Steve Wentz, president of United Teachers of Wichita The Wichita Eagle File photo
Steve Wentz, president of United Teachers of Wichita The Wichita Eagle File photo

Education

Wichita teacher suing same group accused of trying to trick Washington Post

By Suzanne Perez Tobias

stobias@wichitaeagle.com

November 28, 2017 05:23 PM

UPDATED November 29, 2017 09:24 AM

A group accused of trying to trick The Washington Post into publishing false allegations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is the same one being sued by a Wichita teacher.

Steve Wentz, president of United Teachers of Wichita, filed a lawsuit in June against Project Veritas and Breitbart News, citing an undercover video that he says damaged his and other teachers’ reputations.

That lawsuit is still pending in the U.S. District Court’s Middle District of Florida.

“It’s a lie, and it is something that needs to be addressed,” Wentz said in June after filing suit against the outlets.

Never miss a local story.

Sign up today for a free 30 day free trial of unlimited digital access.

“When you have people like this that take your words and twist them and edit videos and accuse you of onerous things … this type of vitriol needs to be addressed,” he said. “This is not journalism.”

Wentz was the focus of a hidden-camera video published by Project Veritas last year in which Wentz said he threatened a student with physical violence. The video and an accompanying article subsequently were published on Breitbart.com.

On Monday, The Washington Post published a story about its dealings with Jaime Phillips, a woman who approached one of its reporters earlier in the month and claimed she had a sexual relationship with the Senate candidate that led to an abortion when she was 15.

The Post did not publish Phillips’ claims and confronted her with inconsistencies in her story. The newspaper said its reporters saw Phillips walking into the New York offices of Project Veritas.

Neither Phillips nor Project Veritas leader James O’Keefe would confirm whether Phillips was working undercover for the organization, according to The Post.

Project Veritas has a track record of targeting Democratic groups and major media outlets, often by hiding their identities and using hidden cameras.

Wentz’s lawsuit says the hidden-camera video footage of his comments – recorded at a hotel bar in 2015 and published under the headline “Teachers Union President Admits to Abusing Children” – did not accurately reflect what he said.

The lawsuit calls O’Keefe and Project Veritas “masters of propaganda” and demands that the organization destroy all videos taken of Wentz and remove the material from its website.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Project Veritas spokesman Stephen Gordon stood behind the group’s work.

“Our position is, we caught him on video saying things,” Gordon said in June. “Which one of Mr. Wentz’s statements that are recorded on video is he claiming he didn’t say?”

Wichita public schools superintendent will now make nearly $300,000

A pay raise approved for Wichita teachers means a pay raise for the district’s top administrator. Superintendent Alicia Thompson will make an additional $14,520 a year, bringing her base annual salary to $254,520. Her total financial package after Friday is $297,460 a year.

Candi Bolden/Wichita Eagle

Suzanne Perez Tobias: 316-268-6567, @suzannetobias