Far be it from me to attempt to defend ACORN prankster James O'Keefe, whose latest stunt - the CNN Love Boat - was not fully thought through. As I understand it the intended punking of CNN was sexist, but not nearly as ghastly as some imagine. Think of it as metaphor madness.
Here is CNN:
Lusby, Maryland (CNN) -- A conservative activist known for making undercover videos plotted to embarrass a CNN correspondent by recording a meeting on hidden cameras aboard a floating "palace of pleasure" and making sexually suggestive comments, e-mails and a planning document show.
Tracy Clark Flory of Salon takes a guess at the intended plot:
It isn't entirely clear what James O'Keefe hoped would happen when he invited CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau onto his floating "sex den." But the conservative prankster, who gained notoriety through his undercover ACORN sting, has certainly provided plenty of laughs this afternoon based on his proposed props for the stunt: dildos, lube, fuzzy handcuffs, Viagra and a mirrored ceiling. What, no edible undies or penis straws? O'Keefe says his plan was to "seduce her, on camera, to use her for a video," as payback for "trying to seduce me to use me, in order to spin a lie about me." A planning document obtained by the network reads, "The joke is that the tables have turned on CNN. Using hot blondes to seduce interviewees to get screwed on television, you are faux seducing her in order to screw her on television." If you can follow that logic, congrats: You must be a young conservative.
Hmm - the calendar says I am not so young, but I can follow that. Maybe I'm young at heart! And maybe Ms. Clark-Flory has a future as a young conservative, too, since she is close to my wavelength:
At first, I assumed O'Keefe's bizarre collection of sex-store sundries was a genuine, albeit tone-deaf, attempt to actually seduce Boudreau. However, I am going to generously credit O'Keefe with being smarter than that. So what was the purpose of these props? Maybe he wanted to trick Boudreau into believing she had happened upon a salacious story about another conservative with a sordid secret life just begging to be exposed. Given that O'Keefe sees CNN as wildly biased -- which is funny, given that the network is "allergic to opinion to the point of occasional incoherence," as Alex Pareene put it -- it could be that he assumed Boudreau would run wild with the story and then O'Keefe would humiliate her by revealing it as a hoax.
This young conservative agrees that O'Keefe had no intention or expectation of physically seducing Ms. Boudreau. In fact, the excerpted planning document released by CNN and quoted above makes clear that we are dealing with metaphor madness. Per the plan, CNN's hope is that a hot blonde reporter will "seduce" some young conservative guys into dishing dirt on, e.g., Sarah Palin; the crafty young men in question plan to dangle some juicy (but bogus!) Sarah Palin story, thereby "seducing" the reporter, while hitting on her and making the sexual subtext a bit more (OK, a lot more) obvious.
As stunts go, uhh, har de har. It does seem to be an extraordinary coincidence that all female television reporters are hot. But contrary to the premise of these young conservatives, hot people can be smart and professional, too (But enough about me!). O'Keefe could have come up with an amusing video of Boudreau cajlong and flattering him into divulging some absurd Sarah Palin vignette without the Love Boat angle. Actually, I would have paid extra to watch a CNN reporter who thought she had Pulitzers, Emmys, and some game-changing dirt on Sarah all within her grasp, and it would have made O'Keefe's point (I am presuming he had one) just as nicely.
Put it nother way - wouldn't you love to see the video of Mary Mapes, the Dan Rathergate producer, as she got ahold of the documents "proving" Bush had gone AWOL? O'Keefe hoped to bring an updated version of that moment, but with a kinky angle thrown in that was both sexist and hypocritical.
Hypocritical? Yes - the O'Keefe's ACORN videos got a big boost from the shapely Hannah Giles. Dressing a hot college chick as a hooker made great, marketable video, O'Keefe knew it, and he was happy to exploit it. For his group of pranksters to now decide that television news sells itself with sex is a bit rich, and unfair to the many hardworking (and hot) newsbabes.
ERRATA: A key point informs my thinking here. First, as a blushing young high schooler I went with friends to see a hot Italian film, The Seduction of Mimi. Spoiler Alert - Mimi was a male metalworker seduced by the Communist Party. I have been wary of leaping to conclusions about the use of that word ever since.