The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

Join our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

Pitt baseball players stand in the dugout during a game against Virginia Tech on March 24 at the Petersen Sports Complex.
Pitt baseball shows promise in weekend series in Texas
By Dylan Grace, Staff Writer • 12:32 am

Join our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

Pitt baseball players stand in the dugout during a game against Virginia Tech on March 24 at the Petersen Sports Complex.
Pitt baseball shows promise in weekend series in Texas
By Dylan Grace, Staff Writer • 12:32 am

James O’Keefe talks ‘exposing corruption’ at Turning Point USA event

James+O%E2%80%99Keefe+projects+a+protest+flyer+during+his+event+at+the+O%E2%80%99Hara+Student+Center+on+Thursday+night.
Amaya Lobato Rivas | Assistant Visual Editor
James O’Keefe projects a protest flyer during his event at the O’Hara Student Center on Thursday night.

James O’Keefe, founder of conservative nonprofit Project Veritas, defended his brand of hidden camera stings and encouraged others to adopt it at an event in the O’Hara Student Center on Thursday. 

“The more effective you are at exposing corruption, the more of a target you become,” O’Keefe said to a crowd of around 75 people. 

Pitt’s chapter of Turning Point USA organized the event, titled “Exposing Corruption with James O’Keefe.” O’Keefe is the most recent in a string of conservative speakers the group has invited to campus, including political commentator Cabot Phillips and Riley Gaines, an avid critic of transgender women competing in women’s sports. 

Liliana Orozco, president of Turning Point USA at Pitt, said she was pleased with the turnout, adding that the event would prove valuable to many of the group’s members. 

“We have a lot of students in our club that want to pursue journalism,” Orozco, a senior law, criminal justice and society major, said. “He gave us experiences, but he also gave us laws and different factual things that you have to know as a journalist.”

James O’Keefe films protesters for his live stream before his event outside of the O’Hara Student Center on Thursday night. (Alex Jurkuta | Staff Photographer)

O’Keefe is a controversial figure on and off campus — even within Project Veritas, where he made his name calling out left-wing organizing groups, Democratic politicians and perceived liberal allies through undercover recordings. 

The group’s board of directors ousted him as chairman and CEO in February after uncovering what it called “an excessive amount of donor funds” spent on personal luxuries, including $60,000 in losses from dance events and over $150,000 “in Black Cars,” likely referring to transportation services provided by a chauffeur. 

“Guilty as charged,” O’Keefe said. “I take planes and I take cars. I travel probably 200 days a year, maybe 300 some years.”

O’Keefe, a self-described “guerilla journalist,” spent much of the event dismissing the Project Veritas board’s accusations and railing against states with two-party consent laws for recording, like Pennsylvania. His work has often landed him in legal trouble for violating these laws, and Project Veritas has faced numerous defamation lawsuits since he founded it in 2010. 

“Why is it OK to write it down but not record it?” O’Keefe said. “It’s not about some ethical issue — it’s about indemnifying the guilty.” 

James O’Keefe speaks during his event at the O’Hara Student Center on Thursday night. (Amaya Lobato Rivas | Assistant Visual Editor)

On-campus group Trans Action Building has criticized O’Keefe for targeting “Planned Parenthood as well as universities that allow trans students to live in housing aligned with their gender while violating two-party consent laws.” Before the event, around a dozen supporters of the group marched from Schenley Plaza to the O’Hara Student Center chanting, “transphobes have got to go.”

As the group gathered in Schenley Plaza, O’Keefe arrived flanked by a security guard and began recording a series of tense exchanges between himself and the protestors. 

Lucas Basualdo, a member of Fossil Free Pitt who joined Trans Action Building in their protest, particularly took issue with O’Keefe receiving $25,000 for the event. 

“I advise you to go find a real job and stop taking our activity fees,” Basualdo, a sophomore urban planning and bachelor of philosophy major, said. 

A passerby films an interaction between James O’Keefe and a protester before his event outside of the O’Hara Student Center on Thursday night. (Alex Jurkuta | Staff Photographer)

TPUSA at Pitt covered O’Keefe’s speaking fees with money allocated through Student Government Board, which manages around $900,000 in student activity fees each year — $100 per student. 

While SGB has weathered criticism for doling out the money, a statement from the organization in September explained that Supreme Court precedent forces it to exercise “viewpoint neutrality.”

“This principle means we are forbidden from choosing to fund speakers based on the content of their speech — regardless of our opinions on their subject,” the statement said. 

James O’Keefe speaks during his event at the O’Hara Student Center on Thursday night. (Amaya Lobato Rivas | Assistant Visual Editor)

Pitt police also provided security for the event, placing steel barricades along a section of O’Hara Street, assisting with security checks and stationing at least a dozen officers in and around the building. 

Protestors, whom O’Keefe criticized several times throughout his talk, did not disrupt the event itself as they had with past conservative speakers.

“We’re living in a crazy post-truth world … and people outside of this speech are screaming at me through masks about how I’m a fascist,” O’Keefe said.

About the Contributor
Jack Troy, Senior Staff Writer
Jack Troy is a Senior Staff Writer at The Pitt News. A native of Western Pennsylvania, he will graduate in April 2024 with a major in Political Science and a minor in Economics. He worked as a columnist and editor on the opinions desk from January to December 2021, and now writes for the news desk. You can contact him at [email protected]