Project Veritas has released a lengthy new video report that features tactics similar to those used in past investigations — individuals posing as criminals seeking aide and advice from officials who should know better.
But should the tactics used in the video be considered ethical? The Blaze has published reports critical of James O‘Keefe’s past investigations. Does this new investigation fare any better?
The attention-grabbing scenario this time involves young men posing as Russian drug dealers. They claim to drive a wildly expensive sports car with a gold-plated engine. Their theoretical sisters are part of the family operation trading sex for drugs. The men seek help from a Medicaid office in Ohio. And if past patterns hold true…look for more videos in coming days from additional encounters in other locations.
The Blaze team will be certainly be looking at the report in detail, but there are initial questions and concerns to consider as you watch the video.
As a refresher you might want to look at the in-depth look at undercover investigations that we posted in March. Click here.
And you can click here to read the detailed report that Pam Key and I published at the time examining the problems with the Project Veritas video involving NPR fundraising.
The key questions involve the ethics of telling lies in an attempt to reveal truths.
Is it okay to tell any lie if it creates an outcome that you find enlightening or amusing?
Would it be okay if one of your ideological opponents did the same thing? If George Soros and Media Matters sent interns posing as conservatives to work at the Fox News Channel so that they could record reporters, editors and hosts saying embarrassing thing in unguarded moments — would that be okay?
The video begins with a presentation of “facts” about the men involved. But none of it is true. It’s a fictitious scenario cooked up for the camera. The men have no actual sisters selling sex.
And there is a great deal that we don’t know about the circumstances and the outcomes — were applications even filed? We have contacted officials in Ohio who are looking into the matter.
I’m pretty sure Medicaid workers, of varying skills and judgement, deal with all kinds of nut cases in the course of routine business. It’s not a stretch to think that an average worker suddenly confronted with men claiming to be Russian drug dealers might be justifiably nervous about the safety and circumstances and might feel it wise to say anything the quickly wrapped up the meeting! The worker might plan to contact authorities or trash the application afterwards….even if they said helpful things during the meeting.
I’m sure this video and any others to come will show workers saying and doing egregious things.
But is it okay to create a lie to trigger that?
Many conservatives will say yes and cheer the exposure of seemingly corrupt bureaucrats.
Would it be okay to create a fictitious scenario that would sexually humiliate an innocent young woman, simply for the purpose of making fun of the media?
These are serious questions to consider.
The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes told The Blaze back in March, “It‘s dishonest for anyone in journalism to pretend to be someone they’re not.” Barnes sort of gives O’Keefe a pass, though, calling him more of a political hit man than a journalist. O’Keefe does describe himself as journalist, however.
Conservatives are understandably gladdened by any embarrassment to befall ACORN, or NPR and now Medicaid. But principled conservatives are wise to soberly grapple with the implications of the tactics employed.
I’ve taught seminars on media ethics for twenty years. Long enough to know that each case presents many facets that must be considered. And long enough to know that undercover investigations can be powerful and valuable — but they must be executed in as ethical manner as possible.