Project Veritas Leader Out

By Terrance Turner

James O’Keefe, founder of the the right-wing organization Project Veritas, said today that he’s been forced out by the company’s board. In a 45-minute video posted on Vimeo, O’Keefe resigned. He claims he’s being booted by the board — though they say they haven’t fired him or asked him to resign.

Standing in front of his desk and the company backdrop, O’Keefe read from prepared remarks he wrote about his departure. “I have been stripped of my authority as CEO and removed from the board of directors,” O’Keefe said in the video.

He later added: “I have no job at Project Veritas. I have no position here based upon what the board has done. So I’m announcing to you all that today on President’s Day, I’m packing up my personal belongings.”


According to Axios, a Project Veritas spokesperson said the board removed him:


This spells an uncertain future for Project Veritas, a nonprofit known for using hidden-camera videos to embarrass news outlets and liberal politicians. But in his resignation speech today, O’Keefe portrayed the company as some sort of fearless journalistic pursuit.


“Journalism is reporting things that powerful people want kept hidden,” he said. “As journalists, we are custodians of the public’s conscience.” He said the organization’s mission has evolved since he founded it 13 years ago, how “the line between good and evil has become more clear.”

“What makes us great is that we do this work because we actually believe in it,” he said. “And we have a passion for it. And we have principle — like, I know you know, we don’t sell out,” he said. “At least most of us.” (Hmmm.)

Screenshot from video. Taken by the author.


“I haven’t always been the most compassionate leader,” O’Keefe admitted. “That is admittedly a fault of mine and one that I’m willing to work on[…] I’ve tried to do a better job of that, but I’ve been very hurried, very busy, pressed for time, trying to pack so much in a day. I think you all know this. In meetings, I’m busy because I’m trying to get so much done in an hour. All the while I’m moving at the speed of light…”

O’Keefe acknowledged “much turnover” at the company and said both he and the employees have been hurt by it. But he portrayed that as “the price of leadership”. Over the past 13 years, he said, “things continued on an upward trajectory for this place — albeit [with] turnover. And I’m a hard guy to work for sometimes.”

That is an understatement. Employees at Project Veritas describe O’Keefe as paranoid and erratic, prone to verbally abusing employees and even spitting on them. He also spends money in problematic ways. Project Veritas chief strategy officer Barry Hinckley and chief financial officer Tom O’Hara raised concerns about O’Keefe’s approach to fundraising and his treatment of staff, per the Washington Post.

The board was legally required to call an emergency meeting over “financial malfeasance”. The org wrote in a statement: “Although PV Leadership has not concluded looking into the full scale of financial issues over the years, a preliminary review at this time indicates that James has spent an excessive amount of donor funds in the last three years on personal luxuries.”

Those luxuries included spending $150,000 on private “black cars” and a $14,000 charter flight to meet someone who could repair his boat. (He did this under the guise of meeting with a donor.) And last year the company reported to the IRS $20,500 in “excess benefit” to O’Keefe. (He used the money on travel for staff to come see him in an outdoor Virginia production of Oklahoma, per the New York Times.)

Poster from the show’s website (via Gawker).

Reaction & Memo

O’Keefe bristled at Hinckley and O’Hara’s efforts. Earlier this month, he tried to have them both fired. But the emergency board meeting on Monday ended with both men being reinstated and O’Keefe being put on administrative leave. In the meantime, employees at Project Veritas prepared an 11-page memorandum detailing the allegations against O’Keefe. 16 staffers signed their name to the memo, in which one staffer said: “James has become a power drunk tyrant.” The memo, obtained by the Daily Beast, paints a damning portrait of O’Keefe and his company.

The undercover video operation run by right-wing operative James O’Keefe is in turmoil, wracked by unhappy donors and O’Keefe’s “outright cruel” behavior towards his staff, according to an internal memo signed by a third of its employees.

Working for O’Keefe at Project Veritas can mean being “publicly humiliated” by him in what amounts to “public crucifixions,” and even being required to take lie detector tests, his unhappy employees write in the memo.

“I would describe Project Veritas’ current environment with this saying: ‘The beatings will continue until morale improves,’” one disgruntled staffer wrote in the memo.

From The Daily Beast

Employee Allegations

During a Sept. 2022 trial against a Democratic consulting firm (which O’Keefe later lost), an employee complained that O’Keefe berated them in front of jurors because he needed something to eat. Then, to satisfy his hunger, O’Keefe took a sandwich from a pregnant woman. “I was yelled at in front of jurors because he was hungry and then he took the 8-month pregnant woman’s sandwich,” the employee said.

Another employee said they were spat on. “Rule #1: You can’t spit in an employee’s face over a tweet,” the message reads. “True story.” Worse yet, employees said they were verbally abused and publicly humiliated by O’Keefe, subject to “public crucifixions” by him in front of donors and co-workers.

Employees paint a picture of fear and mistrust. Their memo depicts O’Keefe as a paranoiac who was so afraid of leaks within the organization that he set up a “mole hunt” complete with polygraphs and private investigators. He made employees come to the company’s New York headquarters for a lie detector test

“If you can’t trust your own team let alone your own team leaders, what kind of trust do you claim to have?” one employee complained in the memo.


More damage to the Veritas brand ensued last year, after two lawsuits. Both involve former employee Antoinettia Zappier. (Ms. Zappier worked as an administrative assistant at Project Veritas from September 2019 to March 2022, per the Times.) One lawsuit, a proposed class-action claim, involves her; two other ex-employees, Nick Gioia and Dan Schuy, who say that they were not paid overtime for their work; and other “similarly situated” employees. Mr. Gioia and Mr. Schuy were video editors at Project Veritas, working 10 hours a day and sometimes more, the suit said.


Ms. Zappier’s independent lawsuit is more specific. In it, she accuses the organization’s field director, Michael Spadone, of sexual harassment. On Dec. 17, 2021, the suit said, a sweaty, intoxicated Mr. Spadone grabbed Ms. Zappier while she was on a dance floor, wrapped her in a bear hug and began to kiss her. Zappier told other employees about the incident. But she didn’t report it to human resources because she thought it would cost her the job, according to the New York Times.

Zappier alleges she was fired after she “rejected Spadone’s entreaties to spend the weekend with him at his home for a sexual liaison.” (Zappier is married; her husband reportedly took issue with her demanding job schedule. A Project Veritas staffer showed up at Zappier’s home asking to use their shower; Mr. Zappier pulled a gun on him.

This story will be updated.

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