MAMARONECK, N.Y. (AP) — Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe said in a speech posted online Monday that he has been removed as the right-wing group’s leader.
In remarks that appeared to have been made at a Project Veritas’ office, O’Keefe said the board had stripped him of all decision-making. The move comes after the board reportedly put him on leave from his role as chairman amid complaints about his treatment of staff at the organization, which is known for using hidden cameras and hiding identities to try to ensnare journalists in embarrassing conversations and to reveal supposed liberal bias.
“So currently, I have no job at Project Veritas,” O’Keefe said in the video. “I have no position here based upon what the board has done. So I’m announcing to you all that today on President’s Day, I’m packing up my personal belongings.”
In a statement released later Monday, the group’s board of directors said it had uncovered “financial malfeasance” and accused O’Keefe of spending “an excessive amount of donor funds in the last three years on personal luxuries.”
According to the group, those included “$14,000 on a charter flight to meet someone to fix his boat under the guise of meeting with a donor”; $60,000 in losses from dance events; more than $150,000 “in Black Cars in the last 18 months”; and others.
The statement added that O’Keefe had been suspended in recent weeks. It said he was invited to meet with the board to discuss financial issues and staff retention and morale, but he ignored those entreaties and “today … decided to remove his belongings from Project Veritas headquarters.”
O’Keefe, who choked up and wiped away tears during his remarks in the video, said several times that the nearly 45-minute speech was for staff internally, but it was posted on the Vimeo platform.
The announcement comes after the group’s executive director and several board members put out a statement last week saying that “a number of our staff members provided leadership with some verbal feedback describing real management concerns regarding the treatment of people and our internal processes.”
Project Veritas, which identifies itself as a news organization, is best known for its hidden camera stings that have embarrassed news outlets, labor organizations and Democratic politicians. O’Keefe founded the nonprofit group 13 years ago, and its most recent IRS filings provided to charity regulators in Florida show it brought in more than $20 million in revenue in 2021.
Last year, two Florida residents pleaded guilty to selling a diary and other items from President Joe Biden’s daughter to Project Veritas for $40,000, prosecutors said. As part of its investigation, the FBI searched the group’s New York offices and the homes of some employees in 2021.
Neither Project Veritas nor any staffers have been charged with a crime, and the group has said its activities were protected by the First Amendment.
Messages seeking comment were left with O’Keefe, the group’s executive director, and attorneys for Project Veritas and O’Keefe, as well as other officials with the organization, which is based in Mamaroneck, New York.