Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tea Party's John Burns Involved in O'Keefe's Smear of Heroic New Jersey Teacher

John Burns of the St. Louis Tea Party is a part of James O'Keefe's crew of dishonest videographers. He and O'Keefe collaborated on a hoax at Washington University where they claimed they were being oppressed after setting up a display without getting the necessary permits (the fact that it was a hoax, by the way, was revealed by an intern at the right-wing Show Me Institute). O'Keefe and Burns later attempted to disrupt an LGBT rally in St. Louis by interfering in the rally and writing "free abortions" on one of the signs. And as reported by CNN, John Burns was also part of the crew that was planned O'Keefe's failed attempt to sexually humiliate a CNN reporter.

Now, in the wake of revelations from Glenn Beck's website that O'Keefe deceptively edited a video attacking an NPR executive, I thought it might be worthwhile pointing out another shameful O'Keefe project John Burns was involved in. I wrote back in November about an innocent victim of a Breitbart/O'Keefe smear campaign. Loesch and others had claimed that the video showed that New Jersey teachers union members called students "the n-word" and focused their attacks on a teacher named Alissa Ploshnick. Actually Ploshnick did not call a student "the n-word:" rather, she described that another teacher had done so while telling a story about how difficult it was for teachers to be fired. Nevertheless, she was initially suspended from her job after O'Keefe's smear video came out. It turned out that Ploshnick was a heroic teacher who had previously thrown herself in front of a van to protect her students.

Ploschnick, at the time, commented on the deceitful manner in which O'Keefe's collaborators operated:
"I felt like I was raped,’’ says Ploshnick referring to the moment she learned that what she thought was a private, even flirtatious, talk with a "nice" young man who bought her drinks was really part of a political scam to discredit her union in an web videotape called "Teachers Gone Wild.’’

"Give me a smile and say hello and I’ll do anything for you,’’ says Ploshnick. "I’ve always done it. It’s hard to reteach your heart and your brain.’’
I recognized John Burns' voice in the video speaking to Ploschnick, and I also thought this person looked remarkably similar to Burns:

I emailed the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) back in November, and told them I thought I knew who one of the people who deceived Ploshnick was, and they asked me to pass along photos and video, which I did. When I asked if it was Burns, they confirmed that he was one of the O'Keefe agents involved.

My email:

The response:

(note: I've blacked out the names here, but am happy to provide the original emails to the press)

This seems to reveal a disturbing pattern for Burns. In one instance, he was involved in helping O'Keefe plan how to isolate a CNN reporter, whom they referred to as a "bubble-headed-bleach-blond", on a boat full of sex toys where O'Keefe would try to "seduce" her. In another instance, Burns and another guy buy drinks for and flirt with a teacher, while egging her on to say things that would damage teachers. These incidents call Burns' character into serious question.

In the Media Matters discussion of O'Keefe's misleadingly edited NPR tapes, they asked, "Why Would Anyone Trust What O'Keefe Says About His NPR Video?" Given the local tea party's close collaboration with O'Keefe and Breitbart, and their own history of shamelessly distorting and inventing facts, I think we can ask something similar for St. Louis: "Why would anyone trust what the St. Louis Tea Party claims about their edited videos?" There's no question that the local tea party will continue to release misleadingly edited videos. However, there is a major question looming about how much integrity our local media will show in carefully evaluating the claims and doing a thorough investigation before reporting on willfully distorted videos.

1 comment:

  1. Why would the media trust Burns or anyone associated with James O'Keefe? Remember on January 26, 2010, O'Keefe was arrested and charged with a felony count of entering federal property under false pretenses when he and two others disguised themselves as repair persons in order to tap the office phones of Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Dirty tricksters.