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Activist issues statement about Landrieu incident

James O’Keefe, the conservative activist who was arrested Monday with three others after they allegedly posed as telephone repairmen to illegally enter the New Orleans office of a U.S. senator, broke his weeklong silence Friday and conceded that he may have made a mistake.

“On reflection, I could have used a different approach to this investigation,” O’Keefe said in a statement posted on the website BigGovernment .org, “particularly given the sensitivities that people understandably have about security in a federal building.”

But O’Keefe did not apologize. He said the group went to the office of Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) to find out whether the senator was avoiding phone calls from constituents opposed to her healthcare stance. In the statement, he defended his “integrity as a journalist” and assailed the media.

“It has been amazing to witness the journalistic malpractice committed by many of the organizations covering this story,” O’Keefe said, citing reports that he and the others had broken into Landrieu’s office.

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O’Keefe, who shot to fame last summer after releasing damaging videos he secretly recorded at ACORN community-organizing offices around the country, said that he and the others had not been trying to disable or wiretap Landrieu’s telephone lines.

“We decided to visit Senator Landrieu’s district office -- the people’s office -- to ask the staff if their phones were working,” O’Keefe wrote.

A spokesman for Landrieu on Friday said the senator’s office never avoided phone calls and called O’Keefe’s statement a diversion.

“It is obvious to anyone following this case that James O’Keefe crossed the line, and Sen. Landrieu expects a thorough federal investigation into the matter,” Rob Sawicki said. “She believes that he should save his feeble explanation for the FBI and the judge.”

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According to a federal affidavit, O’Keefe and the others posed as telephone repairmen and told an aide to the senator that they needed access to the office’s main phone line.

“We videotaped the entire visit,” O’Keefe said, “the government has those tapes, and I’m eager for them to be released because they refute the false claims being repeated by much of the mainstream media.”

The group was arrested by federal marshals and charged with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purpose of committing a felony, a crime which carries up to 10 years in prison. Each of the four was later freed on $10,000 bail.

Both conservative and liberal groups encouraged voters last month to call Landrieu’s office to voice their opinions of the Senate’s healthcare overhaul legislation. Landrieu was one of the last Democrats to pledge support for the bill, which passed on Christmas Eve.

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In the days before the vote, the conservative Family Research Council and a local “tea party” group, charging that their calls were going unanswered, organized a 100-person protest outside of Landrieu’s Baton Rouge office.

The website where O’Keefe posted his statement Friday has attacked Landrieu in the past. It is run by Andrew Breitbart, who pays O’Keefe a salary for publishing on the site.

In the hours after O’Keefe posted his statement, readers left more than 1,000 comments, their tenor reflecting a partisan divide over O’Keefe’s arrest.

“You are a real patriot!” wrote one.

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“So much for O’Keefe’s ‘integrity,’ ” wrote another.

kate.linthicum@latimes.com


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