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Woman who stopped CNN 'punk' plan says O'Keefe claims untrue

By Scott Zamost, CNN Special Investigations Unit
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CNN reporter target of a failed 'punk'
  • Santa says O'Keefe's claims that he never considered carrying out the plan are untrue
  • The document said O'Keefe would "faux seduce" CNN reporter
  • O'Keefe said he rejected the ideas in the document

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- The woman who stopped a plot by conservative activist James O'Keefe to embarrass a CNN reporter said O'Keefe's latest statement on the matter is "clearly not true."

In an e-mail to CNN, the former executive director of Project Veritas, Izzy Santa, wrote: "It's clearly a PR statement for damage control. It's clearly not true but what can you do."

Santa was reacting to O'Keefe's explanation of what he said would have happened on his boat in August after he agreed to meet CNN Investigative Correspondent Abbie Boudreau, who was working on a documentary about young conservative activists.

The documentary, "Right On The Edge," which aired this past weekend, revealed that O'Keefe had planned to "faux seduce" Boudreau by setting up the boat with hidden cameras and sexual props.

The details of his plan were contained in a 13-page "CNN Caper" document obtained by the network, which also aired a series of e-mails that O'Keefe had sent to Santa about getting Boudreau on his boat.

The meeting with O'Keefe was scheduled at an address in Maryland. The location turned out to be a private home. O'Keefe's boat was docked behind the house.

In a two-sentence statement prior to the airing of the documentary, O'Keefe said he did not write the document and that he "found certain elements highly objectionable and inappropriate, and did not consider them for one minute following it."

In a statement posted Monday on his Project Veritas website, O'Keefe again asserted he did not intend to carry out the plan as specified in the document.

"When the CNN idea was pitched to me, I'll admit that I liked the basic absurdity of meeting Abbie Boudreau on a boat and the idea of counter-seduction satire executed in a tame, humorous, non-threatening manner," O'Keefe's statement said.

"After all, as all liberal reporters do, she was trying to 'seduce' (a metaphor) me so she could get more for her story. It would be fun, I thought, to turn the tables in jest. However, I was repulsed by the over-the-top language and symbolism that was suggested in the memo that was sent to me, and never considered that for a moment."

O'Keefe explained in his statement how his version of the "CNN Caper" plan would not put Boudreau in a "threatening situation."

"She would have had to consent before being filmed and she was not going to be faux 'seduced' unless she wanted to be. If a CNN reporter would be willing to engage in such a folly, it might even be more newsworthy than 'Rick Sanchezs firing. (CNN also has Elliot Spitzer on payroll. He's done more outrageous things than anything I've ever gotten in my in-box)."

The CNN Caper document lists Ben [Wetmore] as the author and James [O'Keefe] as the activist. Wetmore is a fellow activist and one of O'Keefe's mentors. The plan involved getting Boudreau aboard a boat filled with sexually explicit props -- including sex toys, condoms, fuzzy handcuffs and pictures of naked women -- and then recording the session to embarrass Boudreau and CNN.

The detailed document even outlined possible "concerns" and "potential problems" associated with the plan.

"If CNN gets advance warning and you find this out, you should simply cancel the operation, period. ...If she refuses to get on the boat, " the document states, "Just leave. You're in a position of strength. Make her come to you. To leave the boat kills the operation."

It also warns against "running the operation without props and with a dirty boat."

"In the rush to get this done, the temptation will be to skimp on the details, and that just puts two things at risk: 1) Boudreau's confusion as to whether this is legitimate, ruining her reaction which is key to the operation, and 2) making the video that much less interesting lacking props and proper ambiance."

O'Keefe asked Boudreau to meet him in Maryland to discuss an upcoming video shoot related to her project about young conservatives. According to a phone conversation that O'Keefe taped, he wanted to have a "face-to-face" meeting with Boudreau, and said he felt more comfortable if she were to come to the meeting alone.

When Boudreau arrived, Santa told her that O'Keefe had prepared an elaborate plan to "punk" her.

CNN's documentary revealed a series of e-mails, which appear to show O'Keefe's intentions.

In one e-mail to a colleague, written several days before Boudreau's scheduled meeting with O'Keefe, he forwarded an audio recording from the phone conversation he taped without Boudreau's knowledge. O'Keefe wrote: "Getting closer. Audio attached of conversation with Abbie. What do you think of her reaction guys...Ben, you think I could get her on the boat?"

In a different e-mail to Santa, O'Keefe gives her specific instructions to help him prepare for the meeting.

"Please go to fedex and print out pleasure palace graphic on large banner," O'Keefe wrote, "needs to be ready by late tonight -- if possible..."

Those emails contradict O'Keefe's latest statement, in which he says he did not implement plans detailed in the document.

"I do believe that Izzy Santa, who came to Ms. Boudreau with the documents and the story, was simply trying to protect me and the organization from a dangerous and objectionable plan, one sent to me in my personal emails that she assumed, wrongly, and probably due to my own lack of communication to her, that I was going to implement," O'Keefe wrote in his statement. "Nothing in the document was implemented."

In a statement released through CNN, Boudreau said, "I am not interested in debating James O'Keefe about what his plans were for me on his boat. His statement reinforces what we reported in our documentary."

The other part of the CNN Caper document explained how to trick CNN into reporting a false story about the Tea Party or Sarah Palin. The plan involved U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

"Certain past topics, such as the war or terrorism, seem to be relatively off the radar as it regards to the news interest of the mainstream media," the document states. "Things that are on politics, the GOP, scandal, race issues, are all pertinent and relevant."

"If we were to offer CNN evidence of racism, playing on these currently relevant issues, and produced enough supporting evidence to prove the claim we make, have them write a story and then prepare our allies to pounce, it could be a good way to undercut their credibility," the document reads.

It suggested creating false evidence and documents.

"The false video evidence, for one, could be focused on the incident with Congressman John Lewis where he said he was called a n----- by tea party protesters, even though the video evidence disproved his claim...Spoofing video evidence proving Lewis' claim, along with a good story that the tea party had suppressed such evidence, might be enough for CNN to report on the story."

"The video evidence just needs to be simple, just Lewis walking by with a faint n----- said in the background, yelled by someone there. The video evidence would need to be sufficient to get by potential fact-checkers at CNN who might analyze the video and audio."

The document states that "the danger is, of course, that the lie becomes the official truth, and so it would be necessary to immediately deconstruct this story on friendly networks and media outlets. The goal isn't to draw out the scandal after all, rather just to embarrass CNN by having them report a false story. So immediately reporting on the falseness of the story would be key."

O'Keefe's statement did not address this part of the "punk."

"I can assure my supporters and my misguided adversaries that Project Veritas will continue to work to produce the investigative reports that CNN and others in the mainstream media have failed to deliver. It's time to get back to work. Projects will be released soon. That inbox is getting full again.

"And you never know what bizarre idea I'm going to need to reject next . . ." O'Keefe concluded.