Have you noticed lately that the media has been quick to accuse President Trump of disseminating “doctored” photos or videos? As I’ve noted in earlier reporting, to “doctor” something is to falsify or alter something with the goal of deception. In other words, the media has accused Trump of tweeting out faked photos and videos in order to lie to the American people about something that occurred.
What comes to your mind when you think of a video being doctored? Perhaps audio being added, removed, or altered to make the video appear to show something that didn’t happen? A timestamp being changed so something appears to have happened when it didn’t? What about a doctored photo? There must be countless ways to doctor a photo in order to falsify an event.
There have been five recent incidents where President Trump (or The White House) has tweeted a photo or a video and been accused of sharing something that is “doctored” or “fake” as though they were trying to deceive the public about something that happened or didn’t happen.
The media knows what the word “doctored” implies, and yet has repeatedly used the word to create the narrative that Trump is a liar, and a bad one at that. But, none of the below examples involves the intent to deceive. Not a single one. In each case, the modifications to the original video or image are blatantly obvious and typically done to highlight something that was said or done to illustrate a point.
Last year, CNN’s Jim Acosta inappropriately prevented a White House intern from taking the microphone he was using after President Trump said he was done answering his questions. When Paul Joseph Watson of Infowars tweeted out a video of the encounter, the then press secretary tweeted the Infowars video, which many claimed was doctored.
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
— Stephanie Grisham (@PressSec) November 8, 2018
Except it wasn’t.
Even Buzzfeed admitted, “There’s no evidence that the video was deliberately sped up — but the change in format, from a high-quality video to a low-quality GIF, turns the question of whether it was ‘doctored’ into a semantic debate.”
Nevertheless, Trump haters latched on to the belief that the White House deliberately shared a “doctored” video in order to justify suspending Acosta’s White House media credentials.
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
— Luke Bailey (@imbadatlife) November 8, 2018
Who can forget when Trump tweeted the following hilarious video back in April?
WELCOME BACK JOE! pic.twitter.com/b2NbBSX3sx
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 4, 2019
While anyone with a sense of humor could be amused by it, the media was not, and like clockwork, rushed to call it a “doctored” video, as if Trump was trying to say that Biden was fondled by a clone of himself or something.
The leader of the free world tweeted a doctored video of Joe Biden fondling himself https://t.co/tuLAE0IC3S
— New York Magazine (@NYMag) April 5, 2019
President Trump posts doctored video mocking Joe Biden's controversial behavior toward women https://t.co/NpwMBkMcDQ
— TIME (@TIME) April 5, 2019
"I see that you are on the job and presidential, as always." Former VP Joe Biden responded to a doctored video posted by President Trump mocking Biden's physical interactions in light of allegations that his behavior has made women feel uncomfortable https://t.co/So74PiXlM3 pic.twitter.com/FwVlms63Js
— CNN (@CNN) April 5, 2019
Trump mocked Joe Biden by tweeting a doctored video of the former vice president creeping up on himself and grabbing his shouldershttps://t.co/pjYgQP4DdU
— POLITICO (@politico) April 4, 2019
Was there any attempt at deception here? Nope. Yet, there they went accusing Trump of doctoring a video.
When Nancy Pelosi stuttered her way through a press conference following a failed meeting with Trump, a compilation was compiled and shown on Lou Dobbs Tonight on Fox Business.
“PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE” pic.twitter.com/1OyCyqRTuk
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 24, 2019
Around the same time, other videos of Pelosi started going viral on social media, that Trump did not tweet, that did alter Pelosi’s speech to make her sound drunk. Naturally, people started conflating the separate incidents, and suddenly, Trump was accused of tweeting a doctored video—which he didn’t. The video he tweeted was not manipulated/doctored/altered/fake. Nancy’s speech was not altered in the video Trump tweeted. The video is a series of clips compiled into a montage—a common method for saving time.
The New York Times ran a story connecting the manipulated videos being shared on social media and the video Trump shared on Twitter. 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—all because he tweeted a montage. Pelosi’s stuttering was very real, and each cut between stutters featured a wipe transition, making it obvious it was a montage.
Sharpiegate wasn’t all that long ago, so most people will remember how the media desperately piled on to the idea that Trump had incorrectly modified a map to show that Alabama could be hit by Hurricane Dorian. The media was so invested in the idea that Trump was trying to paint a false narrative about Albama being in the path of the hurricane, that when he posted a video clip of CNN proving he was right, the media tried to undermine it. One example is a story in The Hill that accused Trump of tweeting “a doctored CNN clip showing a meteorologist saying Alabama was at risk of getting hit by Hurricane Dorian.” What exactly does that sentence seem to imply? Most people would assume that the video Trump tweeted was deceptively edited to include Alabama as one of the states potentially at risk. Except that’s not what happened.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2019
Yep. The video merely looped the meteorologist saying “Alabama” ten times back to back. Even The Hill’s story acknowledged that there was nothing deceptive about the video, but people who commented on the story on Facebook didn’t actually read the story, just the headline, and accused Trump of “altering evidence” and “lying.” That the point was the CNN meteorologist had, in fact, mentioned Alabama as possibly being the path of the hurricane was apparently lost on them.
The death of al-Baghdadi should have been universally celebrated in America, but there were many who seemed determined to poo-poo the victory any way they could.
When Trump tweeted the following meme to honor the dog that was injured in the raid, the media just blew up.
AMERICAN HERO! pic.twitter.com/XCCa2sGfsZ
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2019
The meme was created by the Daily Wire, and was a crude Photoshopping of the hero dog being awarded a medal by Trump. As PJ Media’s Jim Treacher noted, “Everybody loves the hero dog, so here’s a meme about the dog. Hooray for that awesome dog! It’s not meant to deceive. It’s meant to be enjoyed. Trump thought it was funny, so he tweeted it. And I agree with him. It’s funny. It’s silly. It’s a goof. It’s harmless.”
Except the New York Times thought it was a scandal, and it took two reporters to write about how Trump tweeted a “faked photo” and they even tracked down James McCloughan, the man who had been in the original photo being awarded the Medal of Honor, and they couldn’t even get more than a laugh from him. According to their story, “McGloughan interpreted it as Mr. Trump recognizing the dog’s heroism. He certainly was not offended and laughed when he compared the two images.”
Other media outlets and personalities piled on as well. This example, like the others before it, shows a media desperate to hit Trump. Does anyone really believe that Trump tweeted that photo in order to claim the dog was at the White House being awarded a medal?
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis