As CBS put it, "it's hard to know where to start with this one." James O'Keefe, the conservative crusader whose videos brought down ACORN, attempted to lure a CNN reporter onto a boat filled with lube, dildos, and other products associated with sex, in order to capture her on hidden camera capitulating to his sexual charms (or something like that).
Boudreau was working on a CNN documentary about young conservatives and when she contacted O'Keefe for an interview, he asked her to meet him in private. Little did she know that O'Keefe taped the call and passed it around (CNN eventually got a copy), plotting with his cronies to take her down. As she explains in the video below, Abbie went to meet him in Maryland and was met by Izzy Santa, who works for O'Keefe. Santa revealed that O'Keefe was planning to "punk" her, by getting her on the boat, hitting on her and making her sexually uncomfortable in order to embarrass her and CNN.
CNN obtained a 13-page document called the "CNN Caper," which lays out the equipment needed (porn, condoms, ceiling mirror), but more importantly shows the horrifying attitude towards women these pranksters took. Not only is this sexual harassment in the most basic sense -- using sex to demean a woman and make her uncomfortable in order to exert power over her -- is pretty cut and dried, but the document cuts to the core of their attitudes toward women.
O'Keefe was supposed to read this script on tape before Abbie boarded the boat:
"My name is James, I work in video activism and journalism. I've been approached by CNN for an interview where I know what their angle is: they want to portray me and my friends as crazies, as non-journalists, as unprofessional and likely as homophobes, racists or bigots of some sort... Instead, I've decided to have a little fun. Instead of giving her a serious interview, I'm going to punk CNN. Abbie has been trying to seduce me to use me, in order to spin a lie about me. So, I'm going to seduce her, on camera, to use her for a video. This bubble-headed-bleach-blonde who comes on at five will get a taste of her own medicine, she'll get seduced on camera and you'll get to see the awkwardness and the aftermath."
They obviously chose the wrong woman. As our own Jason Linkins said to me, "Abbie is a phenomenally good reporter... The whole idea that she would even fall for this is astounding." This "bubble-headed-bleach-blonde," as they call her, is an investigative correspondent for CNN's Special Investigations and Documentary unit. Her reporting has earned her a Livingston Award for international reporting, a national Emmy nomination, a National Headliner Award, and a national Clarion Award. She's reported on everything from Katrina to NATO to the IRS. By comparison, O'Keefe has pretended to be a pimp and starred in his high school's 2002 production of the musical "Crazy for You."
O'Keefe didn't write the document -- one of his cohorts, Ben Wetmore, allegedly did. James has even denied he was going to follow the script, but the fact that so much of the plan was executed and Santa felt so uncomfortable belies that. "Using hot blondes to seduce interviewees to get screwed on television, you are faux seducing her in order to screw her on television," it reads, claiming, in essence, that women can't be pretty and do their jobs without being low-level whores.
This language and this plan is so obviously the work of people threatened by women with power, by women they can't control, by women with opposing views, by women who are not submissive to them. It is the perfect example of how people with impressive resumes are discounted because of their looks (if they also happen to have breasts). The document encourages people to "make sure to emphasize Abbie's name and overall status to help burden her career with this video, incident and her bad judgment in pursuing you so aggressively." They weren't only trying to embarrass her, they were trying to destroy her. Why? Because she's educated? Has a voice? Dares to ask questions?
This is ultimately a great turn out for an intensely disturbing plan. Abbie got out unscathed with a scoop. Izzy Santa proved that at least the women who work with O'Keefe don't seem to a complete lack of empathy. But Santa has been stripped of her responsibilites and Boudreau will have to endure people debating whether or not she is just eye candy.
It is vital we recognize this for what it was: not simply a partisan attack on supposed liberals, but an attack on women. These assumptions are common, even if outlandish sex-boat plans are not. This issue is beyond left and right, it's about demanding these actions not be tolerated and demanding people take a stand.
Follow Alex Leo on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AlexMLeo