Heard on the Hill: Drinking With Journos

Posted October 24, 2011 at 6:21pm

Not to freak anyone out, but reporters drink with sources. Well, HOH drinks with anybody who wants to, but better reporters focus their vices accordingly.

So we were a wee bit confused to learn that gotcha journo James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas targeted Huffington Post’s White House correspondent Sam Stein for drinking with sources in its first episode investigating “the media elite.” Especially because on April Fool’s Day, O’Keefe was the guest of honor at the First Friday happy hour.

(Full disclosure: HOH has been known to drink in the same establishment as Stein, though he did not remember having met us. O’Keefe had also never heard of us, so we’re clearly the coolest kids on every block. Moving on.)

The First Friday fete in honor of O’Keefe featured a choice cocktail called “Pimp Juice,” by the way.

So HOH called O’Keefe to ask: Why sting Stein?

“Well, we’re doing a broader investigation of journalists,” he says. “We kind of stumbled into this with the [Columbia University] journalism professor [Dale Maharidge].”

In the Project Veritas video, Maharidge tells one of O’Keefe’s reporters that Stein goes out drinking with his sources because “you get some booze in people and suddenly the stories start flowing.” (Uh … maybe we’re doing it wrong.)

Stein told O’Keefe that he doesn’t get his sources drunk to get stories.

O’Keefe tells us (more than once) that he is not making “a claim on the rightness or wrongness” of Stein’s actions.

His only concern: “Why is Sam Stein contradicting a Pulitzer Prize winner?” O’Keefe asks. “His own journalism professor, who is commending his tactics.” Why indeed?

O’Keefe has gotten a lot of flack over the years for reporting under false pretenses, which is a less common, though not unheard of, tactic of journos.

“I never got booze in people [to get stories] out of them,” he tells HOH. “Have I had a glass of wine with friends, maybe journalists? Sure.”

So if reporting under false pretenses is OK, where is the ethical line?

“Lying is never OK,” O’Keefe tells HOH. “Making a false material statement … [Stein] saying that he does not use a tactic — is scandalous and deserves to be investigated and exposed.”