Federal Judge Tosses Defamation Lawsuit by Teachers’ Union Leader Against Project Veritas

O'keefe
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A senior federal judge in Florida threw out a lawsuit Tuesday brought against James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas by Steve Wentz, president of United Teachers of Wichita (UTW), Kansas, after Wentz was captured on hidden camera in 2016 boasting that he had threatened a student: “I will kick your f***ing ass.”

The video was part of a series of exposés by Project Veritas on teachers’ unions, who provide much of the organizing — and even fundraising — muscle of the Democratic Party.

The context of the conversation was a discussion about how to maintain classroom discipline. In a later conversation, also recorded by hidden camera, Wentz is seen telling a relative of the student mentioned above that he had not, in fact, threatened that student.

The story of Wentz’s lawsuit against Project Veritas created a minor media sensation when it was filed in 2017, with BuzzFeed News reporting that Wentz had claimed the video had been “creatively edited … to make him appear violent and dangerous.” The lawsuit added that “Veritas’s video and Breitbart’s summary [thereof] omitted “most of the reasoning and all explanatory detail from O’Keefe’s story.” Wentz also claimed that O’Keefe and a colleague had violated Florida recording laws, though Florida is a “two-party” state that only requires one person involved to consent.

But the judge, G. Kendall Sharp, found that Wentz — who admitted he made the statements on the videos — “is unable to sufficiently identify a false statement published by Defendants that plausibly supports his defamation claims.” He added: “the Court finds that the alleged defamatory content in this case is true, substantially true, or at least not provable as false.” He also concluded that Project Veritas had not violated Florida’s two-party laws or its wiretapping statutes, and dismissed the case.

In a statment, Project Veritas exulted: “As hard as it was to spend the roughly $350,000 defending ourselves in this case, it was worth every penny.  We could have settled this case out of court.  But that is not what we do.  We fight, we fight for the 1st Amendment and the truth.  Principles matter.  I can assure you right now; we will never surrender our principles. And we will never settle.”

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

.

Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.