The White House has been accused of sharing a doctored video of a CNN journalist’s exchange with an administration aide to justify revoking his press pass.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted a video showing CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s exchange with a furious President Donald Trump during a press conference on Thursday morning (Australian time).
Many high-profile members of the White House press gallery, including The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman and CNN executive Matt Dornic, pointed out the video, which appears to show a female White House intern repeatedly attempting to retrieve the microphone from Mr Acosta, made his actions look more aggressive than they actually were.
In the edited video, Mr Acosta appeared to chop down on the aide’s arm as he firmly held onto a microphone while questioning Mr Trump.
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 video seems to remove any action which shows the aide trying to swiftly snatch the microphone from Mr Acosta, while Mr Trump abruptly cut off the reporter’s questioning.
His statement to the intern: “Pardon me, ma’am,” was also edited out of the video Ms Sanders shared.
Ms Sanders confirmed Thursday the White House had suspended Mr Acosta’s pass “until further notice” over the confrontation.
“President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his administration,” she said in a statement.
“We will, however, never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern. This conduct is absolutely unacceptable.”
The edited video was first circulated by Paul Joseph Watson, known for his conspiracy-theory videos on the far-right website Infowars.
Mr Watson described many of the accusations against him as a “brazen lie”.
The claim being made my some media outlets that I "sped up" the Acosta video is a brazen lie.
Here's the original editing in Sony Vegas Pro. As you can see, no tracks are "sped up" (sped up tracks would show wavy lines). I just zoomed in.
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) November 8, 2018
Mr Watson later conceded to Buzzfeed that 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 could have made it “look a tiny bit different”.
Mr Trump appeared agitated as he fielded questions from dozens of reporters on the Democrat-heavy midterm election results Mr Acosta posed his questions that sent the President into a fury.
Mr Trump has long held a prickly relationship with CNN and Mr Acosta posed a question relating to immigration policies.
The President took offence at Mr Acosta as he tried to ask a follow-up question, saying: “CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them.
You are a very rude person … the way you treat Sarah Huckabee is …”
Mr Trump demanded the microphone be taken away from Mr Acosta, prompting a female aide to stand up and try to wrench it from the journalist’s hand.
Later Thursday, Mr Acosta joined colleague Anderson Cooper on a CNN broadcast to talk further about the incident.
Mr Acosta told Mr Cooper he believed he handled himself professionally during the exchange. He added he believed this was “a test” from the White House.
“I do think they are trying to shut us down to some extent inside the White House press corp., and to some extent, I think they’re trying to send a message to our colleagues,” he said.