Project Veritas, a right-wing group known for deceptively edited exposé videos with ties to prominent conservative and Republican groups nationally, has recently made its presence felt in some of Nassau County’s public school districts.
The nonprofit organization has had representatives present in some of the North Shore’s public school districts, with videos showing various officials discussing diversity, equity and inclusion in the class.
An email to Manhasset School District officials last month called for an investigation into Donald Gately, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum. The email was sent following comments Gately made about the district’s diversity, equity and inclusion curriculum in a Project Veritas video.
The email, signed by “Manhasset Parents.” was sent from the email address “[email protected].” Efforts to reach the sender’s to verify their identity were unavailing.
Public concerns were also addressed at an East Williston Board of Education meeting last month, where Gately’s wife, Danielle, serves as superintendent, about another Project Veritas video with statements made by David Casameto.
Casameto is an assistant superintendent for the East Meadow school district who served as a director of technology in East Williston before leaving in 2017.
Project Veritas officials said the complaints were based on comments made at EdCamp Long Island, described on its website as “a grassroots, teacher-led event that brings together educators from across the region to share their ideas and expertise.”
Gately, the co-founder of EdCamp Long Island, was one of the individuals Project Veritas interviewed while attending the EdCamp session.
Mario Balaban, Project Veritas’ media relations manager, told Blank Slate Media last week organization’s presence at EdCamp Long Island was part of an initiative launched in the fall of last year called “The Secret Curriculum.”
A Connecticut vice principal had resigned following Project Veritas’ exposure of discriminatory hiring practices, Balaban said.
“We attend all sorts of events and we became aware of [EdCamp Long Island] and we just wanted to investigate and see what was going on in schools in the region,” Balaban said in a phone interview.
Balaban said the work Project Veritas does should not be viewed in a partisan light because videos showing what educators are saying are not prompted by a political agenda.
“We at Project Veritas don’t see anything political about informing parents and the community, wherever it might be, about what teachers or educators are saying about how they educate, and on occasions, indoctrinate children.”
In a video released on March 13, Gately said teachers now have kids with some parents that are “extremely conservative and right-wing.”
“Now you’re gonna have people make – they’re gonna connect politics to DEI work,” Gately continued.
The email signed by “Manhasset Parents” called for the school district to launch an investigation into Gately and for him to be placed on leave until the probe is finished.
“We request that the Board of Trustees promptly place Dr. Gately on leave until the investigation is complete,” according to the email. “As you know, the board has a legal and fiduciary obligation to investigate this matter and we therefore respectfully request your immediate attention.”
Casameto, in previous videos published by Project Veritas, also discussed diversity, equity and inclusion work to the organization’s unidentified reporter.
Comments made by Casamento include: “I think I said this before, but people don’t give up power, you have to take it from them…you stop hiring those types of people [conservatives]…we created a whole rubric for hiring in light of DEI.”
The video continues, showing him saying: “It’s all secret. So, I would rank them [conservatives] so low [in their interview process] that their score couldn’t possibly raise them up to the level of moving on to the cabinet.”
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion curriculum has been a target of conservative groups, with some claiming educators are attempting to indoctrinate school-age children with discussion inappropriate for the classroom.
Manhasset Superintendent Gaurav Passi, in a March 17 letter to the Manhasset community, said parental input about curriculum is welcomed by the school district and that classroom instruction is outlined in Board of Education meetings archived on the district’s YouTube page.
Passi said a majority of conversations surrounding students’ education and instruction are resolved at the classroom level, occasionally being escalated to the administrative level.
Some teachers and parents in East Williston contended that Project Veritas’ video had been edited and highlighted the most revealing comments.
Balaban said that claims against the organization having deceptive video tactics or dubbed-over videos are not followed up with what specifically is incorrect or misleading.
“They won’t say which part or which sentence or which words that we published that weren’t what they meant,” Balaban said. “I haven’t seen any of these people say, ‘I didn’t say so and so thing’. There was no denial of the words that came out of that individual’s mouth.”
Project Veritas was founded by James O’Keefe in 2011 and describes itself as a non-profit organization that “investigates and exposes corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud and other misconduct in both public and private institutions.”
O’Keefe, who was known for targeting Democratic officials and groups, left his post in February.
The organization’s 2020 revenue, according to the most recently accessible tax filings, was $20.7 million. The group reported more than $4.5 million in legal fees in 2020 and $20.6 million in expenditures, according to the filings.
Project Veritas’ list of prominent right-wing supporters includes former President Donald Trump and Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, according to multiple reports.
Virginia Thomas collected nearly $600,000 in anonymous donations for a Republican group called Crowdsourcing for Culture and Liberty, which were reportedly obtained “through a right-wing think tank in Washington,” according to the Washington Post. Little information was available on Crowdsourcing for Culture and Liberty in the Post article or other reports.
The newspaper said $400,000 out of the total $600,000 in donations was funneled in through Donors Trust, a nonprofit donor-advised fund source that has also supported Project Veritas with millions of dollars since 2014.
Donors Trust was described by Mother Jones, a media organization, as a fixture in the conservative movement, with its five-member board channeling money into right-wing organizations.