James O'Keefe rode into the Cannes Film Festival with a 20-minute video that he claimed would expose anti-fracking activists in California. He even resurrected his NPR Muhammad character to punk a couple of earnest Ojai-based filmmakers and cast aspersions on those who like clean drinking water that won't poison them and their children.
Meet the Tickells
Josh and Rebecca Tickell—the husband-and-wife documentarian duo behind the Sundance Award-winning Fuel, about America's dependence on foreign oil—had just begun the preliminary production phase of their latest documentary, a spotlight on the fracking industry in their new hometown of Ojai, California, when they received a call from a young man named Brandon Turner. It was February, and Rebecca was about eight months pregnant with the couple’s first child.
The Tickells took a meeting at the Beverly Hills Hotel that month with Brandon Turner, who, Josh Tickell says, slowly revealed to them a few details about his client: He wants to be a silent partner. He’s from the Middle East. He has some oil interests. The Tickells then had a series of follow-up phone conversations with Turner that would constitute a large portion of O’Keefe’s Cannes debut.
You know what happened next, right? O'Keefe conjures up Muhammad for the Tickells after forcing them to sign a non-disclosure agreement, gets them on video saying they'll keep the funding source secret, and uses that to claim anti-fracking activists are just money-grubbing whores.
For their part, the Tickells say they should have gone with their gut instead of their wallets, but they felt that it would be ironic and wonderful to have oil money finance a film aimed squarely at the oil industry. You can read their account here.
O'Keefe Aims At Josh Fox
At the end of O'Keefe's smear effort, he makes a fatal mistake. He included a short audio clip of a conversation with Josh Fox, disingenuously edited, of course.
But Fox recorded O'Keefe, too, and he released the full recording Thursday for the world to hear. As you'll see in the clip above, Fox tells his caller repeatedly that he cannot accept funding for any of his projects without knowing the donor and their intentions.
In the recording [which can be heard at the Daily Beast] Fox is heard repeatedly asking Brandon Turner from Beacon International to identify his clients. Turner says only that his clients are “people from Europe, and the Middle East, but mainly Europe at this point,” environmentalists who are interested in funding an anti-fracking film. Turner continuously declines to name the European benefactors and instead asks Fox several times whether he’d be willing to set up a meeting. Fox explains in a variety of ways that he “can’t participate in something where, um, we’re taking money from people who aren’t identified. That’s not kosher for us.”
Silly James O'Keefe didn't include that part in his edit. Oh, wouldn't he have loved to have shot Josh Fox out of the air, but it didn't happen.
However, he still has some 'splaining to do.
O'Keefe and Megyn Kelly
Fox News has generally avoided O'Keefe since he has proven himself to be so reliably dishonest over and over again, but Megyn Kelly had him on her show Wednesday night to announce his "secretly recorded video" against anti-fracking activists.
As part of their conversation, Megyn asked whether the recording was legal -- it's at 4:18 in the video.
KELLY: California is a two party consent state. You've got to have the consent of everybody involved in a video tape. It looks like you didn't have it here. Are you facing possible criminal charges as a result of this video tape?
O'KEEFE: No. We didn't break the law. The law is very clear that when there's no expectation of privacy, there's an exception to that consent statute. Most recently states like Illinois overturned their recording laws in the grounds it was un-Constitutional. But if you want to talk about lawbreaking or an expectation of privacy, Don Sterling, nobody seems to really address that issue.
So, here's the thing. First of all, O'Keefe and his goons forced the Tickells to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which probably established privacy boundaries, no matter where the conversation took place. Secondly, O'Keefe had his meeting at the Beverly Hills Hotel, a place renowned for fiercely guarding their guests' privacy. This wasn't a shouting match that O'Keefe recorded across the room. It was a recording at a table where privacy had already been addressed via the nondisclosure agreement.
Finally, someone should advise O'Keefe that Don Sterling asked his girlfriend to record him on an ongoing basis. There's no violation when both parties have agreed to be recorded, Mr. JOK.
The LA County DA should bring charges against him, because as long as James O'Keefe can violate the laws, he will continue to ratfuck anyone and everyone he can in order to glom onto the glitterati at the Cannes Film Festival.
In the end, James O'Keefe isn't any kind of crusader. He's a pathetic little hanger-on, desperate for notoriety at all costs, whether or not legal. The paycheck is bigger than the principle, and his lust for recognition by legitimate filmmakers is palpable. Poor James, destined to pretend he's some kind of master spy when he's just a two-bit whore for whoever will sign the check.