Retired four star general and former CIA Director David Petraeus is scheduled to appear at an event in New York City next week with a pro-fracking advocate and a conservative activist best known for dressing up as a pimp. It’s a rare brush with partisan political issues for the retired general, who has resisted calls to associate himself with both parties and who left the Obama Administration in 2012 after it was he was having an affair with his biographer.
The May 6 event, which also features former UN Ambassador John Bolton and former CIA director James Woolsey, is sponsored by the Gatestone Institute, a hawkish non-profit led by Bolton. According to the Gatestone Institute, Bolton “will convene a symposium discussion with some of the nation’s top national security experts to explore the creation of a new energy policy that would spark economic growth and job creation in America.”
Apparently, one of these experts is the conservative activist and videographer James O’Keefe. And that makes the event a particularly odd choice for Petraeus, a former Obama Administration official. O’Keefe became instantly famous for his videos targeting the community organizing group ACORN in 2009. (O’Keefe dressed up like a pimp in the videos, and asked ACORN for help in getting funds for his brothel.) While the initial uproar caused ACORN to fold after losing all federal funding, the videos, which seemed to feature employees of ACORN helping O’Keefe and an associate plan criminal activities, were later found to be selectively edited. Since then, O’Keefe has been arrested while attempting to bug the offices of Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu in 2010 and tried to lure a CNN correspondent on “a boat filled with sexually explicit props.” And his videos have forced the ouster of any number of elected officials -- most recently, Wisconsin State Senate President Mike Ellis.
As part of this symposium, the Gatestone Institute is also hosting conservative documentarian Ann McElhinney who made the 2012 movie FrackNation attacking the credibility of fracking opponents. She is currently working on an anti-abortion film about Kermit Gosnell with her partner Phelim McAleer, who was described as “Climate denial’s Michael Moore” by the San Francisco Chronicle in 2012. McElhinney has described concern over the environmental consequences of fracking, which involves injecting fluid into the ground to dislodge shale gas, as a cover for a liberal “anti-capitalism” and “anti-American” agenda. Although McElhinney insists she is an independent journalist, liberal groups have accused her of being a shill for the oil industry.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Petraeus confirmed his attendance but said “I’m not on a panel with anyone else at that gathering; rather, I’ll be speaking on my ‘Coming North American Decades’ thesis —on which I teach a seminar at CUNY’s Honors College.” The retired general went on to note that “For what it’s worth, I speak at fora that span the spectrum. Yesterday, e.g., I was interviewed on leadership and global crises during the annual ‘Out on Wall Street’ gathering. Similarly, I provide my analyses to those of either political party, regardless of whether I share the views of the individual seeking my thoughts.”