04 Feb 2010 Accuracy of Salon Article Accusing James O’Keefe of Racist Motives Challenged
Washington, DC – Kevin Martin of the black leadership group Project 21 and Amy Ridenour of the National Center for Public Policy Research are questioning the accuracy of an article in the left-wing online magazine Salon which implies that independent filmmaker James O’Keefe is a racist.
The article, “James O’Keefe’s Race Problem,” by Max Blumenthal, cites O’Keefe’s attendance at a “Race and Conservatism” panel in 2006 as evidence that, as Blumenthal put it, O’Keefe’s “short but storied career has been defined by a series of political stunts shot through with racial resentment.”
Black conservative Kevin Martin, one of several panelists at the event, disagrees. In fact, Martin says, O’Keefe approached him after the event and expressed support for Martin’s positions, which are certainly not racist:
As a panelist at the Robert Taft Club ‘Race and Conservatism’ event in 2006, I had the chance to personally meet James O’Keefe after the event ended. He voiced personal support for me and my positions. He also repudiated the radical elements in the room that night.
Marcus Epstein invited me – a black conservative – to a discussion on race issues, not O’Keefe. What transpired was a spirited debate against radical elements of which I and other conservatives were clearly opposed. At no time did I feel intimidated, nor was I ever treated poorly by my hosts. The Blumenthal story is long on accusation and short on facts.
The left is attempting to label O’Keefe as a racist, but this probably has nothing to do with his ideas or associations now or then. I believe it is only because he recently exposed the radicalism of ACORN and the illegal advice its workers chose to give out. By labeling O’Keefe a racist, they likely seek to change the public view of O’Keefe’s work from one of exposing corruption and law-breaking to one of a white conservative going after a group empowering the poor and minorities.
Blumenthal’s article in Salon also says the following about Project 21: “A speaker from the right-wing black front group Project 21, founded by white conservative David Almasi to shill for corporate clients and provide cover for conservative politicians, was added at the last minute.”
In response, Amy Ridenour, CEO of the National Center for Public Policy Research, which sponsors Project 21, said:
I can’t imagine where Max Blumenthal got his information, unless he made it up. Project 21 was founded in 1992 as a way to introduce black conservatives to the news media during policy discussions sparked by the Rodney King riots (as Project 21’s website clearly states at http://www.nationalcenter.org/P21History.html), not to support any politicians. David Almasi did not found it – in fact, he worked elsewhere until five years later – and his role now is to book interviews for Project 21 members in response to media inquiries and to manage support staff in such tasks as sending op-eds and press statements by Project 21 members to the press, something he does in addition to his main professional duties as executive director of the National Center for Public Policy Research. Project 21 is actually chaired by Mychal Massie, and its sole full-time employee is Deneen Borelli, both of whom are black.
Max Blumenthal’s notion that Project 21 has ‘corporate clients’ is silly, as Project 21 is non-profit. Its expenses are met by the non-profit National Center for Public Policy Research, which has never had corporate clients and which receives less than one half of one percent of its overall revenue from corporate contributions, and from individual Project 21 members, who often undertake travel and activities at their own personal expense. I’m told neither Max Blumenthal nor anyone from Salon contacted the Project 21 office or Kevin Martin when researching or fact-checking this story, and it shows.
The National Center for Public Policy Research is a conservative, free-market think-tank established in 1982. It receives less than 1% of its revenue from corporations.