White House ac­cused of doc­tor­ing video of CNN re­porter

Weekend Herald - - World - David Bauder and Calvin Wood­ward Photo / AP

A video dis­trib­uted by the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion to sup­port its ar­gu­ment for ban­ning CNN re­porter Jim Acosta from the White House ap­pears to have been doc­tored, ac­cord­ing to an in­de­pen­dent ex­pert.

White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders tweeted the video, which shows Acosta ask­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump a ques­tion on Thurs­day 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 Huck­abee 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 AP’s re­quest.

It ap­pears the video was doc­tored to make Acosta look more ag­gres­sive than he was dur­ing the ex­change.

Ear­lier, 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.

The tweeted video also does not have any au­dio, which Shapiro said would make it eas­ier to al­ter. It’s also un­likely the dif­fer­ences could be ex­plained by tech­ni­cal glitches or by video com­pres­sion — a re­duc­tion in a video’s size to en­able it to play more smoothly on some sites — be­cause the slow­ing of the video and the ac­cel­er­a­tion that fol­lowed are “too pre­cise to be an ac­ci­dent”, said Shapiro, who trains in­struc­tors to use video edit­ing soft­ware.

Huck­abee San­ders, who hasn’t said where the tweeted video came from, noted that it clearly shows Acosta made con­tact with the in­tern. In her state­ment an­nounc­ing Acosta’s sus­pen­sion, she said the White House won’t tol­er­ate “a re­porter plac­ing his hands on a young woman just try­ing to do her job”.

While the ori­gin of the ma­nip­u­lated video is un­clear, its dis­tri­bu­tion marked a new low for an Ad­min­is­tra­tion that has been crit­i­cised for its will­ing­ness to mis­lead.

The White House News Pho­tog­ra­phers As­so­ci­a­tion de­cried the shar­ing of the footage.

“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.”

CNN has la­belled Huck­abee San­ders’ char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of the ex­change with the in­tern as 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.

“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.

Sev­eral jour­nal­ists and or­gan­i­sa­tions — 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 ed­i­to­ri­alised in favour of restor­ing Acosta’s pass, say­ing it sig­nalled Trump’s view that ask­ing hard ques­tions dis­qual­i­fies re­porters from at­tend­ing brief­ings. The news­pa­per said that if Huck­abee San­ders was so of­fended by phys­i­cal con­tact, “what did she have to say when her boss praised as ‘my kind of guy’ Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Greg Gian­forte of Mon­tana, who was sen­tenced to anger man­age­ment classes and com­mu­nity ser­vice for body-slam­ming a Guardian re­porter last spring?”

CNN has been a fre­quent tar­get of the Pres­i­dent, who has char­ac­terised jour­nal­ists as en­e­mies of the peo­ple and who rou­tinely ac­cuses the main­stream me­dia of spread­ing “fake news”.

And Acosta has been one of the more vis­i­ble thorns in the side of the White House. Dur­ing their ver­bal al­ter­ca­tion on Thurs­day, Trump called Acosta a “ter­ri­ble per­son”. Still, it’s rare for the White House to pull the so-called hard passes from jour­nal­ists.

Don­ald Trump tells Jim Acosta (right) that “that’s enough” as the in­tern tries to take the mi­cro­phone from him.

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