O’Keefe has some heavy lifting to do before we see the end of ‘fake news’

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“I think this is the year that we end fake news,” Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe said in an interview over the weekend. 

While we can hope he’s right, the media has been working in overdrive to keep “fake news” alive. A set of videos published by Project Veritas over the last week illustrated the challenge ahead.

{mosads}The videos exposed Van Jones, a CNN commentator and former Obama administration official, as well as John Bonifield, a supervising producer for the network, admitting that the network’s coverage of Russia was, well, fake. (A “nothing burger,” as Jones described it.)

After a year of listening to CNN breathlessly cover Russia, we’ve only just discovered that personalities at the network apparently believe that coverage is entirely void of substance. That’s a breaking development worthy of coverage from others in the media, right?

Apparently not. Writing for CNN, Jones predictably described the footage of him as an “edited, right-wing propaganda video.” He explained that what he really meant was that voters simply don’t care about allegations of Russian involvement in the presidential election.

“I have been consistently pushing my fellow Democrats to deal with bread and butter issues,” he wrote.

The media was eager to push Jones’ narrative. “CNN’s Van Jones Fires Back at James O’Keefe,’” screamed a headline from Variety. “CNN on Right-Wing Sting Video of Van Jones: ‘LOL’,” said another from The Daily Beast.

Neither publication featured an apparent story about the original video, instead highlighting the denials from CNN and its employees. 

Another popular talking point that the media worked feverishly to get out: The employees featured just weren’t that important, especially because one worked on health coverage instead of political coverage. 

Heavy illustrated the point in a piece titled “John Bonifield: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.” The article’s facts included things such as “Bonifield works for CNN Health” and “bills himself as a multi-media professional,” seemingly detached from news coverage.

But when the piece arrived to the video, it claimed the footage had only “allegedly” captured Bonifield talking about his network’s coverage of Russia, and helpfully added “O’Keefe’s tactics are controversial.”

Imagine a report on “facts” that included a description of CNN’s daily coverage as “controversial.” 

Normally, it might have been difficult to get the media to even acknowledge that the videos existed, but they came at a tumultuous time for CNN. The network was forced to retract its claim that Trump advisor Anthony Scaramucci met with officials from a Russian investment fund, and we later learned that the specter of a $100 million lawsuit contributed to the resignation of three officials who were involved with that story.

Now CNN is trying to move on to other issues, with a dictate that employees must seek approval before running stories related to the network’s Russia coverage. (Maybe, in the spirit of Jones’ advice, network executives are trying to find ways to undermine the president that the public will actually care about.)

Of course, that will not change the broader dynamic around the country. In a sense, the battle between CNN and Project Veritas is just the latest sequel to last year’s election: Media elites still don’t like the choices that American voters have made. 

But those voters, the “silent majority,” have already spoken. They voted for Trump, and they rejected the mainstream media. That’s one thing that will never change, even if this doesn’t turn out to be the year that O’Keefe is finally able to put an end to “fake news.”

Preya Samsundar (@PSamsundar) is a senior editor for Alpha News, a Minnesota-based news agency.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags CNN James O'Keefe Journalism Preya Samsundar

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