White House, amid outcry, stands by its edited video
WASHINGTON — A day after revoking the press credentials of CNN’s chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, the White House stood by its decision as critics assailed it both for falsely accusing him of mistreating an intern at President Donald Trump’s news conference and for disseminating a doctored video of the incident.
Unedited video shows Acosta, who was attempting to question the president, gripping a microphone as a female intern tried to pry it away during the Wednesday event, and saying politely, “Excuse me, ma’am,” as he maneuvered to keep his hold. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later tweeted a shorter clip in which the speed was altered to make Acosta appear to chop hard at her arm.
Under fire for manufacturing a rationale to deny Acosta access to the White House complex, Sanders on Thursday refused to back down, even as the video she shared was reported to have come from the right-wing conspiracy website Infowars.com.
“The question is: Did the reporter make contact or not?” she said in a statement. “The video is clear, he did. We stand by our statement.”
In its original statement Wednesday night announcing the indefinite suspension of Acosta’s pass, the White House said it would “never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern.”
Reuters correspondent Jeff Mason contradicted the White House account. “I was seated next to @Acosta at today’s press conference and did not witness him ‘placing his hands’ on the young intern, as the White House alleges,” Mason wrote on Twitter. “He held on to the microphone as she reached for it.”
Critics said that video, which sped up the movement of Acosta’s arms in a way that dramatically changed the journalist’s response, was deceptively edited to score political points. That edited video was first shared by Paul Joseph Watson, known for his conspiracy theory videos on the far-right website Infowars.
Watson said he did not change the speed of the video and that claims he had altered it were a “brazen lie.” Watson told BuzzFeed he created the video by downloading an animated image from conservative news site Daily Wire, zooming in and saving it as a video — a conversion he says that could have made it “look a tiny bit different.”
A frame-by-frame breakdown by Storyful, a socialmedia intelligence firm that verifies media content, found that the edited video included repeated frames that did not appear in the original footage.
The repeated frames made Acosta’s arm movement look more exaggerated, said Shane Raymond, a journalist at Storyful.
Revoking a pass is rare, according to the White House Correspondents Association. It called on the White House to reverse a “weak and misguided action.”
President Trump gets into a heated exchange with CNN’s Jim Acosta, center.