This week the White House released a video showing CNN reporter Jim Acosta at a press event. In the video documenting the original event, as broadcast on C-SPAN, a White House intern approached Acosta and attempted to remove a microphone from Acosta’s hand. The point in question happened during this exchange. In an edited set of video clips shared by the White House, it would appear that Acosta swiftly chopped downward at the arm of the intern to stop her from removing his microphone. The video shared by the White House was doctored to make this action appear violent.
After the event documented by the video, the White House officially removed Acosta’s White House pass, stopping him from entering any future White House press events. The video shared by the White House was an edited version of an original documentation of the event. In a chat with the Associated Press, a 30-year veteran video editor, producer, writer, and director by the name of Abba Shapiro analyzed the video in question.
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
The Tweet above shows the doctored video as posted by White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. Below you’ll see the analyzation done by Shapiro. A frame-by-frame analysis suggests that the video was edited – which is obvious, it was cut and re-published. But more importantly, the video wasn’t just cut and re-played. Frames were added, and the speed at which the events occurred was changed.
Below you’ll see two tweets showing the origins of the doctored video – more than likely – plus another view of the video and the editing process. This presentation should make it clear the bits of the original C-SPAN video that were sped up, and what was left in the end.
1) Took @PressSec Sarah Sanders' video of briefing
2) Tinted red and made transparent over CSPAN video
3) Red motion is when they doctored video speed
4) Sped up to make Jim Acosta's motion look like a chop
5) I've edited video for 15+ years
6) The White House doctored it pic.twitter.com/q6arkYSx0V
— Rafael Shimunov (@rafaelshimunov) November 8, 2018
The origin of the video appears to be White Supremacist P.J. Watson. As pointed out by If Not Now (dot org) Creative Director Rafael Shimunov, the video appeared first in the Twitter feed of P.J. Watson, then was uploaded independently, (notably not retweeted, but uploaded to a Tweet,) to @PressSec, the official Twitter account of the White House press secretary, currently Sarah Sanders.
Correction: the white house —uploaded a doctored video— there is no evidence that they are the source of the doctored video. They may have taken it from white supremacist Paul Joseph Watson here https://t.co/9M0ReHAzcp
— Rafael Shimunov 🔥 (@rafaelshimunov) November 8, 2018
Further, the demonstration shown below from Aymann Ismail shows how the doctored video’s adjustments make it appear that Acosta violently chopped the arm of the intern during or even before the intern reached for the microphone. In the original CSPAN documentation of the event, the intern appeared to reach for the microphone before Acosta’s arm moved downward.
The intern's reach for the mic is slowed down, and the "chop" motion is accelerated. Here's an annotated side by side comparison: pic.twitter.com/wLCG5GVdo1
— Aymann Ismail (@aymanndotcom) November 8, 2018
Speaking with The Verge this week, video producer Jamison Hermann suggested that this is not even any sort of advanced sort of edit. Instead, said Herman, it’s just “a sloppily-done speed change on the footage itself.”
No matter the technical details, the damage is done. We’ve been trained to disbelieve all things, and to have doubts in the reporting of and even the video capture of events. We’re bearing witness to the erosion of trust in our most sacred institutions, in real time.
UPDATE: The White House just made clear that the video was indeed edited.