The White House is being slammed by press photographer associations for its use of a “clearly manipulated” video of a press conference exchange this past Wednesday.
During President Donald Trump’s first press conference following Tuesday’s midterm elections, CNN journalist Jim Acosta engaged in a heated exchange with Trump. When a White House intern approached to grab the mic from Acosta, the reporter refused to give it up and pushed her arm down as they both held the mic.
Following the press conference, the White House decided to revoke Acosta’s hard pass, which gives him access to White House grounds. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders then Tweeted out a video focusing on Acosta’s arm push as “inappropriate behavior” that was clearly documented on camera.
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
This Tweeted video has since become a story in itself.
People noticed that the video had a strange look to it, and there were immediately claims that it was somehow doctored.
An independent expert who examined the clip for the Associated Press concluded that it “appears to have been altered to speed up Acosta’s arm movement as he touches the intern’s arm.”
Slate analyzed the clip and found “three duplicate frames between the moment the White House intern made contact with the microphone in Acosta’s hand and his arm moving down.”
BuzzFeed News investigated the controversy and found that the video was originally posted by Infowars editor Paul Joseph Watson:
Sarah Sanders claims Jim Acosta ‘placed his hands on a woman’.
Jim Acosta says this is a “lie”.
Here’s the video.
You be the judge. pic.twitter.com/rhkyDD9H8t
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) November 8, 2018
Watson denies intentionally doctoring the video in any way, saying he simply converted a clip he found online.
“Fact is, Daily Wire put up a gif, I download a gif, zoomed in saved it again as an mt2 file – then converted it to an mp4,” Watson tells BuzzFeed. “Digitally it’s gonna look a tiny bit different after processing and zooming in, but I did not in any way deliberately ‘speed up’ or ‘distort’ the video. That’s just horse s**t.”
If Watson is to be believed, then the differences between the Tweeted clip and the original source video may have been inadvertently introduced during file conversions and not intentionally introduced.
“It’s all confusing,” BuzzFeed writes. “There’s even an example in which all parties are mostly correct. Watson’s clip is different than the CSPAN clip because it was taken from a GIF and thus missing frames, which could cause Acosta’s movement to appear faster than it actually was. In that case, one can argue that the video was altered.
“If that’s the case, there’s also an argument that Watson is telling the truth — he didn’t personally speed up the video; he just used a clip that was missing frames.”
“Is it possible compression and format changes explain the difference between the clips? It is, and some have argued that is likely what happened,” Slate writes. “I remain skeptical. But as of yet, there is no real evidence anyone altered the video intentionally.”
Regardless of how the differences were introduced, and whether intentional or unintentional, journalists are slamming the White House for sharing the clip it did.
“The White House News Photographers Association is appalled to learn that the White House spokesperson may have shared a manipulated video of CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s interaction with a White House intern during a news conference,” the WHNPA writes. “As visual journalists, we know that manipulating images is manipulating truth. 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 NPPA condemns, in no uncertain terms, the White House’s distribution of a clearly manipulated video of the press conference exchange involving CNN correspondent Jim Acosta,” the National Press Photographers Association writes. “An administration that continually attacks the freedom of the press and labels their work ‘fake news’ cannot be allowed to flout the fundamental tenets of the First Amendment and the professional ethical standards for which the NPPA stands.
“Any journalist caught manipulating a video in such a manner (or disseminating one created by someone else) would likely be terminated from employment.
“While we can appreciate that the press office’s role is to provide information from the administration’s point of view, this was misinformation intended to deceive the public and further erode trust and respect in the Fourth Estate.”