In a video to Project Veritas employees, O’Keefe promised to start a new, rival organization doing similar undercover activist work.
O’Keefe, who became a star on the right by targeting journalists and liberal groups in hidden-camera stings, was placed on paid leave earlier this month amid a dispute with the nonprofit’s board. The board reversed O’Keefe’s firing of two top executives, and received a lengthy memo from unhappy employees detailing O’Keefe’s allegedly “outright cruel” conduct.
A video of O’Keefe announcing his exit was posted to the video website Vimeo. In it, an emotional O’Keefe, standing in front of his desk and a Project Veritas backdrop, claimed he had been pushed out by the board after telling its members to either quit themselves or face his resignation—a gambit that apparently failed. In the 45-minute video, O’Keefe got choked up, quoted Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, and appeared to wipe away tears as he announced his plans for a new Project Veritas-type group.
“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers and sisters,” O’Keefe said in closing, paraphrasing William Shakespeare’s Henry V.
In a statement posted Monday night responding to O’Keefe’s video, Project Veritas’s board claimed it was legally required to call a board meeting after it discovered O’Keefe committing what it described as “financial malfeasance.”
According to the statement, the board’s list of alleged misspending incurred by the nonprofit at O’Keefe’s direction included a $14,000 charter flight to meet someone who could repair his boat. Other alleged expenses included $150,000 over 18 months on private “black cars”and thousands of dollars on “DJ and other equipment.”
The board also accused O’Keefe of wasting $60,000 on “dance events.” O’Keefe, a former high school musical theater performer, has been accused in the past of spending the nonprofit’s money on his own musical interests. Last year, Project Veritas acknowledged improperly spending more than $20,000 to help O’Keefe star in a performance of the musical Oklahoma!
“Even with all of this public fallout, the Board still wants to speak with James,” the statement reads, adding it wanted to “work things out.” “We did not fire him, nor do we want him to resign.”
In his video, O’Keefe also posted screenshots of what he claimed were the minutes of the board meeting where he was put on unpaid leave and offered “mental wellness care,” pending the results of a financial audit. Those alleged expenses, according to screenshots provided by O’Keefe in the video, included frequent private-car trips and a $12,600 expense at a wedding hall that O’Keefe claimed was used for the organization’s holiday party.
O’Keefe defended his management style in the video, saying he had sometimes had to make hard choices as Project Veritas’ leader.
“Leadership has a price, and results often come at a human cost,” O’Keefe said.
The news that O’Keefe had been sidelined in the group he founded provoked outrage on the right, with many conservative pundits tweeting that Project Veritas would be nothing without him. Project Veritas’ board and remaining executives had tried to heal the rift, insisting in a bizarre tweet last week under the organization’s name that O’Keefe was “alive and well.” Just days before the resignation, the board put out a statement insisting that its members “all love James.”
O’Keefe and the board didn’t respond to immediate requests for comment.
O’Keefe’s resignation was first announced on Twitter by Neil McCabe, a reporter at conservative cable channel One America News. McCabe told The Daily Beast that O’Keefe resigned from the group without striking a severance deal with the board.
“He just resigns and walks out the door to start a new life,” McCabe said. “Now we’ll see: does the organization he created survive?”