Leading up to last year’s election, Project Veritas, a guerilla news organization run by conservative activist James O’Keefe, published a video report alleging illegal ballot harvesting by Somali-Americans in Minnesota.
Two days later, six liberal researchers from Stanford and University of Washington in Seattle wrote a blog post calling Project Veritas’s video a “domestic, coordinated elite disinformation campaign.”
The researchers, part of a group called the Election Integrity Partnership, tracked the spread of the video and argued that coordination between Project Veritas, the Trump campaign and political influencers caused the video to go viral, rather than organic interest.
Now, Project Veritas is suing the universities for defamation, arguing that the professors said the video was “debunked” without any evidence, with the goal of damaging Project Veritas’s reputation.
Stanford is standing behind the blog post.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court on Sept. 29, seeks financial damages and a court order prohibiting the two universities from publishing any statement that a judge declares defamatory.
“Despite its name, Stanford and the University of Washington’s ‘Election Integrity Partnership’ is not dedicated to ensuring the integrity of elections or exposing fraud,” the lawsuit says. “Rather, from its inception, the EIP’s purpose was to support Democrat candidates and politicians by seeking to silence conservative voice and by claiming to the public that there’s is no such thing as voting fraud or irregularities — and that any evidence of such is merely malicious propaganda spread by the political right.”
The authors of the blog post — including Stanford researchers Isabella Garcia-Camargo, Elena Cryst and Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former chief security officer — declined interviews with the Daily Post. Instead, Stanford spokesman Ernest Miranda released a statement.
“Stanford stands behind our researchers’ work and their fundamental right to study and analyze political speech,” he said. “We believe that the blog post in question is factually supported, and we will vigorously defend academic freedom.”
Already, Project Veritas is in a legal battle with the New York Times over reporter Maggie Astor publishing similar claims as the Election Integrity Partnership. Astor published an article about the blog post an hour after it went up. She received an advance copy and did her reporting beforehand, a Times spokeswoman said.
Project Veritas alleges that the Times and the research group coordinated to convince millions of people that the video was deceptive.
Project Veritas published the video in question on Sept. 27, 2020. The video relies on two named sources.
The first is Liban Mohamed, the older brother of a candidate who was elected to the Minneapolis City Council.
According to Project Veritas, Mohamed posted videos on Snapchat bragging in Somalian about having a car full of hundreds ballots that he collected from absentee voters. The envelopes are not sealed, and an anonymous person alleges that voters were given cash in exchange for their blank ballots.
The second named source is Omar Jamal, a political leader in the Minneapolis Somali American community. In an interview, Jamal says there is widespread voter fraud in his community, and Rep. Ilhan Omar’s campaign paid cash for votes.
The Election Integrity Partnership’s blog post doesn’t aim to debunk the video, but rather to track its spread across the internet. But at the beginning of the blog post, the researchers wrote that the video “made several falsifiable claims that have either been debunked by subsequent reporting or are without any factual support.”
Election Integrity’s post argues that right-wing activists including Donald Trump Jr. and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell coordinated to spread the video. It calls out social media companies for not taking more aggressive action against the video.
The video was published on the same day as a Times investigation into Trump’s taxes. Project Veritas says the Times reporters had a vendetta because their investigation was overshadowed, and the Times reported that the video was published early because of the article on Trump’s taxes.
Before filing a lawsuit, Project Veritas asked Stanford and the Times to take down their stories and correct them, but both the university and newspaper are standing by their reporting.
Stanford gives a platform to people across the political spectrum. The Election Integrity Partnership researchers are on the left, and the Hoover Institute, a conservative think tank with members such as Trump adviser Dr. Scott Atlas, is on the right.