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Press Secretary Sarah Sanders on Tuesday seems to have posted a possibly doctored video to justify the White House’s decision to suspend the press credentials of CNN reporter Jim Acosta, who sparred with the president and a White House aide at yesterday’s news conference. The suspicious clip originated via a reporter from conspiracy theory-pushing website InfoWars.
“We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video,” Sanders wrote on Twitter. It shows Acosta harshly tugging away the microphone.
We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video. pic.twitter.com/T8X1Ng912y— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) November 8, 2018
The video comes after Sanders went on a Twitter thread detailing why the White House was revoking Acosta’s press pass, who has been a frequent target of criticism from President Donald Trump prior to yesterday’s interaction. “This conduct is absolutely unacceptable,” she wrote.
This conduct is absolutely unacceptable. It is also completely disrespectful to the reporter’s colleagues not to allow them an opportunity to ask a question. President Trump has given the press more access than any President in history.— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) November 8, 2018
As a result of today’s incident, the White House is suspending the hard pass of the reporter involved until further notice.— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) November 8, 2018
Sanders’ video justification of Acosta’s behavior originated with Paul Joseph Watson, a figurehead in the far-right who works for InfoWars.
"He never once touched her."— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) November 8, 2018
That is a complete lie. He clearly did.
Is whatever you're paid by CNN really worth making a total fool out of yourself for the world to see? pic.twitter.com/vgDynDQWJf
In an email to the Daily Dot, Watson denied that he’d doctored the video in any way.
However, a claim that the video was sped up and doctored went viral. The original tweet, from Jews for Racial and Economic Justice board member Rafael Shimunov, says the White House itself doctored it. In his thread, he’s retracted the claim and said that Sanders merely shared InfoWars’ doctored version. “Sped up to make Jim Acosta’s motion look like a chop,” Shimunov wrote. “I’ve edited video for 15+ years.”
1) Took @PressSec Sarah Sanders' video of briefing— Rafael Shimunov is at #FacingRace (@rafaelshimunov) November 8, 2018
2) Tinted red and made transparent over CSPAN video
3) Red motion is when they doctored video speed
4) Sped up to make Jim Acosta's motion look like a chop
5) I've edited video for 15+ years
6) The White House doctored it pic.twitter.com/q6arkYSx0V
The response to Sanders, who constantly echoes the president’s “fake news” claims, apparently using an inaccurate video to ban a member of the press led to her tweet being heavily criticized.
Can a doctored video be the beginning of the end for you lying despots? We can only pray that’s the case.— Sparky (@sparkman52) November 8, 2018
Your willingness to to down any avenue to deceive is stunning.
Sarah, congratulations on being named the most dishonest Press Secretary in history.— Joe F. (@Snicky01) November 8, 2018
This is shameful. This video is edited and @TwitterSupport should suspend this account and remove the video.— Aliceann Grusin (@Aagrusin) November 8, 2018
In response to the claims that he doctored the video, Watson told the Daily Dot that he did not adjust it in any way, and pointed to a defense of his video on Twitter.
OK, I have been looking at this all morning - here's C-Span vs. the InfoWars clip from @PrisonPlanet that the White House tweeted. Any changes, if they did make them, would be incredibly minor - and possibly due to working across framerates and compressions pic.twitter.com/4FasYDZv4a— Paul Joseph Watson is far-right (@imbadatlife) November 8, 2018
That doesn't mean there aren't some odd moments in the video - at one point, the woman's hand in the foreground reaches her head 2-3 frames earlier in the C-Span than in the InfoWars version. It may, again, be due to framerate or compression issues. pic.twitter.com/6UySN6pnKf— Paul Joseph Watson is far-right (@imbadatlife) November 8, 2018
Saying the White House posted a doctored video is a leap that I don't think (with maybe 75%-80% confidence) stacks up pic.twitter.com/5DLhqIrNd3— Paul Joseph Watson is far-right (@imbadatlife) November 8, 2018
It’s also possible that any discrepancies pointed out on Twitter come from comparing Watson’s video using the C-SPAN to the NBC version, which went viral yesterday. The Daily Dot’s art director reviewed the film and agrees that Sanders posted InfoWars’ posted videos.
Here are all three versions, compiled by the Daily Dot.
Top version is C-SPAN, middle is Prison Planet, bottom is NBC. none of them quite line up, but strangest to me is that the NBC version has so much drift. pic.twitter.com/ONDOo8zdA9— Challenger (@bakedinapie) November 8, 2018
Sanders did not respond to a request for comment from the Daily Dot.
David Covucci is the Layer 8 editor at the Daily Dot, covering the intersection of politics and the web. His work has appeared in Vice, the Huffington Post, Jezebel, Gothamist, and other publications. He is particularly interested in hearing any tips you have. Reach out at [email protected]