The fellow on the other end of the phone call pronounced his name with hesitation. For nearly a fortnight, he and I had been building a long-distance rapport via private tweets, emails, and phone conversations as we discussed how best to make public the secret video he had shot of Mitt Romney talking at a private, $50,000-per-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida. Now I was almost ready to break the story at Mother Jones. I had verified the video, confirming when and where it had been shot, and my colleagues and I had selected eight clips—including Romney's now-infamous remarks about the 47 percent of Americans he characterized as "victims" unwilling to "take personal responsibility and care for their lives"—to embed in two articles. We had blurred these clips, at the source's request, to make it difficult to tell where Romney had uttered these revealing comments, while clearly showing that it was Romney speaking. The goal was to afford the source a modicum of protection.
The source was justifiably worried about repercussions. Once the video was posted, he might lose his job. He might face criminal prosecution or a civil lawsuit. Months earlier, he had anonymously posted a snippet from the video, in which Romney nonchalantly described the work-camp-like living conditions at a Chinese factory he had visited. The source, offended by these comments, had hoped that the short clip would catch fire in the political-media world. But it hadn't, partly because its context and origins were unknown. The source's desire to remain in the shadows had hindered his ability to bring the story to the public.
And Prouty was right (and remains right) on his healthy fear of the Right Wing Noise Machine. It's guaranteed now that they will try very hard to destroy him, his loved ones, and his entire life. It takes real courage to stand up to the evil and speak out into the night.
Then James Carter IV, a freelance researcher (and, though I didn't know it then, the grandson of Jimmy Carter) who had been sending me public documents regarding Romney's prior business investments, had, at my request, tracked the anonymous poster down. I subsequently persuaded him to send me the full video of the fundraiser and to allow me to release portions of it, under the strict condition that I'd do whatever was possible to keep his identity hidden. He did not want to become the story. He hoped the public would focus only on Romney's words. And through all this, he had not told me who he was, though he disclosed that he had worked at the fundraiser and insisted that he was no political partisan and had filmed Romney more out of curiosity than as part of a plan to trap the GOP candidate.
I respected his desire for privacy. He was about to commit a courageous and unprecedented act of whistle-blowing. But as we neared publication, I said I had to know his name. Do you really need it? he asked. Yes, I replied, explaining I could not publish the stories without knowing his identity. I vowed I would keep it a secret.
And to David Corn's real credit, he did. Scott Prouty told his story this evening on MSNBC's The Ed Show, with an hour;long interview with Ed Schultz. I wish the man luck, because he's going to need it. The Breitbart crew will go straight for him now, because that's what happens to people who stand up and do the right thing around America.