WASHINGTON — A Democratic operative whose organization was helping Hillary Clinton’s campaign announced Tuesday that he would be “stepping back” from the campaign after an edited video suggested that he and other staffers hired people to attend Donald Trump’s campaign rallies and incite violence.
Robert Creamer — husband of Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky — announced his resignation in a statement after conservative activist James O’Keefe released a video under his organization Project Veritas Action, which showed Creamer and other operatives purportedly discussing methods for inciting violence at rallies for the Republican nominee.
In the past, O’Keefe and his Project Veritas Action have been criticized for strategically editing footage to create false accusations about people or groups.
Creamer was helping the Democratic National Committee with Clinton’s campaign while working for Democracy Partners, a progressive consulting group. He is also the head of a group called Mobilize, which contracted with the DNC.
“I am unwilling to become a distraction to the important task of electing Hilary Clinton, and defeating Donald Trump in the upcoming election,” Creamer said in a statement. “As a result I have indicated to the Democratic National Committee that I am stepping back from my responsibilities working with the campaign.”
He confirmed that he was referring to the Clinton campaign, with which he was “fully integrated.”
Creamer added that “contrary to the outrageous claims of the notorious right wing blogger James O’Keefe, we have always adhered to the highest standards of transparency and legality in our work for the DNC.”
He also denied that any of the schemes in the “hypothetical conversations” recorded for the video ever took place.
“We regret the unprofessional and careless hypothetical conversations that were captured on hidden cameras of a regional contractor for our firm, and he is no longer working with us,” he said. “While none of the schemes described in the conversations every took place, these conversations do not at all reflect the values of Democracy Partners.”
Democracy Partners called O’Keefe’s video a “well-funded, systematic spy operation that is the modern day equivalent of the Watergate burglars.”
Creamer told CNN that the national field director of Americans United for Change, Scott Foval, who was also recorded in the video, made false comments that are wrong about inciting violence at the rallies. Foval has since been fired from Americans United for Change, which had a contracting relationship with Democracy Partners.
“I mean, honestly, it’s not hard to get some of these a——- to pop off,” Foval purportedly says at one point in the video. “It’s a matter of showing up, to want to get into their ally, in a Planned Parenthood T-shirt. Or ‘Trump is a Nazi,’ you know. You can message to draw them out, and draw them out to punch you.”
Creamer said Foval’s comments were “flat out wrong.”
“We have gone to extreme measures to ensure no violence took place at any of our (counter protest) rallies,” Creamer told CNN.
In 2005, Creamer pleaded guilty to tax violations and $2.3 million in bank fraud in relation to his operation of public interest groups in the 1990s.
DNC distances itself
The DNC quickly distanced itself from the accusations. Donna Brazile, the interim DNC chair, said O’Keefe “is a convicted criminal with a history of doctoring video to advance his ideological agenda” and that the practices have nothing to do with long-term efforts by the group.
“The practices described in the video by this temporary regional sub-contractor do not in any way comport with our long standing policies on organizing events, and those statements and sentiments do not represent the values that the Committee holds dear,” Brazile said in a statement. “We do not believe, or have any evidence to suggest, that the activities articulated in the video actually occurred.”
The Clinton campaign, meanwhile, denied that it has helped plant rogue protesters or deliberately incited violence at Trump campaign events.
“While Project Veritas has been known to offer misleading video out of context, some of the language and tactics referenced in the video are troubling even as a theory or proposal never executed,” Zac Petkanas, a spokesman for Clinton’s campaign, said in a statement. “We support the Democratic National Committee’s appropriate action addressing this matter and look forward to continue waging a campaign of ideas worthy of our democratic process.”
In 2010, O’Keefe plead guilty to a misdemeanor for breaking into former Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office to tamper with her phone.
In 2013, O’Keefe had to pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a former employee of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, better known as ACORN, after O’Keefe and fellow activist Hannah Giles allegedly solicited advice from ACORN workers on setting up a brothel and evading taxes.
The videos led to some employees being fired and contributed to the disbanding of ACORN, which advocated for low- and middle-income families and worked to register voters.
But prosecutors in New York and California found no evidence of wrongdoing by the group, and the California probe found the videos had been heavily edited.