Project Veritas head James O'Keefe accused the American Federation of Teachers of launching a "horrifying attack on free speech" by threatening to sue the conservative muckraking outfit if it publishes any material it obtained during an undercover investigation of the union. AFT president Randi Weingarten made the pledge despite a federal judge dropping an injunction the union's Michigan chapter had earlier filed against Project Veritas.
Calling the original lawsuit "ridiculous" O'Keefe said in an email to supporters Friday, "[Y]ou have to ask yourself the question: why is Randi Weingarten so hell-bent on silencing Project Veritas, before we’ve even released a single word about our investigation into the AFT? What is going on behind closed doors at the AFT that Weingarten is so determined to keep hidden from the American public?"
The email, a fundraising pitch, doesn't give any indication of what, if anything, Project Veritas' investigation turned up. Veritas has a history of using undercover reporters to obtain embarrassing footage of liberal groups.
The Michigan chapter of AFT filed the case in September after it discovered that an intern it hired worked for Project Veritas. The union said the reporter, identified in court documents as Marisa Jorge, was seeking information including "instances of educators who had supposedly engaged in 'sexting' with students."
The union's complaint said there were "no such instances" of sexting but did say that Jorge did gain access to "a substantial amount of confidential and proprietary information including databases, confidential conferences and the status of grievance." The complaint argued that she had obtained trade secrets of the union and therefore publishing them should be blocked.
A federal judge on Wednesday gave Project Veritas two wins in the case, declining to rule in favor of the union's lawsuit as well as dropping a temporary restraining order against the group. "None of the documents plaintiff produced fall within the meaning of a 'trade secret,'" wrote U.S. District Judge Linda Parker.
The judge said that the teachers union was likely to prevail in its claim that Jorge's actions while undercover as an intern constituted a "breach of duty" against the union. AFT seized on that to claim it had won and indicated that it may file additional charges. "[T]he judge’s decision supports our position that we have a right of action the moment Project Veritas publishes anything illegally obtained by its operative Marisa Jorge," Weingarten and Michigan chapter president David Hecker said in a statement Wednesday.
O'Keefe's Friday message noted that the AFT statement also said it would be "zealous in seeking full relief and damages the moment O’Keefe goes public with any of the material stolen or illegally obtained," a statement that would seem to run contrary to the judges' ruling. AFT did not respond to a request from the Washington Examiner to clarify its position.
"Project Veritas hasn’t released a single thing about the AFT. Which begs the question: what is Randi Weingarten so determined to keep hidden from the American public?" O'Keefe said.