe himself. O’Keefe concedes my report was true — he was at the event. Breitbart has therefore been contradicted by O’Keefe.

Daryle Jenkins' response was equally pointed:

First off, you can't say that those who have written about your boy James O'Keefe attending a white racist forum is a lie when you yourself are publishing a story where he admits to going. Secondly, you are not going to make the charge of racism go away when that same article is downplaying a racist idiot like Jared Taylor, an editor of a white supremacist newsletter (who by the way is organizing a conference of white supremacists in Washington DC the same weekend as the Conservative Political Action Conference), as a guy who is just someone "with a track record of making racist statements." Thirdly, you might also want to think twice about pretending that if someone calls him a white supremacist when he is not white, it doesn't mean forum organizer Marcus Epstein (whose claim to fame besides working for Pat Buchanan and Tom Tancredo is karate-chopping a black woman in the street and calling her the n-word while drunk off his behind) is not a racist that doesn't work with white supremacists.

To put just what Epstein and O'Keefe were doing in context, it's important to understand what guys like Jared Taylor excel at -- namely, lending a respectable sheen to old-fashioned bigotry through a combination of pseudo-social science and pseudo-logical obfuscation. They constitute the self-proclaimed "academic wing" of the white-supremacist movement.

Here's the complete ADL backgrounder on Taylor. Some lowlights:

From February 22-24, 2008, Taylor held the eighth biennial American Renaissance conference in Herndon, Virginia. The event, which is named after the print and online white supremacist journal and Website that Taylor runs, brought together various speakers from the United States and Europe to present speeches on race-related topics. Approximately 300 people attended the event, including well-known extremists such as

* Don Black, who runs the white supremacist Website;

* Gordon Baum, head of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC), a white supremacist organization that was the successor to the racist, anti-integrationist White Citizens' Councils of the 1950s and 1960s;

* Mark Weber, head of the Institute for Historical Review, a Holocaust denial organization;

* William Regnery, a funder of racist organizations and publications, including The Occidental Quarterly, a racist journal whose articles often focus on race and intelligence.

Speakers at the conference included:

* J. Philippe Rushton, head of the Pioneer Fund, who promotes eugenics and an alleged link between race and intelligence;

* Bruno Gollnisch, a member of the National Front, a far-right French political party, who lamented the existence of the European Union for what he saw as its un-democratic nature and assault on national sovereignty ;

* Jared Taylor, who discussed why the vast majority of whites do not accept “race realism,” the idea that racial differences are real and that it is natural and healthy for groups to segregate along racial lines.

Other talks covered a range of topics, from an “insider” look at Mexicans to “a modest proposal” advocating for a white “racial state.”


Jared Taylor calls his views “race realism” and himself a believer in “complete freedom of association.” He advocates voluntary segregation as a “natural” expression of racial solidarity and denies that his views constitute white supremacism or white separatism. Viewing world conflicts and societal problems as derivative of racial, religious, and ethnic diversity, Taylor upholds racial homogeneity as the key to fostering peaceful coexistence. He sees Japan, where he lived until he was 16 years old with his missionary parents, as an exemplar of a racially homogenous society. He views Asians generally as genetically superior in intelligence to whites who he, in turn, sees as genetically superior in intelligence to blacks.

Andrew Breitbart and James O'Keefe may want to run away from his past now. But as Max points out -- considering that his most famous target, ACORN, is best known for its effectiveness at enrolling black voters and empowering the African-American vote, and that the tapes played to the lowest form of racial stereotypes -- it's very much a part of his present.

UPDATE: Blumenthal adds further confirmation:

After Marx’s email, I followed up with Isis. She told me in no uncertain terms that she had witnessed O’Keefe engaged in the “execution” of the white nationalist event of the Robert Taft Club.

“What I told Weigel and what I told him to quote me as saying, is that O’Keefe was involved the same way you would be involved if you went to a party and you put out the cups and stocked the cooler,” Isis told me. “He was helping Marcus Epstein in the execution of the event so I don’t see what the issue is. It was obvious that he was there supporting the event and was involved in its execution.”

Isis added more about her discussion with Weigel. “I told him the same thing I told you,” she remarked to me. “O’Keefe and Luke Pelican and the Leadership guys helped Epstein because they were friends with Marcus [Epstein], and they are friends with him because they agree with his views on the race stuff. And I told him when O’Keefe got there he was helping Marcus set the event up. Nitpicking over where he sat is bullshit. I mean, enough is enough. They were there; they were helping out with the event and they can’t deny that.”

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

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