President Posts Videos By Conservative Activist Known For Misleading Editing

President Donald Trump speaks during a bill signing event for the "Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017" in the East Room of the White House, Friday, June 23, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci/AP

President Donald Trump is on a mission to raise hell about CNN’s supposed bias against him. And in his latest salvo, the President posted on Instagram two new videos released by conservative activist James O’Keefe.

O’Keefe and his Project Veritas outlet are infamous for their selective and often misleading editing in expose-style “undercover” videos: interview subjects don’t know they’re being interviewed on tape, and their remarks are likely used out of context.

In O’Keefe’s recent “American Pravda” video series, an unidentified interlocutor speaks to CNN producer John Bonifield — who the Washington Post pointed out produces health and medical stories and would not know the details of CNN’s political coverage.

“It’s ratings,” Bonifield says at one point in a clip Trump posted on his Instagram page, explaining the network’s heavy coverage of the Russia investigations. “Our ratings are incredible right now.”

NBC News reported in October that the Trump Foundation donated $10,000 to Project Veritas in May 2015, just before Trump launched his presidential campaign. He later promoted O’Keefe’s work on the campaign trail.

Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., has also shared the videos on his Twitter page, and deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders encouraged all Americans to watch the videos in an on-camera press briefing Tuesday, though she noted: “Whether it’s accurate or not, I don’t know.”

She did not respond to TPM’s questions Wednesday about Trump’s endorsement of the videos.

Bonifield says separately in the video — asked if “the whole Russia shit is just like, bullshit” — that the story “could be bullshit. I mean, it’s mostly bullshit right now. Like, we don’t have any big, giant proof.”

“I just feel like they don’t really have it, but they want to keep digging,” he adds later. “So I think the President is probably right to say, like, look, you are witch hunting me. You have no smoking gun, you have no real proof.”

In another O’Keefe video posted by Trump, Bonifield is heard saying: “Even if Russia was trying to swing an election, we try to swing their elections — our CIA are doing shit all the time.” It’s a surprising charge for the President to endorse via a personal social media page.

Trump posted next to each video: “#CNN is #FakeNews. The video via #ProjectVeritas that EVERYONE is talking about!”

CNN responded to O’Keefe’s videos in a statement: “CNN stands by our medical producer John Bonifield.  Diversity of personal opinion is what makes CNN strong, we welcome it and embrace it.”

O’Keefe and two accomplices pleaded guilty in 2010 to entering a federal building under false pretenses of disguising himself as a telephone worker in order to enter then-Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) office. One Project Veritas operative, Allison Maass, has repeatedly been caught attempting to infiltrate Democratic offices and liberal organizations in attempts to capture disparaging material.

H/t The Hill

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

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