When spring-chicken conservative activist James O'Keefe got arrested for allegedly trying to bug Senator Mary Landrieu's phones, many on the right couldn't distance themselves fast enough. But O'Keefe has since found sympathetic boosters. Andrew Breitbart has enlisted to his cause, and on Tuesday night, Fox News's Sean Hannity gave O'Keefe his first interview since the arrest. O'Keefe played it cautious, frequently citing the "ongoing investigation" as a reason for not answering Hannity's questions. But he did find time to position himself as a pioneer of twenty-first-century journalism.
On What He Was Doing in Landrieu's Office
O'KEEFE: Well, there were reports that Senator Landrieu's constituents were not able to get through to her. She said her lines were jammed for a few weeks after she received a few hundred million dollars in money in exchange for her vote in the health care bill. So we wanted to get to the bottom of this because, while it makes sense for your phone to be jammed for a day -- for a day or two, it sounded like the fact that her constituents couldn't get through to her for a few weeks was troubling to us. So we wanted to get to the bottom of what was going on with her phones.
HANNITY: OK, so now -- and I don't know all the facts so I want to make sure because you disputed a lot of claims in the media in your statement. So did you dress up as a telephone repairman or telephone repair people?
O'KEEFE: Yes, I mean, as far as that's concerned, I mean, investigative journalists have been using a lot of these tactics for years. I mean, NBC, "Dateline" --
HANNITY: Yes, but -- all right. But did you dress up as a repair guy?
HANNITY: You did?
O'KEEFE: We did, yes.
HANNITY: All right, now, did you think about it? Do you have any issues with the fact that this is a U.S. senator's office versus, for example, going into ACORN, and that as a U.S. senator, this is federal building, this is federal property, you're going near federal phones? Did that enter your mind prior to going into this office?
O'KEEFE: Well, I mean, generally speaking, it's the people's office. ... Like I've said in my statement, I could have used a different approach to this investigation. And you know, I think going forward I'm going to try to be a little more thoughtful about how I approach these things.
On Journalistic Integrity
O'KEEFE: A lot of these reporters just flat out, I think, slandered me. Immediately off the gun. They jumped the gun on the story. And we're still waiting for corrections from dozens of newspapers -- mainstream media newspapers.
HANNITY: Will you sue them in the end if they don't make the corrections?
O'KEEFE: I'm not sure yet but it's journalism malpractice what they've done on this story. And it's inexcusable.
HANNITY: All right. So what -- so if people -- if we were to show this video tonight.
HANNITY: What would people conclude?
O'KEEFE: That this is a huge misunderstanding, I think. You know, like in all my videos, like in my ACORN videos, I'm trying to get to the bottom of something. I'm trying to expose the truth.
On Suffering for One's Craft
HANNITY: What was jail like?
O'KEEFE: Jail was -- the food was terrible. (LAUGHTER) The apple sauce was like water, and you know -- I think it was a very uncomfortable experience for all of us.
On the Fourth Estate
Well, I think that me and my colleagues, what our goal is to get to the truth. And to expose corruption. And that's my mission in life. And that's what I'm going to continue to do. I still stand behind the fact that investigative journalists have been doing this for years, "Dateline," CBS, "60 Minutes, they built their career on this so I -- that's tradition I'm following and sort of a new age journalism.
On What He's Learned
I mean, I don't think -- I don't think at any time I broke the law. I -- and when I spent the night in jail I was trying to figure out what I possibly did wrong. We had a plane to catch the following morning. So had no idea -- you know, I really did not think we broke any laws and I was just completely -- you know, I think this is sort of a misunderstanding.