Dan Flynn ImageBy Dan Flynn

Free James O’Keefe, Stan Dai, Joe Basel, and Robert Flanagan. The bailed-out quartet face a federal trial in New Orleans for the crime of being hilarious. Should the prosecution need evidence buttressing their case, here are exhibit a, exhibit b, and exhibit c showing that these guys have a good sense of humor. Can I get a witness?

The New York Times ignored James O’Keefe when he exposed ACORN’s shady operations for all the world to see. But when O’Keefe got nabbed for a videotaped prank in Mary Landrieu’s New Orleans office, he is suddenly frontpage news. All the news that fits they print. All that clashes with their Manhattanite worldview they carefully excise.

In its attempt to paint O’Keefe and company as dangerous right-wingers, the Times actually succeeds in making them folk heroes. Of particular interest is my friend and old Leadership Institute colleague Ben Wetmore. “And then there was Ben Wetmore, 28, who was not arrested but who allowed Mr. Dai, Mr. O’Keefe and Mr. Basel to stay at his house in New Orleans this month,” the Times points out. “The authorities have not indicated that Mr. Wetmore, a Loyola law student, was connected to the incident at Ms. Landrieu’s office, but he has nonetheless played a vital role in Mr. O’Keefe’s career, as well as that of Mr. Basel and other activists.” In the Times’ narrative, Ben is the puppeteer manipulating the strings behind the scenes. But he is front and center in several of O’Keefe’s videos. No account of successful conservative activism in the adversary press is complete unless there is the suggestion of conspiracies and cabals.

O’Keefe describes Wetmore as a “genius”–a tag I never associated with Ben until a few lines later in the Times story, when I read this: “Mr. O’Keefe declined several interview requests, and Mr. Wetmore responded to an e-mail message by sending photographs of Jayson Blair, a reporter for The New York Times who resigned after admitting to plagiarism and fabrication.” That goes down as the most clever “no comment” in history.

Though O’Keefe declined participation in the Times story, he is not shrinking from the media assault. “It has been amazing to witness the journalistic malpractice committed by many of the organizations covering this story,” O’Keefe explained on Big Government.com, “MSNBC falsely claimed that I violated a non-existent ‘gag order.’ The Associated Press incorrectly reported that I ‘broke in’ to an office which is open to the public. The Washington Post has now had to print corrections in two stories on me.”

Is holding a campus affirmative-action bakesale, with pricing based on the customer’s race, an indictable offense? Does it break the law to satirically petition Bostonians–all too ready to fall for the joke–on whether they would like to adopt a Gitmo detainee? What’s the sentencing guidelines for getting a Planned Parenthood employee to accept a donation to specifically fund abortions for black babies? Liberals haven’t been able to sic the law on O’Keefe and company for these hilarious stunts, which is why there is so much pent-up energy on the Left to paint him as a 21st-Century E. Howard Hunt because of his latest caper aimed at highlighting Senator Landrieu’s avoidance of the phone calls of constituents angry over her support of ObamaCare.

If your name is Abbie Hoffman or Michael Moore, the media proclaims you a lovable gadfly. If you are James O’Keefe, you are a Watergate burglar reincarnate.

Daniel J. Flynn is the author of A Conservative History of the American Left (Crown Forum, 2008), Intellectual Morons: How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas (Crown Forum, 2004), and Why the Left Hates America (Prima Forum, 2002).

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