Karen Fratti
December 05, 2017 10:22 am
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Last week, the Washington Post published a story about how its reporters exposed a woman who had come forward with seemingly false allegations of sexual assault against Alabama Senator Roy Moore. Their research unearthed the fact that she was an operative for Project Veritas, a conservative organization that aims to discredit victims of sexual assault, and in turn, the “mainstream media.” Obviously, it didn’t work this time because Washington Post reporters did their due diligence. However, just because Project Veritas didn’t succeed this time around doesn’t mean the organization shouldn’t be on your radar, especially as more sexual assault cases are opened against high profile men, particularly politicians that Project Veritas’ donors want to keep in office, such as Roy Moore.

Project Veritas is led by James O’Keefe, and it’s a favorite place for conservative donors to spend their money. Just last year, according to the Chicago Tribune, the sting organization received $1.7 million from Donors Trust, a tax-exempt entity that many conservatives, such as the Koch brothers, use to funnel their money into other organizations.

Project Veritas is actually fake news, and now the group is coming for victims of sexual assault.

Although we hate to take fools like O’Keefe seriously, a lot of people — including conservative politicians and voters — actually do, despite the fact that he’s been debunked every time he’s presented “proof” that someone is doing something wrong. O’Keefe is responsible for doctored Planned Parenthood videos that, although widely known to be totally fabricated, are still named as evidence in Congress every time a conservative legislator wants to defund the women’s health organization. He championed his colleague, David Daleiden, who was charged with making another set of videos.

Likewise, O’Keefe made videos about National Public Radio that were later debunked but also come up in conversations about defunding NPR in Congress. He did the same with ACORN, a voter registration non-profit that he eventually also had to pay $100,000 for smearing employees. Conservative blogs and Fox News still bring it up every time there’s an election and they want to talk about non-existent voter fraud.

Once you put a fake news story out there, it’s really hard to retract.

If we learned anything from the 2016 election, it’s that it’s incredibly hard to make some people understand that so much of what they read on websites like Breitbart simply isn’t true. Even Fox News, the president’s favorite channel, which has a massive audience, is often very biased and its stories underreported. Last week, the cable network even endorsed Roy Moore, despite the number of sexual assault allegations coming out against him. This happens because men, and even some women, believe that women lie about being assaulted or harassed, even though false reports of rape only make up about two to three percent of all sexual assault allegations. Just this week, Trump endorsed Moore again.

O’Keefe attempted to send a woman into the Washington Post to sell a story to a reporter about her own experience with Moore, to show that the newspaper was “making things up” when it comes to Moore. Of course, that’s not what newspapers or reporters do, despite what anyone tries to tell you about fake news. After questioning the woman a few times for the story, the reporters confronted her about some facts not lining up. After being called out, the woman all but disappeared. But O’Keefe’s operation is pretty huge, making him hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

What’s so scary about this is that if the reporter had taken the bait and said something that could be manipulated in any way, a video could’ve been doctored, much like other Project Veritas videos, and published as evidence that women lie. Most of the people who read the websites that publish O’Keefe’s videos already believe that, but this would be “proof,” much like the other videos allegedly prove that Planned Parenthood executives eat babies for lunch and NPR funds ISIS. It would allow Moore and men like him to get away without consequences going forward, by arming pundits with a “false report.”

It’s so ludicrous, and yet, here we are in 2017, where grown-ass people eat this stuff up and then spew their opinions about it on Facebook.

It is abhorrent that Moore hasn’t been forced to step down by his colleagues amidst the sexual assault allegations against him, if only to allow a proper investigation to happen. He’s being enabled by a culture that sees women as liars, something that Project Veritas and its donors want so badly that they had to find a woman and pay her to lie.

Fortunately, their efforts were thwarted this time around, but the fact that they’re trying at all and that more people don’t stand up for women when they report assault and harassment hurts women in the long run. We all know that most women don’t report harassment and sexual assault because they’re afraid of not being believed by law enforcement or their communities.

According to RAINN, victims are right. Out of every 1,000 rapes, only 310 are ever reported, 57 reports lead to an arrest, and just 11 are referred to prosecutors.

It’s a testament to how powerful the #MeToo movement has been online that these men are so dedicated, at any cost, to discrediting women who are accusing men of sexual assault and misconduct. Luckily, this time it didn’t work, but Project Veritas’ failed sting operation is a reminder that there’s a lot of work still to do to totally dismantle the rape culture that blames victims and trusts the predators.

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