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Hobbits, spuds and publicity hounds 


  Last month, James O'Keefe of the website Project Veritas was removed from the campus of Tulane University after he and a camera crew attempted to interview former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. In 2010, Letten recused himself from a federal case that followed an incident in which O'Keefe and his crew posed as telephone repairmen and gained access to U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu's New Orleans office. The recusal stemmed from the fact that one of O'Keefe's crew was the son of William Flanagan, acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana — Letten's then-counterpart in that part of the state.

  Later that year, O'Keefe and his partners pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and received probation, community service and minor fines. That would seem to have settled the issue — until last month's encounter on the Tulane campus, which coincided with the publication of O'Keefe's book, Breakthrough: Our Guerrilla War to Expose Fraud and Save Democracy.

  Project Veritas posted video from the attempted ambush interview on its website last week. In it, O'Keefe goes to Letten's home, where Letten's wife JoAnn Letten answers the door. O'Keefe attempts to give Letten's wife a copy of Breakthrough (she spurns it), and it was O'Keefe and crew's presence at his home that seemed to infuriate the former U.S. Attorney.

  On the Tulane section of the tape, Letten gives O'Keefe a piece of his mind, calling O'Keefe a "hobbit," "spud," "a snail," "scum," "a horse's ass" and "asshole," among other things. (A note on the Project Veritas website noted, "Spud, by the way, is a derogatory term towards an Irishman.")

  The upshot of the encounter? O'Keefe used the footage to fundraise for his brand of "investigative journalism," and summed it up best: "As a stunt in book publicity cooking, Letten played right into O'Keefe's hands." — KEVIN ALLMAN


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