In Wednesday’s presidential debate, Donald Trump claimed that new videos proved that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had “hired people” and “paid them $1,500” to “be violent, cause fights, [and] do bad things” at Trump rallies.
He was referring to videos released this week by conservative activist James O’Keefe that purport to show pro-Clinton activists boasting of their efforts to bait Trump supporters into violent acts. The videos offer no evidence that Clinton or Obama were aware of or behind the alleged dirty tricks.
Still, Trump claimed the videos exposed that a violence at a March Chicago rally was a “criminal act” and that it “was now all on tape started by her.”
Trump neglected, however, to mention his own connection to the videos, released by James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas tax-exempt group. According to a list of charitable donations made by Trump‘s controversial foundation (provided to the Washington Post in April by Trump’s campaign), on May 13, 2015, it gave $10,000 to Project Veritas.
Trump, who claimed in the same debate that Hillary Clinton “shouldn’t be allowed to run” for president “based on what she did with e-mails and so many other things,” was funding a convicted criminal. O’Keefe was sentenced to three years of probation, 100 hours of community service, and a $1,500 fine in 2010 after taking a plea bargain following a botched “sting” attempt at the office of then-Sen. Mary Landrieu.
What’s more, there is a great deal of reason to be skeptical of the videos themselves. O’Keefe has a long history of selectively editing videos to present a false impression to the viewer. His most famous video, an attack on the now-defunct community organizing group ACORN, supposedly showed employees agreeing to help him smuggle underage prostitutes into the country. It turned out the employees later had called the police and O’Keefe eventually paid $100,000 in a settlement after being sued for surreptitious recording of someone’s voice and image.
Even Glenn Beck’s conservative The Blaze slammed O’Keefe over a selectively-edited video purporting to show unethical action on the part of National Public Radio executives, faulting “ editing tactics that seem designed to intentionally lie or mislead about the material being presented.