Tribeca: Political Activist Tries to Cause a Stir at 'ACORN and the Firestorm' Premiere
James O'Keefe says he was "kicked out" of the premiere despite being in the movie, but co-director Reuben Atlas tells THR that O'Keefe had only a "small part" after failing to respond to interview requests and was "surprised" to see him there.
A conservative political activist and investigative journalist caused a stir Sunday night at the world premiere of ACORN and the Firestorm at the Tribeca Film Festival.
The documentary explores how the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a group of more than 400,000 left-leaning members, became a major player in the 2008 presidential election that resulted in Barack Obama's victory and was subsequently taken down by the strategic efforts of conservatives, including exposé videos from a then-budding media entity spearheaded by Andrew Breitbart. The group also was aided by conservative activists James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, who posed as a pimp and prostitute in an effort to expose ACORN's business practices using a hidden camera.
O'Keefe also is president of Project Veritas, a nonprofit journalism group whose mission is to "investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud and other misconduct in both public and private institutions in order to achieve a more ethical and transparent society," according to the organization's website.
On Sunday, O'Keefe tweeted that a "situation" was developing outside Cinepolis Chelsea 6, the venue where the world premiere was being held.
"Situation developing outside TriBeCa film festival," he wrote. "Bodyguards were told not let me in. People were screaming and cursing at me everywhere."
Situation developing outside TriBeCa film festival. Bodyguards were told not let me in. People were screaming and cursing at me everywhere. pic.twitter.com/qmnBpo4lgJ— James O'Keefe (@JamesOKeefeIII) April 24, 2017
Moments earlier, he'd tweeted that he was "kicked out of the movie that is about me" despite the fact that he "had a ticket."
They just kicked me out of the movie that is about me at the TriBeCa film festival. I had a ticket.— James O'Keefe (@JamesOKeefeIII) April 23, 2017
However, a source told The Hollywood Reporter that O'Keefe was never "kicked out" of the screening and that in fact he'd at first tried to enter without a ticket. After returning with a ticket — and a video camera, which is not allowed inside the theater — O'Keefe was asked by security to stop recording and declined; he was then asked to leave the building.
"It was all very calm; there was nothing dramatic about it," the witness added.
Reuben Atlas, who co-directed the film with Sam Pollard, told THR in a statement that he was surprised to see O'Keefe at the premiere.
"We reached out to Mr. O'Keefe to request an interview a number of times over a few years. He never said no, but he also never got back to us," Atlas said. "Because he chose not to participate, he ended having only a small part in the film. So I was surprised to hear that he showed up to the world premiere tonight and wanted to be involved. I heard he was filming and passing out flyers."
Indeed, O'Keefe has taken issue with what's portrayed in the film. He later tweeted:
And earlier in the day, he wrote:
Asked by a Twitter user in a now-deleted tweet if he was trying to just cause trouble, O'Keefe replied: "I have no words."
I have no words. https://t.co/Mg0DJchoIm— James O'Keefe (@JamesOKeefeIII) April 24, 2017
The film, described as a "comprehensive nonfiction political thriller," has been getting some good buzz on social media and is aiming to be in the conversation surrounding the Oscar best documentary race. Watch a clip above.
Ashley Lee contributed to this report.
April 23, 9:07 p.m. Updated with information about O'Keefe trying to enter the theater without a ticket and other details.