When she landed a contract position at Facebook, Cassandra Spencer thought her life was finally coming together. It was her dream job, until one day, she started to notice odd notes on the accounts of prominent conservatives on the platform. Knowing that people deserved to learn the truth, she entrusted the evidence to Project Veritas and was promptly fired from Facebook.
Almost overnight, she found herself in poverty, unemployable, and everything she cared about, including her daughter, was taken away from her. Her new book, Impact, is not a Project Veritas tell-all. The book is a story of a single mother who, unwilling to give up on life, became an undercover journalist who exposed companies like Facebook and Google, as well as politicians like Beto O’Rourke and Bernie Sanders, all while continuing to fight a family court system stacked against her.
Drew Appelbaum: Hey Listeners, my name is Drew Applebaum and I’m excited to be here today with Cassandra Spencer, author of Impact: How I Went behind Enemy Lines in Our Struggle against the Far Left. Cassandra, thank you for joining, welcome to The Author Hour Podcast.
Cassandra Spencer: Thanks for having me, Drew.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, Cassandra, why was now the time to share these stories in the book? Was there a big “aha moment,” were you inspired by another book, or is it something as simple as you had a lot of time on your hands because of COVID?
Cassandra Spencer: I would say, part of it was because I did have a lot of time because of COVID, that was a large part of it of course, but an “aha moment” was that my identity was actually leaked to the media. I used to be an undercover journalist and once my identity got leaked to the media, I decided that it was really time for me to push and to tell my story rather than let other people tell my story for me.
Drew Appelbaum: A lot of authors, even in memoirs, they’ll have the idea of what the book is going to sound like in their head and they might even outline it, but during the writing process and by digging deeper into some of the subjects you talk about, you come through some major breakthroughs and learnings.
Did you have any of these along your writing journey?
Cassandra Spencer: I did, I really did because the book actually started as me journaling when I was working undercover and through the whole whistle-blowing process. When I decided that I was going to write a book and that I did want to publish it, I looked back on some of those experiences and then through the lens of seeing it, sometimes, whether it be several months or even a year or closer to two years later, I could see and gain new perspectives on things that I hadn’t seen when I was going through it at the time.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, in your mind, while you were writing this book, who were you writing this book for? A lot of memoirs are sometimes for themselves, sometimes it’s for future generations.
Cassandra Spencer: The person who I had in mind when I was writing this book was my daughter. That was the reason that I started journaling in the first place. I do talk a lot in the book about the situation of my daughter. I have not been able to see her the past several years and so when eventually she reaches out to me when she’s an adult, I wanted her to know what her mother did with her life, what kind of person I was, and to combat some of the things that she had perhaps been told by my father.
Drew Appelbaum: Let’s dive right into the book and we’ll start from the beginning. Just give us an overview–what was childhood like for you?
Cassandra Spencer: My childhood, I realize in retrospect, was rather unique. I grew up in a pretty wealthy family in Honolulu. My parents were what I would describe as society people. My father was a personal injury attorney in the late 80s and early 90s and we lived that life of excess and the yuppie dream at the time.
I went to a fancy private school in Hawaii growing up, it was actually the same school ironically as Barack Obama. He and I went to the same school, not at the same time obviously. Yeah, his fifth-grade teacher was my fourth-grade teacher. So, I had always grown up amongst people who thought differently than me because, as you know, Hawaii is a very left-leaning, liberal state.
I think that gave me a very unique perspective, being somebody who was more right of center, moderate, conservative, whatever you want to call it, and that was kind of what my childhood was like.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, even in the early days and throughout high school, it seems like you had a real history, like you said, of being defiant. Why do you think that was? Was it because of Hawaii, because of who you are? Myself, I have problems with authority figures in general.
Cassandra Spencer: That was one of those things when I looked back–you talked about lessons learned when I was going through the writing process–I looked back on some of these things I did as a child. I think one of the first stories that always stands out in my mind to me is when I refused to do cafeteria duty. In Hawaii, they have kids working in the cafeteria. I never ate the cafeteria food, I derived no benefit from the cafeteria, and so I said that I should not have to work there. I ended up causing a revolt amongst the other fifth graders, and I was called to the principal’s office. My parents got called in and I explained my arguments very clearly of why I didn’t think I needed to.
My father at the time was an attorney, so I explained to him my arguments, I made my case and he looked at the principal and he said, “You know, my daughters got a point, I don’t really see why she needs to be working in the cafeteria, that’s not why she’s at school.”
I think that knowing that I always felt the need to speak up if I thought something was wrong, even if the person above me was an authority figure, it’s something that continued throughout my life. Then it eventually led to the whistle-blower thing which is the big event that the book revolves around.
Drew Appelbaum: I love the story even that you’re a frequent contributor to the Maui News in the letters to the editor section, and criticizing a local judge, that’s how far it went. Now, when you were at Facebook, you saw things on specific accounts that raised a red flag for you. What exactly did you see that was so alarming that you wanted to contact Project Veritas?
Cassandra Spencer: Well, it wasn’t even something that was alarming necessarily at first. I worked as an intellectual property analyst and so, I worked in a field that really, in my mind, was never going to be something that was particularly controversial. Most of the time, I would deal with things like somebody’s illegally streaming a sports match, or uploading Game of Thrones episodes, things of that nature.
Every once in a while, I would get a ticket from somebody who is political in nature. One time, I got a note from a conservative page where I had recognized the name, and I saw in the note section–where the copyright claims would go and other account notes for example if they had community guidelines violation or what have you–it had this weird note that said, “IA, reduce live distribution,” something along those lines.
Of course, I’m not a programmer, but I can read English and if it says reduce live distribution, I thought “That’s kind of weird.” It was a note that I could see was not sent to the user. This was something that was done completely on the backend without the user’s knowledge.
Then, I just kept seeing it, every time I seemed to get a conservative political figure and I would get a copyright ticket, I kept seeing these notes on the accounts, fairly consistently. I saw it on Steven Crowder’s page, I saw it on the Daily Caller’s page, and I would get tickets from liberal organizations and figures as well and I never saw that note on their accounts.
After a while, this is clearly a pattern, and this is over the course of months where I’m observing this. Finally, it became a decision point where I had to decide, “Am I going to say anything about this, am I going to do anything about this, or am I just going to keep my mouth shut, keep my head down, and do my job?”
When I saw that tweet from James O’Keefe, to me, that was almost like a sign and I realized, “You know what? You should say something about this,” and so I reached out.
Drew Appelbaum: You got into contact with them and they asked you to start bringing them back information, even as much as the video about what’s going on in the office. When this is happening, you, inside, probably were saying, “Well, Facebook is doing something wrong, and I want to show that they’re doing something wrong.”
But also, you have friends and co-workers, and so were you torn about doing the right thing to expose your employer, but also, you’d be spying on friends as well?
Cassandra Spencer: I don’t think that was so much of an issue because it wasn’t my co-workers who were the ones who were doing these actions on the accounts. We worked out of a Facebook facility in Austin, Texas. I could see, because it would even say who the engineers were, who took the actions on these accounts, I could see that they were based in the Menlo Park Campus.
I don’t think there was too much of that, because my friends, my co-workers, weren’t the ones doing this, and they were also handling copyright claims. Either they didn’t notice these notes on the accounts, or they more than likely just didn’t care, which is fine. I think for me, that wasn’t so much of the issue, I think it was more being torn on knowing that if I expose this, obviously it’s a tech company, as careful as I can think that I’m being while I’m kind of gathering this information, I know that there is an extremely high probability of me losing my job. Which of course did end up happening.
Drew Appelbaum: Right, as you dug in, what did you find out that those messages meant?
Cassandra Spencer: Eventually, I would then go and started researching it because they had internal wikis and things like that. I found more and more documents outlining plans to enact these censorship plans and it seemed to always be targeted at the right side of the aisle.
Mind you, I worked at Facebook as a contractor from 2017 to 2018. Back then, they were a lot more subtle about the censorship stuff. That was another reason I decided to write the book and publish it now, they’ve become so brazen about it, where back then, they were at least trying to hide it. These days it’s rampant.
I think that it was one of those things where I had to do it because if not–I’m the person who’s there, I have access to the information, I know what I’m seeing. And if not you, then who?
Was it Worth It?
Drew Appelbaum: Now, you end up getting let go from Facebook in a sort of interesting conflict but I will save those details for the book, and eventually, your dad asks you, “Was it worth it?” I have to ask you the same question. In the end, was it worth it for you?
Cassandra Spencer: Absolutely. That was my answer after I was escorted out of the building following my two-hour-long interrogation, that was my response then, and that’s still my response today because it was the right thing to do. At the end of the day, what they were doing was wrong. It was something they were doing behind the scenes. They weren’t telling users what they were doing, I knew it was wrong in my gut, and I would still do it again today if I could go back and make the same decision.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, after this, some time passes, some other things happen in your life, and during this period, your daughter is spending time with your father in Virginia, and a bit with her father elsewhere. You were really excited that you were about to be reunited with your daughter but literally just days before, you find out that custody has been contested and ultimately, custody goes to your father.
I want to know, you talked about it in the book but how does something like this happen without you getting a warning that things are being contested in court?
Cassandra Spencer: That’s one of the things that to this day, I still can’t answer. It wasn’t even that I found out days before that she was not going to be coming home. I was literally sitting at my house waiting for her father to drop her off after her summer visitation. I had been trying to call them all day. I ended up being freaked out and having to call the police because I didn’t know what was going on, and I still don’t know how that was even a legal thing.
That is something that was another inspiration for writing this book is because this child, my daughter, has two parents, me and her father. We’re both able-bodied, we’re both fit parents, neither one of us has any kind of weird criminal history or drug abuse or abuse or neglect, anything like that in our backgrounds, and yet, she’s living with my father, who arguably has some very questionable views and questionable parenting practices to put it mildly. It’s a great question that I still cannot answer.
Drew Appelbaum: When all this is happening, you are trying to get your life back together and you end up working with Project Veritas on a few more projects. What happened after the first time that said that you would go back and do more of this kind of work? Did you feel like exposing the big company was worth it? Did you feel like you had a place where you belonged, or did you find you wanted to just find people doing things that needed to get exposed? What was the passion to go back after that first undercover investigation?
Cassandra Spencer: After that first undercover investigation, I had every intention of leaving that behind because I wanted to focus on my daughter, right? I was going to become a dance teacher, a very different career path, but after that whole incident happened where I realized my daughter was not going to be coming home, I decided that I wanted to do something worthwhile with the time that she and I were apart.
I knew that the work that Project Veritas did was very demanding. Obviously, I know that being an undercover journalist would require extensive travel and that’s not a job that’s family-friendly.
When my daughter was taken from me, I decided that I wanted to do something that when she became an adult and came to me later, hopefully, she would be proud of the work that I did. That I really did something to make a difference in the world, and so I think it was a lot of different factors. I’m sure part of it was I wanted to be part of something because, you know, I was lost during that time. I didn’t know what to do because I thought that I had my next steps planned out but those kind of got shattered.
Drew Appelbaum: You ended up going undercover at not just democratic events but for democratic candidates, and were they an enemy at the time? Were they singled-out or was it something where Project Veritas put people in many political campaigns?
Cassandra Spencer: There are people in many political campaigns and they have done things even in republican campaigns. James usually puts it that he likes to go after, the sacred cows, the people who the media doesn’t want to investigate for whatever reason. I think a good example of that is Beto O’Rourke. At the time, he was kind of the golden boy of the media. You know, he’s on Ellen, he’s everywhere. Everyone loves Beto, and so I went undercover into his campaign to see if anything weird was going on.
Once again, it was something where I didn’t know what was going to happen until literally, I’m at the office one night, and then at 9:00 at night, something goes down, and I end up on this bizarre adventure with the Beto staffers until one or two in the morning. They’re talking about how it had to do with campaign finance stuff and illegal immigrants, and it was something where they were literally talking about how if the wrong person “found out about this” about how much trouble they could get in and how much trouble the campaign could get in. It was another surreal moment where I’m thinking, “Gosh, how did I almost stumble into this?”
Drew Appelbaum: Now, let’s fast-forward. Where are you at in your life now?
Cassandra Spencer: I briefly talk about this at the end of the book, my identity was leaked to the press. I left Project Veritas at the beginning of 2020, and my identity had never been compromised up until that point. Then in the summer, all of a sudden, I start getting calls from reporters and I start seeing hit pieces come out about me, making all sorts of pretty wild accusations about me and what I believe.
At that point, I realized that going back to living a normal life was probably not going to happen. Working a quiet job in Austin, it just seemed like that was not in the cards for me, especially during COVID. I realized that everything is crazy right now and as the big tech stuff especially ramped up and got more and more prevalent, I decided, “You have a lot of experience dealing with this stuff. You helped tell other whistle-blower stories in addition to your own, and this is what it seems like you’re meant to do with your life, at least for now.”
Drew Appelbaum: Well, it is really great that you found your path and your calling, and some people never find that. But what led you to get here, there was a lot of tragedy along the way. If you had to choose a different path for your life, would you?
Cassandra Spencer: I don’t know that, the only thing that I would change is the stuff with my daughter. If I could give up everything that I’ve done in exchange for having my daughter back and then just going to being a dance teacher in Austin, Texas, I would do that in a heartbeat without a doubt. As far as the other tragedies that happened in my life, I would gladly go through the media stuff, I would go through being thrust into poverty multiple times, having to start my life over, I would do all of that again because I have–I refer to it as a justice complex that I felt like what I was doing, it was so important to help expose the truth and to try to make the world a better place that I don’t mind falling on my sword for that.
Drew Appelbaum: Well Cassandra, we just touched on the surface of the book here but I want to say that writing a memoir like this, where you go into some pretty tough details about your life and you tell your whole story, it’s no small feat. I want to say congratulations on getting this book done and having this book published.
Cassandra Spencer: Thank you so much. Yeah, I decided that if one of my motivations was to tell my story rather than have somebody else tell it for me, then I needed to be as authentic as possible and that means showing the ugly parts of my life and the parts that are embarrassing–not just showing all the great things I’ve done, but all the times where I really screwed up.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, I do have one question left. It’s the hot seat question. If readers could take away only one thing from the book, what would you want it to be?
Cassandra Spencer: If they can take away only one thing from the book it would be that it’s never easy to do the right thing but it will always be worth it. You will reach points in your life whether you work at a big tech company, whether you are a teacher, whether you’re a cop, you’re always going to have decision points where you have an option to do the right thing or the easy thing, and even though the right thing may not be convenient, it may cause hardship, it will 100% be worth it in the end.
Drew Appelbaum: This has been a pleasure and I’m really excited for people to check out the book. Everyone, the book is called Impact and you can find it on Amazon. Cassandra, besides checking out the book, where can people connect with you?
Cassandra Spencer: You can connect with me on social media. I’ve actually been on TikTok quite a bit lately, oddly enough, Cassandra Spencer TX on TikTok and then that’s my Instagram handle as well.
Drew Appelbaum: Cassandra, thank you so much for coming on the show today, and best of luck with your new book.
Cassandra Spencer: Thank you, Drew.
Raising Gritty Kids: Kara Yokley and Constance Yokley