Project Veritas filed a defamation lawsuit Friday seeking against The New York Times, alleging that the newspaper published a “dishonest” report about the undercover journalism outfit’s Minneapolis ballot-harvesting investigation.
The lawsuit filed in New York state court for Westchester County took issue with a story in the Sept. 29-30 print and online editions headlined, “Project Veritas Video Was a ‘Coordinated Disinformation Campaign,’ Researchers Say.”
“The New York Times made this false claim saying our story relied solely on unidentified sources and showed no evidence of ballot harvesting. This is absolute hogwash, dishonest and libelous,” said Project Veritas president James O’Keefe in a video.
Mr. O’Keefe said Project Veritas sued for actual and punitive damages after the newspaper refused its request for a “wholesale retraction” in an Oct. 2 letter.
A New York Times spokesperson said in a Friday email, “We stand by our reporting and look forward to defending our work in court.”
The NYT article said the Project Veritas video released Sept. 27 was “deceptive” and made ballot-harvesting claims “without evidence,” and cited an Election Integrity Partnership report suggesting that the video was released to divert attention from a Times story about President Trump’s tax returns.
“They worked together to convince the public that Project Veritas’ investigation should be disregarded outright as a deceptive, untruthful report, published not by a journalistic organization, but a ‘conservative activist’ attempting to mislead the public about Democrat Congresswoman Ilhan Omar,” said the lawsuit.
The Project Veritas video featured both unidentified and identified sources, including Liban Mohamed, who posted footage of himself collecting ballots for his brother’s city council race, and Omar Jamal, a Minneapolis community activist who alleged there was widespread voter fraud in Ms. Omar’s Minneapolis district.
The lawsuit said that Mr. Jamal has been quoted in the New York Times at least 10 times.
Mr. Mohamed, also known as Liban Osman, has denied any wrongdoing and accused Project Veritas of offering him a $10,000 bribe, which the group has denied. The Omar campaign dismissed the investigation as a “coordinated right wing campaign.”
In its Oct. 2 letter, New York Times in-house counsel Dana Green addressed the article’s use of the word “deceptive” by saying, “But whether or not a video is ‘deceptive’ is plainly opinion and not actionable by law,” according to the lawsuit.
The Project Veritas filing called the claim “ridiculous and nonsensical,” saying that the article appeared in the news section, not the op-ed section, and that it was written by a “political reporter,” not an opinion writer.
The lawsuit, filed by the law firm Clarke Locke LLP, also challenged a story published Oct. 25, “False Voter Fraud Stories are Churning on Conservative News Sites.”
A self-described “guerilla journalist,” Mr. O’Keefe is famous for wrangling retractions and corrections from news outlets, which he hangs on the organization’s “Wall of Shame,” and declared Friday that Project Veritas “has never lost a lawsuit in our corporate history.”
He also warned that more legal action may be coming.
“And to those of you so-called journalists who repeated the Times reporting—USA Today, local TV news, Facebook.com—don’t worry, you’re next,” Mr. O’Keefe said. “Retract it now and save yourself the trouble and the embarrassment.”