(NewsNation) — James O’Keefe, the founder of Project Veritas, has taken a paid leave of absence from the conservative watchdog group as its board considers whether to remove him from his leadership position, according to New York Magazine.
Daniel Strack, the organization’s executive director, sent an internal message to Project Veritas staff that said O’Keefe would be taking “a few weeks of well-deserved PTO,” according to the magazine’s report.
“Like all newsrooms at this stage, the Project Veritas Board of Directors and Management are constantly evaluating what the best path forward is for the organization,” read another statement released by Strack through a Project Veritas spokesman, per the report.
O’Keefe is being considered for removal from his leadership position following complaints of his “outright cruel” behavior toward employees and disgruntled donors, according to an internal memo, signed by a third of its employees, obtained by The Daily Beast.
Employees said that working for O’Keefe at Project Veritas could mean being “publicly humiliated” by the founder and “public crucifixion,” per the report. They also claimed that staff could be required to undergo lie detector tests, that O’Keefe was a “power drunk tyrant” — according to one complaint — and that the chairman once took a sandwich from a pregnant woman because he was hungry.
Employees also brought up the use of Project Veritas money to boost O’Keefe’s own theatrical interests. In December, Project Veritas said it provided a prohibited $20,500 in “excess benefits” to O’Keefe last year to pay for staff to accompany him to Virginia when he starred in a 2021 production of “Oklahoma!”
In what appears to be another reference to O’Keefe, an employee complained about Project Veritas workers being spat on, per the memo.
“Rule #1: You can’t spit in an employee’s face over a tweet,” the note read. “True story.”
Even with O’Keefe’s leadership position under scrutiny, many are wondering if the organization could survive without him as its leader. “Quite frankly, he’s the company,” one former employee said.