On 26 January of this year, the American right-wing activist and citizen journalist group Project Veritas published their biggest story yet. Through highly questionable methods, which included pretending to be the love interest of the subject of their investigation, they got Pfizer employee Jordon Walker to admit on (hidden) camera that the pharmaceutical giant is working on mutating the Coronavirus. This type of practice in investigative journalism has been condemned by figures from both sides of the political spectrum. This includes our own Wael Taji, who compared it to Cold War-era tactics by the CIA and KGB in his opinion piece.
Within a month, on 20 February, the news broke that Project Veritas founder and chairman James O’Keefe has been removed from his position at the organisation.
It was first reported by the New York Intelligencer on 9 February that he had been put on paid administrative leave. They got their scoop from former and current staff members of the controversial non-profit. Their sources shared an internal message sent by executive director Daniel Strack. In it, Strack informs his employees that James O’Keefe would be taking ‘a few weeks of well-deserved PTO [personal time off]’.
The internal memo went on to say that the Board of Directors would be adjourning for a meeting that Friday, 10 February, to discuss ‘the health of the organization’ in what Starck described as ‘disturbing times’. The Intelligencer speculated that at that meeting, the potential removal of James O’Keefe would be discussed. The same memo also confirmed the ‘reinstatement’ of two executives originally fired by O’Keefe, a sign of an internal power struggle within PV.
The Intelligencer also reached out to multiple PV personnel before publishing their article, including O’Keefe himself, who refused to comment. However, Veritas issued a statement on their official Twitter page on 15 February, five days after the fateful meeting supposedly took place.
Why Was James O’Keefe Fired From Project Veritas?
Based on that press release, it seemed O’Keefe would not be leaving his post anytime soon. It categorically states that ‘James has not been removed from Project Veritas. Nowhere in the letter [that was leaked to the Intelligencer] was there ever a suggestion to remove James from the organization’.
Still according to the release, however, there have been complaints by employees from the organisation about ‘real management concerns’ that had to be investigated. ‘More than 16’ employees have come forward at PV with their concerns. The official release seems to be confirming the theory that it was O’Keefe’s overly demanding management style that caused the turmoil within the activist group. It also did not refute the fact that he was put on administrative leave.
However, just five days after the cordial but somewhat critical public statement, a big twist came in the story.
James O’Keefe has been removed as the chairman and CEO of Project Veritas, the organisation he founded and propelled to prominence.
Journalist Neil W. McCabe of One America News Network originally reported on the ousting of the Project Veritas founder as ‘James O’Keefe, my friend and former boss at
Project Veritas, just read his resignation letter to his former team and board members at their Mamaroneck, N.Y. headquarters’. Speculation that O’Keefe may have stepped down of his own volition continued to be surfaced online, while many others, such as conservative activist Charlie Kirk, were claiming that he was removed by the board.
However, it became obvious that O’Keefe never had any intention of quitting after he published a video of his reading of a prepared statement, supposedly intended for just ‘the family at Project Veritas’, later in the evening of 20 February. The message shared along with the video read: ‘I need to make clear I have not resigned from the company, Project Veritas, I founded 13 years ago. I was stripped of my position as CEO and Chairman.’
In a public message, the board of directors outlined the reasons why they decided to strip their long-time leader of his powers. The official cause for the drastic decision was the mishandling of company funds by O’Keefe. This contradicts what was described in the 15 February press release, which talked about the mistreatment of people in the company.
According to the board, the former CEO chalked such expenses up as business expenditures as ‘$14,000 on a charter flight to meet someone to fix his boat under the guise of meeting with a donor; $60,000 in losses from dance events; more than $150,000 in Black Cars in the last 18 months’, as cited by the Associated Press.
And there were a lot of funds to mishandle. Since Project Veritas is a 501(c) non-profit organisation, they have to make annual financial disclosures to the public. As Politique Republic points out,
In 2020, Project Veritas brought in $22.035 million in revenue. Out of that sum, James O’Keefe took home $411,600 as compensation.
This online publication also talked about the possibility of O’Keefe misusing his company’s money days before the official release from the board members. However, it was not the issue they focused on the most when they were speculating why O’Keefe may have been put on administrative leave at the time.
Politique Republic, relying on insider information from current and former Project Veritas employees, were mostly claiming that staff members were objecting to O’Keefe’s managing style. According to the disgruntled workers, as quoted by the site, he would not contribute meaningfully to the investigations, then would ‘come in at the last minute to yell at everyone and leave immediately after filming his segments’.
The New York Intelligencer, who originally broke the story of O’Keefe’s suspension and seemed to be well-informed on the issue, speculated that PV’s attempted purchase of Ashley Biden’s stolen diary was behind the sideling of O’Keefe. President Biden’s daughter had her personal diary stolen while moving houses in the spring of 2020. In August 2022, two men in Florida pled guilty to conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property, after they tried to sell the document to Project Veritas for $40,000.
Was James O’Keefe Fired Because of the Pfizer Story?
According to another popular theory, the Project Veritas founder’s ousting may have something to do with his organisation’s recent controversial investigation into the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. Popular YouTube commentator Jeremy ‘The Quartering’ Hambly shared this opinion when covering the initial story of O’Keefe’s suspension.
This hypothesis suggests that it would simply not make sense for an activist group to make such a drastic leadership shortly after they published the biggest investigation they ever did. The video of the Pfizer employee’s admission amassed over 30 million views on Twitter. The fact that YouTube removed the same video from their platform due to ‘violating their community guidelines’ also seems to be playing into the narrative that ‘powerful beings’ are trying to silence PV’s reporting.
However, this is not corroborated by any Veritas insiders, unlike the alleged complaints of tyrannical leadership by O’Keefe; or his alleged mishandling of funds, as officially claimed by the board of directors.