DeSantis gives shoutout to far-right activist as he signs bill to punish Twitter

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James O'Keefe and his group, Project Veritas, specialize in the production of deceptively edited videos to smear Democrats, progressives, and the media.

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday invited serial conservative hoaxster James O'Keefe as a guest for the signing of a bill targeting technology companies.

O'Keefe has spent over a decade through his group Project Veritas attacking Democrats, media organizations, and progressives, often utilizing videos that have been deceptively edited, removing crucial context.

The new legislation signed by DeSantis will impose fines on companies for banning political candidates, either locally or statewide, even if the candidates violate the companies' terms of service, promote disinformation, or incite violence, just as Donald Trump did before he was permanently banned from Twitter in January.

The law is expected by legal experts to face court challenges for violating First Amendment protections for speech.

 

DeSantis name-checked O'Keefe, who was positioned behind the governor for the entirety of the speech and signing ceremony, to loud applause from supporters in the audience.

In April, O'Keefe sued Twitter after he was permanently banned from the service. O'Keefe took legal action after a Twitter spokesperson said O'Keefe had been caught "misleading others" by "operating fake accounts," which is a violation of Twitter's terms of service.

The Florida law does not appear to have any direct application to O'Keefe, who has never run for political office but has been frequently associated with Republican politicians.

O’Keefe has received donations from political figures in the past. A list of charitable donations by the now-defunct Trump Foundation — which was dissolved in 2019 as the result of a lawsuit by the New York Attorney General alleging misuse of funds — showed the organization had given $10,000 to Project Veritas on May 13, 2015, ahead of the 2016 election, according to ThinkProgress.

During that election, in October 2016, Project Veritas released video footage showing Democratic activists allegedly admitting to provoking violence and baiting attendees at Donald Trump rallies, something Trump himself mentioned during a debate days later.

In 2011, an O'Keefe video omitted context to make it seem as if an NPR executive called Tea Party activists racists.

The activist has also been behind several stunts that have flopped and caused him embarrassment.

In 2014, a Fox News host said O'Keefe should "give it a rest" after he tried to protest President Barack Obama's immigration policies by wearing an Osama bin Laden mask while crossing the Rio Grande.

In 2010, while trying to entrap a female CNN correspondent, O'Keefe filled a boat with sexually explicit props and attempted to capture his encounter with her on a hidden camera.

In 2009, as part of a campaign to attack the community group ACORN, which assisted areas with large Black populations to register voters, O'Keefe produced videos that then-California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown found were a "highly selective editing of reality."

O'Keefe's most serious failure to date occurred in his 2010 arrest in the federal offices for then-Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) in New Orleans. O'Keefe pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of entering a federal building under false pretenses. He was sentenced to three years of probation and was fined and had to do community service.

The bill signing event is the latest high-profile event for DeSantis as chatter has increased about a possible run for the presidency.

As part of that effort, he has been partnering with Fox News for exclusive coverage of his events, including granting a "reprieve" for a couple accused of violating COVID-19 safety regulations in Florida and a bill signing ceremony where journalists from other outlets were barred from observing him.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Donald Trump had paid James O’Keefe for anti-Hillary Clinton videos. It has since been corrected to state that Project Veritas received a $10,000 donation from the Trump Foundation in 2015.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.