Ben Stein: Free James O’Keefe

posted at 10:40 am on February 1, 2010 by Patterico

Ben Stein compares O’Keefe’s case to that of alleged voter intimidation by self-declared Black Panthers, and asks why O’Keefe is being prosecuted and the Panthers are not:

In case you wonder what the future is for justice and law enforcement and media control in this country, take a look at two cases.

During the last Presidential election, a gang of men calling themselves Black Panthers showed up at a polling place in [Philadelphia]. They threatened any voter who did not vote for Barack Obama. This was witnessed and documented. (I am suspicious of their involvement with the real Black Panthers, whom I knew well in New Haven, who had a little more finesse along with many, many faults.)

The bullying was barely reported in the media. Even though it is an unequivocal violation of voting rights laws, it was decided by Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, not to prosecute the case at all. Holder is the legal genius who thought of holding the trial for the self-styled master mind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in downtown Manhattan instead of in a military setting. He has recently backtracked on that.

Stein compares this to the case of O’Keefe, whom he considers to be simply a journalist. There is no question that the initial reports of O’Keefe’s alleged behavior were overblown, and poisoned the public mind with images of “Watergate Jr.” Even law enforcement has admitted that O’Keefe was not trying to wiretap Landrieu’s phone, and numerous news outlets have issued retractions of their initial claims of attempted “bugging.”

The current official version — that O’Keefe was trying to disable Landrieu’s phones — makes less sense every day. O’Keefe was videotaping the crew. One of the men wore a small camera on his helmet. They were asking questions about matters that repairmen would have no interest in. The affidavit reveals no mention of any tools that could be used inside a phone closet.

This does not sound like the actions of men engaged in felonious behavior.

Given the seeming lack of felonious intent, it appears increasingly clear that the only potentially viable charge is a misdemeanor for entering a federal building under false pretenses. Stein says:

They were undercover reporters and TV operators. But that doesn’t matter. Their real crime was disturbing the peace and quiet of the nation’s liberal establishment and embarrassing ACORN. For this, these pranksters are charged with a federal crime. (“First Amendment? What’s that?”)

Meanwhile, no charges against those thugs with the clubs at the polling place.

Indeed. Nor are there typically charges against news organizations that smuggle explosives past hapless TSA employees at airports.

Nor, for that matter, are there likely be charges against “Ellie Light,” the prolific letter-writer who sent dozens of letters to newspapers throughout the country under a phony name. The real “Ellie Light,” a man named Winston Steward, has admitted to sending the letters under a false name to the papers, including several in California — actions that violate a California misdemeanor against such behavior.

Yet prosecution of Steward, I imagine, would be very unlikely. And calls from the left to prosecute Steward are . . . far from deafening.

Steward was peddling lies. The Black Panthers were spreading fear. James O’Keefe was searching for the truth.

Only one of these cases is being prosecuted.

Maybe James O’Keefe did enter a federal building under false pretenses. Maybe.

But doesn’t every Congressperson do that every day?

Update: Many readers have pointed out that Stein misstated the location of the incident with the Black Panther poll thugs. It was Philadelphia, not Michigan. I have corrected the error.


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Maybe James O’Keefe did enter a federal building under false pretenses. Maybe.

But doesn’t every Congressperson do that every day?

Orange juice on screen, thanks for that. o.o

KinleyArdal on February 1, 2010 at 10:43 AM

Ditto! LOL

El Coqui on February 1, 2010 at 10:44 AM

Maybe James O’Keefe did enter a federal building under false pretenses. Maybe.

But doesn’t every Congressperson do that every day?

Ha…that is a great statement…

right2bright on February 1, 2010 at 10:44 AM

During the last Presidential election, a gang of men calling themselves Black Panthers showed up at a polling place in Michigan.

I thought this happened in a Philly suburb.

BadgerHawk on February 1, 2010 at 10:49 AM

I demand a picture of his latest costume. Was there fur involved?

Cindy Munford on February 1, 2010 at 10:49 AM

But doesn’t every Congressperson do that every day?

ZING!

JusDreamin on February 1, 2010 at 10:50 AM

No one complained when ACORN conducted investigations by entering buildings under false pretenses.

http://biggovernment.com/2010/02/01/possible-okeefe-explanation-he-was-an-acorn-secret-shopper/

zmdavid on February 1, 2010 at 10:51 AM

Three Navy seals, CIA interrogaters, and James O’Keefe all have a lot in common.

fourdeucer on February 1, 2010 at 10:51 AM

Oh how true about some of our Congressmen and Women — Great Post … Thanks

wheels on February 1, 2010 at 10:54 AM

During the last Presidential election, a gang of men calling themselves Black Panthers showed up at a polling place in Michigan.

I thought this happened in a Philly suburb.

BadgerHawk on February 1, 2010 at 10:49 AM

I picked up on that, too. You are right.

Joe Caps on February 1, 2010 at 10:54 AM

“…Their real crime was disturbing the peace and quiet of the nation’s liberal establishment…”

That sums up the whole disparity of treatment in one sentence. Anybody who dares to rock the liberal establishment must be destroyed — not punished, DESTROYED!

cruadin on February 1, 2010 at 10:54 AM

Maybe James O’Keefe did enter a federal building under false pretenses. Maybe.

But doesn’t every Congressperson do that every day?

Oh wow. Hey, is there anything we can bring to bear about that?

- The Cat

MirCat on February 1, 2010 at 10:55 AM

Awesome end question. Freaking hilarious.

OmahaConservative on February 1, 2010 at 10:55 AM

Some good points made..and yeah, that last line is definitely quote of the day.

vcferlita on February 1, 2010 at 10:55 AM

The real “Ellie Light,” a man named Winston Steward, has admitted to sending the letters under a false name to the papers, including several in California — actions that violate a California misdemeanor against such behavior.

If he sent the letters, using the USPS, across state borders (or even within a state, I believe) it’s a Federal Offense. In my business career the only organization that actually ever gave a rip about us being defrauded (I worked at an insurance company) was the Post Office. DA’s coouldn’t be bothered with such mundane things as insurance fraud. And, of course, the Department Insurance is only there to beat on company’s; not the poor peeps who might buy a policy on Friday to submit a AID’s claim on Tuesday…

Yet, I highly doubt any of the newspapers will ever bother to complain to an authority as the letters from Ms. Light fit the papers preferred narrative so nicely.

Shivas Irons on February 1, 2010 at 10:58 AM

Maybe James O’Keefe did enter a federal building under false pretenses. Maybe.

But doesn’t every Congressperson do that every day?

Ha! Good one.

conservnut on February 1, 2010 at 10:59 AM

Maybe James O’Keefe did enter a federal building under false pretenses. Maybe.
But doesn’t every Congressperson do that every day?

Only on the day’s they work. Don’t they give themselves more time off then days they actually work?

Brat4life on February 1, 2010 at 11:01 AM

I thought this happened in a Philly suburb.

Actually, I think this was in the city proper (Spring Garden polling station?).

If so, that puts it within a mile or so of the Philly ACORN office on Broad St. Familiar with that area.

Good Lt on February 1, 2010 at 11:01 AM

Maybe James O’Keefe did enter a federal building under false pretenses. Maybe.

But doesn’t every Congressperson do that every day?

That made my Monday morning. :)

sisterchristian on February 1, 2010 at 11:02 AM

But doesn’t every Congressperson do that every day?

Heh. Awesome.

Weight of Glory on February 1, 2010 at 11:04 AM

If O’Keefe had been trying to expose recently-elected Mass. senator Scott Brown the MSM would be celebrating his audacity and daring and ingenuity and bravado and true American spirit.

Standard Operating B.S. from the Opress.

profitsbeard on February 1, 2010 at 11:05 AM

Maybe Attorney General Holder can get O’Keefe off. I hear his great in the ‘pardon’s game’.

GarandFan on February 1, 2010 at 11:05 AM

Black Panthers showed up at a polling place in Michigan.

I thought this happened in a Philly suburb.

BadgerHawk on February 1, 2010 at 10:49 AM

In MI they were just trying to get a 10 cents per glass bottle refund.

WashJeff on February 1, 2010 at 11:07 AM

Ben Stein is right about the double standard! Not only did the Justice Dept drop ALL charges against The Black Panter Party, it also let Bill Richardson off. Speaking of ACORN, why isn’t there a RICO investigation?

James O’Keefe was conducting an under-cover investigation. It’s what reporters do.

TN Mom on February 1, 2010 at 11:08 AM

Maybe Attorney General Holder can get O’Keefe off. I hear his great in the ‘pardon’s game’.

GarandFan on February 1, 2010 at 11:05 AM

:)

TN Mom on February 1, 2010 at 11:09 AM

Great post!

becki51758 on February 1, 2010 at 11:12 AM

This notion that they wanted to disable the phones because they wanted to see the phone closet is absurd. I work on phone systems for a living and you always want to see the phone room first. Once there you’re pretty much free to follow troubles through the facility. If they knew anything about phone systems they may have been able to see if something had been deliberately disabled to keep callers from reaching the office, but more likely they knew that once they had been shown the phone closet, even if they had no idea what they were looking at in there, they’d be free to observe the work place from behind the scenes.

RW_theoriginal on February 1, 2010 at 11:13 AM

But doesn’t every Congressperson do that every day?

LOL

bridgetown on February 1, 2010 at 11:20 AM

During the last Presidential election, a gang of men calling themselves Black Panthers showed up at a polling place in Michigan.

I thought this happened in a Philly suburb.

BadgerHawk on February 1, 2010 at 10:49 AM

It was in Philly. I don’t remember hearing about one in Michigan. They also refer to themselves as “The New Black Panther Party”. The original Black Panthers didn’t want them using their name. The NBPP is run by a psychotic Louis Farrakhan wanna’ be named Malik Zulu Shabazz. Shabazz aquired his violent stupidity from some clown named Dr. Khallid Abdul Muhammad, who back to hell in 2001.

ronnyraygun on February 1, 2010 at 11:20 AM

O’Keefe should file a suit against NBC, in spite of its retractions. Keep the light shining on the liberal press and it will wilt under the light.

EMD on February 1, 2010 at 11:21 AM

Sucks to be a patriot these days. But we mush endure to the end, for in the end, God will deliver our enemies to our hands! November 2, 2010! The day we begin to destroy the Progressives and reduce the influence their god Satan has on our country!

csdeven on February 1, 2010 at 11:22 AM

RW_theoriginal on February 1, 2010 at 11:13 AM

C-Span cameras in all congressional office phone rooms!

TN Mom on February 1, 2010 at 11:23 AM

ronnyraygun on February 1, 2010 at 11:20 AM

I meant to say, ” Dr. Khallid Abdul Muhammad, who was sent back to hell in 2001″.

ronnyraygun on February 1, 2010 at 11:25 AM

On the day that this story broke, almost 90% of the comments here were calling for O’Keefe to be punished. I’m glad that’s changed. There’s a reason why there are so few O’Keefe’s on the right. Conservatives bail on them and throw them under the bus way too often.

Narutoboy on February 1, 2010 at 11:28 AM

If Eric Holder pursues this case, it will be HIS undoing.

As everyone has already mentioned, Holder has been inept at the very least when it comes to prosecuting criminals. Every time a Democrat pundit says we are making this AG a political target, or a political issue, I want to self-combust because all I can think of was how they went ape excrement over John Ashcroft 24-7. No, they NEVER make an AG a political target!

But this will be Holder’s undoing because going after James will make him look small and totally incompetent. Beyond the stupid factor is this particular case will make HIM look like the ideologue he is, and his boss is. There is not a splatter shield big enough to keep the President from having some of this backfire on him. I seriously doubt this will help Ms. Landrieu either.

Prosecuting James would be a reminder to the electorate of the Democrat incompetence. More logs to add to the collective bonfire of 2010 and 2012. This bonfire is beginning to rival the Texas A&M bonfires of old! Bonfire of the Vanities!!!!!!!

freeus on February 1, 2010 at 11:32 AM

Anyone have a picture of the Uniforms? Are they not being shown because they are as stereotypical as his pimp costume and anyone, even a reporter, could tell they weren’t authentic?

- The Cat

MirCat on February 1, 2010 at 11:32 AM

Welcome to the warped world of Obama.

capejasmine on February 1, 2010 at 11:38 AM

Narutoboy on February 1, 2010 at 11:28 AM

Amen, and amen, and amen! The whole story had not been aired, we were believing sources from the Left, and whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? It did look bad, but we need to do better job when it comes to jumping to conclusions. Why did James’ previous work on ACORN not at least buy the kid some time in our judgement of this situation? We are all smarter than this. We are supposed to be the people who are about the facts, and nothing but the facts.

freeus on February 1, 2010 at 11:38 AM

But doesn’t every Congressperson do that every day?

That, and then some.

Free the Landrieu Four!:

…Different rules apply to the state than hoi polloi. How dare they enter the holy sanctuary of Landrieu without due obeisance? And, preferably, a suitcase of cash.

My own view: since the feds can crowbar your money out of you, and use it to enter your house or office under false pretenses, to spy on you, listen to your phone calls, read your emails, go through your underwear drawer, etc. what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. So I say, Free the Landrieu Four and all other political prisoners!

Rae on February 1, 2010 at 11:42 AM

Maybe James O’Keefe did enter a federal building under false pretenses. Maybe.

But doesn’t every Congressperson do that every day?

Excellent point–and strangely familiar.

pugwriter on February 1, 2010 at 12:08 PM

We need folks like O’Keefe. They are willing to risk, actually seem to enjoy, exposing what the rest of us may be too vapid to do. I hope he gets off. We need to be helping if we can.

jeanie on February 1, 2010 at 12:17 PM

Interesting juxtaposition of cases Patterico. Your premise is that those on the right are prosecuted and that those on the left are not. Smacks of unequal protection under the law doesn’t it. A senator can be protected from someone snooping in her broom closet, but a voter cannot be protected from a NBPP with a nightstick or a letter writer falsifying their residence location dozens of times.

ted c on February 1, 2010 at 12:25 PM

Breitbart’s been gunning for Holder for a while now. Hopefully he and his legal team can use the O’Keefe incident to eat Holder’s lunch.

Hey hey! Ho ho!
Eric Holder must go!

petefrt on February 1, 2010 at 12:25 PM

I always liked Ben Stein.

Chaz706 on February 1, 2010 at 12:39 PM

PRELUDE TO CUMMUNIST AND SOCIALIST CONTROL COURTESY OF OUR BELOVED PRESIDENT HUSSAIN

bluegrass on February 1, 2010 at 12:47 PM

Saw a new story about this case last night, written by some idiot “reporter” in Monroe, Louisiana. He still used the word “wiretapping”.

I sent him an e-mail with a link to the complaint and asked him to find the “W” word there. For some reason, he hasn’t responded.

Del Dolemonte on February 1, 2010 at 12:56 PM

Further proof that they are terrified of James O’Keefe, and he’s only what? 24??

Del Dolemonte on February 1, 2010 at 12:56 PM

Classic.

Ingenue on February 1, 2010 at 1:24 PM

My hunch is there’s more to this story yet to come. I can’t see O’Keefe risk getting nailed for something so inconsequential as this.

petefrt on February 1, 2010 at 2:49 PM

Saw a new story about this case last night, written by some idiot “reporter” in Monroe, Louisiana. He still used the word “wiretapping”.

I sent him an e-mail with a link to the complaint and asked him to find the “W” word there. For some reason, he hasn’t responded.

Del Dolemonte on February 1, 2010 at 12:56 PM

Maybe he heard O’Keefe’s cohort literally tapping his fingers on the office phone headset and decided to take the definition of “phone-tapping” a little too literally. ;-)

(Hey, I’m tryin’ to give the guy a break here! Not much to work with…)

The current official version — that O’Keefe was trying to disable Landrieu’s phones — makes less sense every day.

One thing I’m wondering: didn’t one of his pals pick up the office phone and call O’Keefe’s cell?

If so, might that have been one of the objectives? Namely, to get the Caller ID of the phone in question, so that O’Keefe could actually place calls to the office in the future, hoping to bypass whatever routing they added on?

And/or, perhaps O’Keefe tested the phone on the spot by star-69′ing, and knows whether it’s working or not? (If not, that would be good incentive to take a peek at the wiring closet to see what was wrong…not saying that’s what he was doing necessarily.)

Big disclaimer: I’m just free-associating. TTBOMK no evidence exists of any of this.

RD on February 1, 2010 at 3:15 PM

I wonder if we can hope for complete vindication for O`Keefe? Perhaps not.

But the left should still be partaking of the crow at this moment.

Not that I would ever eat crow. They are most intelligent fellows.

Unlike the dodos.

Yeah, the dodos.

I thought dodos were extinct, but illiberals and the MSM have proven me wrong.

I need to get out my binoculars for more bird watching!

Sherman1864 on February 1, 2010 at 4:41 PM

Why aren’t we prosecuting NBC for posing as teenage girls online to get sickos to show up to get it on?

Which reminds me… I have no problem with locking these guys up, and the “What have you got in the bag there? Condoms, beer. What did you think was gonna happen here today?” are priceless and hilarious… But did anyone else ever get the feeling that NBC was creating this environment on a much larger scale than reality warrants? Are there really dozens and dozens of 14 year old girls all over the internet inviting fat, lonely, borderline retarded old men over to their homes for sex?

RightWinged on February 1, 2010 at 6:05 PM

But doesn’t every Congressperson do that every day?

No, not every one of them. However, IMHO the number of ethical good actors is statistically insignificant.

Blacksmith8 on February 1, 2010 at 7:00 PM

Ben Stein is sharp and witty as always !! I love his writings!

Anyone else agree ? Anyone ? Anyone ? Bueller ??? Bueller ??

:-)

cableguy615 on February 1, 2010 at 7:30 PM

Ah yes, those conservative movie making tricksters must stick together. Ben Stein should have mentioned “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” when speaking of O’Keefe. Both film makers create the appearance of controversy where there is none. Only one has broken the law though in this pursuit. Even though Mr. O’Keefe’s intentions appear to be innocent, I believe he did cross a line on this one. The line here appears to be the law. Beyond all the speculation and straw man arguments, this will work its way out through the courts.

disillusioned on February 1, 2010 at 9:06 PM