James O'Keefe Sues Keith Olbermann and Pals

The Atlantic
James O'Keefe Sues Keith Olbermann and Pals

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James O'Keefe Sues Keith Olbermann and Pals

Conservative video provocateur James O'Keefe filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against Keith Olbermann, his Countdown guest host David Shuster, and their employer Current TV, for saying he'd been convicted of a felony and accused of rape. It must be infinitely frustrating to Shuster, who actually made the error, that he was close -- O'Keefe was arrested on felony charges (later pleading guilty to a misdemeanor) and accused of harassment. But that's not what Shuster said.*

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Andrew Breitbart's Big Journalism broke the story that the activist-videographer filed a defamation suit in New Jersey against all three on Wednesday. O'Keefe, whose undercover recording of ACORN employees giving advice to an apparent pimp ran on the debut of Breitbart's Big Government in 2009, has a comfortable relationship with Breitbart, who reportedly pays him a salary for his video work. Breitbart and Olbermann have been feuding recently over their respective coverage of rapes at Occupy Wall Street.

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Slate reported the tick-tock, pointing to Current's story tease last week about a "rape allegation" against "convicted felon" O'Keefe, and highlighted a tweet from O'Keefe threatening to sue. Shuster, who was the one who actually mentioned the "rape allegation facing ... conservative activist ... James O'Keefe" in a Feb. 24 broadcast, apologized in a tweet around 1 a.m. Wednesday, clarifying that O'Keefe hadn't been convicted, but O'Keefe had already filed suit.

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O'Keefe actually was arrested in 2010 for apparently trying to tap the phone of Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of entering federal property under false pretenses. The "rape" allusion comes from a complaint by fellow conservative activist Nadia Naffe, who accused O'Keefe of trying to keep her at his house against her will, but was dropped due to insufficient evidence. 

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*More clarification is in order, so let's set O'Keefe's record straight: He was originally arrested in January 2010 for "entering a federal building under false pretenses with the intent to commit a felony -- itself a felony charge," the New Orleans Times Picayune reported, but the charges were reduced to misdemeanors for simply "entering federal property under false pretenses," per CBS. O'Keefe pleaded guilty in May 2010 and was sentenced to three years of probation, a fine of $1,500 and 100 hours of community service, the Times Picayune reported.

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*Previous correction: An earlier version of this story stated that O'Keefe had been accused of a felony when he was arrested in Landreiu's office. That was inaccurate. He was accused of "entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony,"  The New York Times reported.

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