Hurricane has left a trail of death and destruction across wide swathes of the country—wreaking havoc from New Orleans to New York, leaving dozens dead in four states, and doing untold billions in damage. Of course, climate change deniers aren’t somehow magically immune courtesy of their own magical thinking.
Project Veritas is the conservative outlet best known for a series of supposedly “investigative” videos in which they deploy activists using fake identities and false pretenses to trick Democrats and other opponents of Republican dogma into saying ill-advised things on camera (or, when that doesn’t happen, selectively editing the footage to make it seem that way). Their previous hits include enlisting television journalists to denounce what they claim are liberal media overlords on-air, catfishing tech workers, and bumbling psyops on media organizations. (Project Veritas insists its “investigations pursue the truth regardless of political ideology” and denies any “selectively edit[ing]”.) Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe is also reportedly starring in a right-wing production of Oklahoma cast entirely with “canceled artists.”
As the Daily Beast first reported, photos and videos posted by the organization show their Mamaroneck, New York, offices in utter ruin courtesy of Ida. The site’s politics reporter Will Sommer, who writes about conservative media and conspiracy theories, posted screenshots from the video showing floods high enough to mostly bury vehicles in the parking lot and furniture and books strewn across offices. “Retracto,” a stuffed alpaca that O’Keefe uses as the Project Veritas mascot, was soaked in filthy stormwater on a floor.
The “Wall of Shame,” where Project Veritas displays corrections and updates made to news stories following its attempts to punk journalists, appeared mostly intact but surrounded by walls showing signs of water damage.
While Project Veritas has repeatedly been characterized as a right-wing disinformation shop that has repeatedly demonstrated it will go to any rock bottom to cook up a damaging smear or self-promoting narrative, faking this level of damage seems rather out of its competency. But we’ll concede it’s possible the video was selectively shot to showcase the worst of the damage or that more was recoverable than they let on.
Notably, Project Veritas tried to frame CNN as participating in a conspiracy to promote awareness of climate change in a selfish scheme to reap fearmongering profits. Climate change is in fact real and is associated with the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Ida. Earlier this year, the National Hurricane Center took steps towards indicating it considers the U.S. hurricane season as now beginning in mid-May, instead of the historic date of June 1. Better observations may be responsible the more fierce hurricane seasons we’ve seen. But carbon pollution has played an inarguable role in heating up the oceans to help storms gain steam and pushed sea levels upward, resulted in more storm surge. It’s also made fierce rainstorms like what the remnants of Ida reportedly did to Project Veritas’ office more likely.
In the video, O’Keefe explained that on the night of Sept.1, Project Veritas staffers were so excited watching a live stream of a Sacramento, California, school board meeting during which an “antifa” teacher was in the process of being fired thanks to their efforts that they somehow missed rising floodwaters until some employees’ cars were already in 3 feet (1 meter) of water. He also tried to portray the forces of Ida as yet another nefarious attack against his organization, saying that Project Veritas is a “very resilient organization with perhaps the most resilient of any organization anywhere, and we often find ourselves rising from the ashes, like a phoenix, repeatedly over the last decade.”
“Continually attacked by external forces since the beginning, when we were nothing but a laptop and a Yeti microphone in the second floor of an old carriage house,” O’Keefe added.
O’Keefe then asked for donations.
For those looking to help out with those stricken by Hurricane Ida, the New York Times has a list of local and national organizations contributing to relief efforts here. We’ve compiled a list of organizations already helping in the Gulf Coast, which was hit hard by the storm but risks being overshadowed by New York. You can also help tribes that are reeling and have received scant attention.
Update: After publication, an attorney for Project Veritas contacted Gizmodo to say that the organization is “neither far-right, nor do we try to trick Democrats and other opponents of Republican dogma.” The attorney denied that the organization is “a disinfo shop” or that it “selectively edit[s]”, and said the “truth of the core facts that are revealed by people using their own words in our recordings never changes, in any release, ever.”
A previous version of this article referred to a New York Times report that claimed several individuals previously connected to Project Veritas had plotted to have a woman approach former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster for drinks at a restaurant, and then secretly record him disparaging Donald Trump. Project Veritas further maintained that it “was not involved, in any way, in any investigation involving President Trump’s former National Security Advisor.” This article has been updated to include Project Veritas’s claims.