On Thursday, President Trump shared a video on Twitter of clips from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s press conference following their failed meeting.
“PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE” pic.twitter.com/1OyCyqRTuk
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 24, 2019
Coincidentally, or perhaps conveniently, The Washington Post published a story Thursday about videos of Pelosi going viral on social media that were manipulated to make her appear drunk.
Distorted videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), altered to make her sound as if she’s drunkenly slurring her words, are spreading rapidly across social media, highlighting how political disinformation that clouds public understanding can now spread at the speed of the Web.
The video of Pelosi’s onstage speech Wednesday at a Center for American Progress event, in which she said President Trump’s refusal to cooperate with congressional investigations was tantamount to a “coverup,” was subtly edited to make her voice sound garbled and warped. It was then circulated widely across Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
At some point, however, people started connecting the video Trump shared with the Washington Post article even though the video Trump posted was not mentioned in the article, nor was it edited to distort her speech. Nevertheless, Trump’s opponents jumped on the opportunity to accuse Trump of tweeting out a doctored video. CNN’s S.E. Cupp, an anti-Trump conservative, took to Twitter calling the video “doctored.”
This is doctored. Let this sink in: It makes our PRESIDENT feel GOOD to tweet a fake mashup of an opponent, because…he’s helplessly insecure. https://t.co/UaTcAyBul0
— S.E. Cupp (@secupp) May 24, 2019
Soon after this tweet, she accused Trump of disseminating “a fake video.”
Wondering when…if…any @gop will object to the PRESIDENT patently disseminating a fake video because she…hurt his feelings. 3..2..1…crickets?
— S.E. Cupp (@secupp) May 24, 2019
The New York Times ran a story Friday connecting the manipulated videos being shared on social media and the video Trump shared on Twitter, and The Hill described the video Trump shared as “edited to make it seem like [Nancy Pelosi] was stuttering” in the lede of a story about Hillary Clinton accusing Trump of spreading “sexist trash.” Reuters ran an article with the headline: “Trump retweets doctored video of Pelosi to portray her as having ‘lost it'” Trump was even asked about the altered videos before departing for Japan.
There’s just one problem. The video not manipulated. It is not doctored or altered or fake. Whatever word you want to use, it doesn’t matter. It wasn’t even deceptively edited. No matter what Trump’s opponents claim, one thing is undeniable: Nancy’s speech is not altered in the video. The video is a series of clips made into a montage—a common method for saving time. The video Trump shared is a clip from Lou Dobbs Tonight on Fox Business from the same day. Greg Jarrett (filling in for Lou Dobbs) aired the montage from her press conference and discussed it with his guest, former Reagan White House political director and Fox Business political analyst Ed Rollins.
You can watch the segment by clicking here and scrubbing over to 6:55 (cable subscription and login required) to see the portion of the segment that Trump tweeted.
Despite the fact that Trump did not share a video that deceptively altered Pelosi’s speech, social media was buzzing over this false narrative, from the left and Never Trump right:
Trump shared an altered video of Nancy Pelosi to spread the false notion that she speaks haltingly and incorrectly. First, really, Donald? And second, no one even needs to doctor a video to conclude that your mental faculties are deficient. They just need to watch you speak live.
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) May 24, 2019
So Trump just tweeted the fake Pelosi video. I never ever want to hear another fucking word about civility from Sarah Sanders or the media
— David Nir (@DavidNir) May 24, 2019
Trump’s retweet of a doctored video making it look like Pelosi is slurring her words is so far beneath contempt that words fail me. That his cheap trick might actually fool tens of millions of people is staggering. Nobody so lacking in character belongs in public office.
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) May 24, 2019
article makes NO MENTION of fact Trump tweeted out doctored video of Pelosi. how do newsrooms become this broken? https://t.co/3TphzN2k5C
— Eric Boehlert (@EricBoehlert) May 24, 2019
If one thinks that sharing the clip of Nancy’s stammering wasn’t presidential then that’s a separate argument to make. But accusing Trump of disseminating a doctored/manipulated/fake video is just the latest bogus accusation the media has run with in order to fit their anti-Trump narrative.
UPDATE: MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace doubled down on the falsehood that Trump shared a doctored video of Pelosi that was slowed down to alter her speech on her show Friday. Wallace attempted to demonstrate to her audience what Trump supposedly did. “…We’re going to do something different here to make sure you understand just how low the president has stooped in his efforts to smear the Speaker of the House,” Wallace said. “A slowed down video, like the one he tweeted of Pelosi, has the effect of making anyone look like they are having a hard time speaking,” Wallace added, before airing an altered video of a previous broadcast of herself to demonstrate how slowing it down made her look like she was having trouble speaking.
“We believe that transparency is the best disinfectant for dirty politics,” Wallace said. Oh, really? Apparently, transparency to Wallace means not telling her viewers that the video Trump posted was not slowed down or altered. It was a montage of unaltered video clips.
Matt Margolis is the author of The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the bestselling The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. His new book, Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy, will be published in July 2019. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis