White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted the video, which shows Acosta asking a question to U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday as the intern tries to take his microphone away. But a frame-by-frame comparison with an Associated Press video of the same incident shows that the one tweeted by Sanders appears to have been altered to speed up Acosta's arm movement as he touches the intern's arm, according to Abba Shapiro, an independent video producer who examined the footage at the AP's request.
White House shares doctored video to support punishment of journalist Jim Acosta
Shapiro noticed that frames in the tweeted video were frozen to slow down the action, allowing it to run the same length as the AP one.
During the White House news conference, Acosta and Trump sparred over a question of whether Trump had “demonized immigrants” by calling a caravan of Central American migrants “an invasion.” Following a lengthy back-and-forth, a White House intern tried to take the microphone from Acosta, who held onto it. “Pardon me, ma’am,” Acosta said in the original video, though the audio was stripped from the edited version.
The alteration is "too precise to be an accident," said Shapiro, who trains instructors to use the software. The tweeted video also does not have any audio, which Shapiro said would make it easier to alter.
Sanders, who has not said where the tweeted video came from, said it clearly shows Acosta made contact with the intern.
Watson said he did not change the speed of the video and that claims he had altered it were a “brazen lie.” But side-by-side comparisons support claims from fact-checkers and experts such as Jonathan Albright, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, who argued that crucial parts of the video appear to have been speeded up or altered so as to distort the action.
While the origin of the manipulated video is unclear, its distribution marked a new low for an administration that has been criticized for its willingness to mislead.
"As visual journalists, we know that manipulating images is manipulating truth," said Whitney Shefte, the association's president. "It's deceptive, dangerous and unethical. Knowingly sharing manipulated images is equally problematic, particularly when the person sharing them is a representative of our country's highest office with vast influence over public opinion."
"The irony of this White House video involving Jim Acosta is that if it is found to be doctored, it will show the administration to be doing what it accuses the news media of doing — engaging in fake information," said Aly Colon, a professor in journalism ethics at Washington & Lee University.
CNN has labelled Sanders' characterization of Acosta's exchange with the intern a lie. Its position has been supported by witnesses including Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason, who was next to Acosta during the news conference and tweeted that he did not see Acosta place his hands on the White House employee. Rather, he said he saw him holding on to the microphone as she reached for it.
Several journalists and organizations — including the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media Editors and the Online News Association — demanded Acosta's press pass be reinstated.
"It is the essential function of a free press in every democracy to independently gather and report information in the public interest, a right that is enshrined in the First Amendment," said Julie Pace, AP's Washington bureau chief. "We strongly reject the idea that any administration would block a journalist's access to the White House."
The New York Times editorialized in favour of restoring Acosta's pass, saying it signaled Trump's view that asking hard questions disqualifies reporters from attending briefings. The newspaper said that if Sanders was so offended by physical contact, "what did she have to say when her boss praised as 'my kind of guy' Rep. Greg Gianforte of Montana, who was sentenced to anger management classes and community service for body-slamming a Guardian reporter last spring?"
It's unusual for the White House to pull the so-called hard passes from journalists. During Lyndon Johnson's presidency, the Secret Service denied clearance to Robert Sherrill, a reporter for The Nation who had gotten into physical fights with government officials. During the George W. Bush presidency, Trude Feldman, who worked for various news outlets, was suspended for 90 days after security cameras recorded her looking through a press aide's desk late one night. In the 1970s, President Nixon tried to get Washington Post reporters banned from the White House.
The ad is the loudest in a series of racist dog whistles by the president in the closing weeks of the midterm election cycle. Last month, Trump explained that his campaign talking points would focus on Kavanaugh; the caravan; law and order; and common sense. But as Republican odds of holding onto the House have slipped, the president refined his message to focus on the most xenophobic elements animating the conservative base. In recent days, he ordered thousands of troops to defend the southern border, provoking accusations that he is using the U.S. military as a political prop. (Increasing troops for a nonexistent crisis is a racist ploy and an irresponsible waste of resources, Shaw Drake, policy counsel for the A.C.L.U., told The Guardian.) On Tuesday, Axios published an interview in which Trump discussed repealing birthright citizenship, a right enshrined in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which legal experts say would be impossible. The following day, pouring conspiratorial accelerant on the fire, he told reporters he wouldnt be surprised if billionaire George Soros—a Jewish philanthropist who is an obsession of anti-Semites and was recently the target of a mail-bomb plot—was secretly funding the caravan. Throughout, his Twitter feed has remained a reliable dumping ground for random musings about the very bad thugs and gang members, as well as the criminals and unknown Middle Easterners, he claims are interspersed throughout the caravan.)
Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary under George W. Bush, said on Fox News Channel Thursday that it appeared Acosta had made incidental contact with the intern and that it didn't appear to be a justifiable reason to pull his pass.
Despite losing his White House pass, Acosta is expected to travel to Paris this weekend to cover Trump's trip to meet with world leaders.
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Video used by White House officials to justify revoking the credentials of a CNN reporter was altered before it was shared with the public, an analysis of the video by social media verification service Storyful reveals.
Reporter Jim Acostas press pass was suspended Wednesday following a heated confrontation between him and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Trump cut Acosta off as he was asking a question, and a female White House aide made an unsuccessful attempt to take a microphone out of Acostas hands.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders later released a statement accusing Acosta of placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern – an accusation Acosta described as a lie and a CNN spokesperson later described as fraudulent.
Sanders tweeted a video of the incident to back up her claim. However, an analysis of the video by Storyful found that Sanders video had been altered from the original footage.
In reaching this conclusion, Storyful compared the video Sanders tweeted to original footage from U.S. political broadcaster C-SPAN.
According to Storyful, the two videos were broken down frame-by-frame. They do not match up exactly because of differences in video format, but appear to be consistent through the first 12 frames.
"These frames do not appear in the original C-SPAN footage, and appear to exaggerate the action of Acosta," Storyfuls analysis said.
The two videos are out of sync from that point on, with events occurring in the C-SPAN video shortly before they do in the other video.
"The video shared by Sanders appeared under an hour after the same video, with the same close-up, was posted by Infowars.com contributor Paul Joseph Watson," the analysis said.
As President Donald Trump points to CNNs Jim Acosta, a White House aide takes the microphone from him during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)