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Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe resigns in video message to employees

By Sarah May on
 February 21, 2023

Following a contentious series of events culminating in James O'Keefe's departure from Project Veritas – the investigative journalism group he founded more than a decade ago – conflicting accounts continue to swirl as to whether he voluntarily resigned or was effectively forced out by the organization's board of directors.

The controversy surrounding O'Keefe's continued tenure at the helm of Project Veritas came after the group's board claimed to have discovered “financial malfeasance” on the founder's part in which he was accused of spending “an excessive amount of donor funds in the last three years on personal luxuries,” among other alleged offenses.

Spending, management style questioned

O'Keefe's troubles with the Project Veritas board began earlier this month when the organization's executive director and some board members issued a statement indicating that multiple staff members “provided leadership with some verbal feedback describing real management concerns regarding the treatment of people and our internal processes,” as the Associated Press noted.

According to CNN, an internal memo signed by some of those staffers accused O'Keefe of having been “outright cruel” to employees at the organization, with the organization's leader described as a “power drunk tyrant” and a “diva” known for berating and overworking those who worked for him.

Last week, the group's executive director, Daniel Strack, said that while O'Keefe had not been fired, he had been forced to take some time away from the organization in the form of a suspension.

Financial improprieties were also alleged, with the group noting that O'Keefe had spent excessive amounts on things such as charter flights, car services, DJ equipment, and other luxuries for personal use, and the board noted Monday that the group “has not concluded looking into the full scale of financial issues over the years.”

Board denies firing

In the board's Monday statement, as National Review noted, the directors denied that they had fired O'Keefe, also stating that they did not request his resignation.

Rather, the directors accused O'Keefe of skipping a Friday board meeting at which he was invited to “discuss the financial malfeasance that was discovered,” which they said “requires us to act in order to remain in compliance with the law.”

The statement insisted that “[t]he board wants to work things out with James and has tried every route possible to remedy the issues at hand and begin to take the legally required corrective actions.”

“Even with all of this public fallout, the Board still wants to speak with James. We did not fire him, nor do we want him to resign. We would like to continue conversations with James to resolve internal matters rather than litigate them publicly,” the statement continued.

“Packing up”

O'Keefe, for his part, seemed to have a drastically different take on the status of his relationship with Project Veritas and its board, as evidenced by a 45-minute video he filmed in the organization's offices on Monday in which he announced that he was “packing up” his personal belongings in the wake of his ouster, as National Review further noted.

The video was published anonymously on the Vimeo streaming platform for what was said to be “internal distribution” and "just for us," though it was arguably intended for a much broader release, which it has since garnered.

“None of this makes any sense, and why is this happening right now?” O'Keefe asked his viewers rhetorically. “Those are the questions I have. I don't have answers.”

O'Keefe admitted that he had perhaps not always been “a compassionate leader,” something he described as a “fault,” as Fox News explained, but he attributed that facet of his personality to his unwavering work ethic and aversion to “slowing down.”

Pfizer sting to blame?

Though no direct accusation was made by O'Keefe, the now-former Project Veritas leader appeared to hint that his recent sting implicating pharma giant Pfizer in “directed evolution” experiments involving the COVID-19 virus may have been the cause of his unplanned exit from the organization, as Fox News noted.

“So, what has changed in the last three weeks? The only thing that has changed is that we broke the biggest story in our organization's history...with 50 million views,” O'Keefe said.

“And suddenly, just a few days after unusual emergency happened. On Thursday, February 2nd, that's a few days after the Pfizer story, I was informed by an officer of Project Veritas on the phone while en route to the airport that he would resign unless I stepped down as CEO,” O'Keefe added.

Defiantly vowing that his investigative journalism days are far from over, O'Keefe declared to organization staffers in parting, “So, our mission continues on. I'm not done. The mission will perhaps take on a new name, and it may no longer be called Veritas, Project Veritas. I will need a bunch of people around me, and I'll make sure you know how to find me.”