Transcript of Phil De Vellis as the center of CNN's Reliable Sources

What would you have said? I’ve bolded what I found interesting. Also note all the mentions of the new Jeff Jarvis site,

Also note how favorably the guests speak about Meet the Bloggers’ style approaches to learning about and questioning what our elected officials and candidates think and do. Nearly two years after MTB began. DINOSAURS all.

Here’s what they said:

[the host, Howard] KURTZ: Bloggers Jeff Jarvis and Mike Krempasky, how one man with a Mac can drown out a campaign’s message.

That’s next.


KURTZ: It was the weirdly compelling video that took the Internet by storm, mocking Hillary Clinton as the droning voice of a totalitarian establishment.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I hope you’ve learned a little bit more about what I believe in and am trying to do, and really helped this conversation about our country get started.

I hope to keep this conversation going — November 2008.


KURTZ: And the last frame says But Obama and his aides said they knew nothing about the attack ad posted on YouTube. And the mystery filmmaker turned out to be Phil de Vellis, who worked for the software firm that designed Obama’s Web site.

De Vellis confessed on “The Huffington Post” and was promptly fired from his job with the software company.

Joining us now in New York, veteran journalist and blogger Jeff Jarvis. His new Web site is called And here in Washington, Mike Krempasky, founder of

Jeff Jarvis, everyone initially said about this ad, hey, this is really cool. Some college kid made this great ad and everybody’s watching it. It got more than two million views online. But it turns that it’s a guy who worked for the Internet company hired by Barack Obama.

So was this basically political subterfuge?

JEFF JARVIS, BUZZMACHINE.COM: Yes, I think there is a little bit of maybe dirty trickness about it, not accusing the Obama campaign of that, but we have a political operative who was chicken and hid behind anonymity. Even the Swift Boaters, as obnoxious as they could be, did stand up by their words and were out there. And so they used the Internet to make a unique commercial.

I’ve argued though, Howie, that the problem with this is, that it accuses Hillary Clinton of being big brotherish, when it’s Obama who, in fact, is using this kind of empty rhetoric, and Hillary is actually using video online to talk about issues. So it backfires a bit, I think, on Obama.

KURTZ: What surprised me, Mike Krempasky, when I called the Obama campaign is they were absolutely adamant in saying they didn’t know about this, and I have no reason to doubt that that’s not true. But they certainly didn’t distance themselves from the ad. They kind of had it both ways.

MIKE KREMPASKY, REDSTATE.COM: Well, they did. And you would almost expect them to have to do that.

But I don’t necessarily think this is really a bad thing. I mean, look, if it’s getting people to, you know, have conversations about politics that weren’t having them before, fantastic. And I think the irony there is that it sort of pokes a lot of fun at Hillary’s conversation and listening tour, but in fact, you know, two million people saw it, and how many more people talked about it, whether it’s reading columns like yours or just having discussions with each other about politics?

KURTZ: And the anonymity doesn’t bother you at all? What about an ad that made false charges and we didn’t know who put it up?

KREMPASKY: Well, A, I think that anything in this new area of politics that is substantive, does that make specific factual claims, is going to come out a lot quicker than this one did. There’s just going to be more of a need for people to know. And in this case, look, the system did work.

Someone put up an anonymous video. It got a lot of attention. And all of the sudden, now we know who it was.

KURTZ: And on that point, Jeff Jarvis, the mystery filmmaker, Phil de Vellis, was unmasked, so to speak, by Arianna Huffington and her team at “The Huffington Post.” And then she persuades him to write a post confessing on her Web site.

How was it that she and her colleagues were able to beat all these traditional journalists?

JARVIS: Well, give Arianna a lot of credit because she just simply went out and asked the question.

I had reporters calling me saying, “Who do you think made this?” She dispatched 30 people to go out and find out. They got on the phone, they called who they know, they tracked down technical details of his e-mail.

The details did not come from YouTube, but from communication he had had, and they found him. Then Arianna called him up, and Arianna is — I have a problem that I think you raised with the anonymity here, but he told his story on “Huffington Post”. And you have to see that this is an example, I think, of network journalism, of journalism from the bottom up, but it works.

KURTZ: She not only nails the guy, but she says, by the way, darling, would you please give my Web site the exclusive?

In a larger sense, Mike Krempasky, have media organizations and the campaigns themselves just lost control of the dialogue to the YouTube culture? This is a powerful thing to be able to make an ad and two million people see it.

KREMPASKY: It’s true. And I think Jeff pointed this out earlier in the week.

Two million is a big number, but it’s not a big number when we’re talking about the kind of audience the campaigns are broadcasting through to, you know, just standard television buys (ph). They have lost a measure of control, but that’s actually pretty good.

You know, on one hand, we can’t complain that we spend a billion dollars on political ads and then do things that sort of discourage people from making amateur cost-free ads and generating conversation. I think they’re both OK and they’re both good, and the more speech the better.

KURTZ: Are we going to see more attack ads online, Jeff Jarvis, that are made by mystery people, and maybe in the future it won’t be so easy to find out who made them? And doesn’t that have at least the potential to kind of corrupt the discourse because of somebody hiding behind a screen name?

JARVIS: We’re certainly going to see more of these, Howie, but that doesn’t corrupt at all. This is an incredible new area to create discourse. That’s why I’m covering it in prezvid. And I’ve asked voters recently to put up their own questions for candidates and tag them on YouTube prez conference, with a “Z”.

This is an opportunity where anybody can stand — do your job and ask the candidate a question, and we can force the candidates to come back with answers. In the U.K., David Cameron, at his site, webcameron, is answering five questions a week from voters, three of which are voted up by the voters. Nicolas Sarkozy is doing this in France. [sounds like Meet the Bloggers]

Why can’t we ask our candidates here to ask — answer our questions? And YouTube allows that to happen.

Z: And because we anticipated you might bring this up, Jeff Jarvis, we have a clip from of somebody asking a question. In this case, of Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

Let’s take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My question is for Mike Huckabee.

You’re obviously a conservative. You’re from the sort of evangelical wing of the party. But you’ve taken some unconventional stances on a few issues that might make that conservative evangelical a little bit nervous. How are you going to calm their fears to kind of get them to coalesce behind you?


KURTZ: Jeff, who is this guy, and why would he think that Governor Huckabee is going to answer his question?

JARVIS: That’s a guy I actually saw at a conference. I primed the pump and made some videos. He’s a guy from the heartland of America who had a question.

We’ve had questions so far about global warming, a lot of questions about Internet policy, a very eloquent, long question about — about health care. It’s a question that I have, too.

You know, John McCain, actually, on his blog, on his site, asked voters to send questions in to him on YouTube. Unfortunately, it’s a little lonely. I didn’t find any. So I put up three questions for him, and then I had this idea of going out and asking more voters to put up their questions.

KURTZ: Well, nice of you to participate.

Let me get Mike Krempasky back in here.

Is this kind of whole thing, the dialogue, the ads, going to diminish the power of television advertising on — that the campaigns spend zillions on? Because, you know, not everybody is on YouTube.

KREMPASKY: One can only hope. I mean, really…

KURTZ: You think that would be a great thing?

KREMPASKY: I think it would be a fantastic thing.


KREMPASKY: I think that, you know, anything that gets more people involved at the grassroots level is a positive thing for politics, and, you know, if anything has changed, whether it’s blogs, social media, you know, Web video online, to make it less of the purview of the power of a few, then I think that’s great for politics.

KURTZ: It beats sitting on your couch and watching the tube.

Jeff Jarvis, Mike Krempasky, thanks very much for joining us.

4 thoughts on “Transcript of Phil De Vellis as the center of CNN's Reliable Sources

  1. I’m worried that’s she’s compromised it. :(I won’t say ‘sold’ because that’s irrevocable and so, so not worth the return on investment.

  2. I agree with pretty much all you’ve written. But I’m not a Hillary fan per se – I agree with what you say about her fortitude – few people would get through it as she has and still come out so on top and in public. But I’m still just not so sure about her soul…

  3. I caught some of that somewhere else….thanks for showing me some different pieces.I think the man is right. I will give him credit for that. Participatory government leads to better accountability. (and it’s cheaper, too!) :pI can see why the vid maker felt he needed to hide. I really doubt the campaign knew about it. But creative drive … when you have it, it’s powerful.The commercial itself? eh, so so. A lot of people talked about it (in that regard it was effective) It made it’s point in a 1984 kind of way if you know the parallels. Believe it or not – not everyone has read 1984.Choosing Hillary, or should I say, his seeing Hillary in that light doesn’t surprise me. I see her as part of the ‘machine’ as well. To the extent of the real 1984? Not really. I have a lot of respect for her. The times she lived through when it wasn’t easy to be taken seriously as a woman – whew – I have my own stories. It had to have been much worse for her. Her generation was a trailblazer for my generation. My hat’s off to her for the mess she must have had to put up with just to get along. JMHO. YMMV

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