White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted a seemingly doctored video last night to support her allegation that a CNN reporter inappropriately touched a White House intern during President Trump’s afternoon press conference.
The White House said it was revoking the press pass of CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta because of the incident. Acosta, Trump and Sanders have jousted repeatedly during press briefings and on social media.
During the press conference, Acosta was questioning Trump when the president attempted to cut him off by calling on another reporter. A press intern who was passing a microphone among reporters repeatedly tried to take it from Acosta, who wouldn’t yield. At one point her arm connected with Acosta’s wrist.
Around 8pm, Acosta tweeted that the Secret Service had denied him access to the White House for his regular nightly report.
Sanders replied on Twitter: “President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration,” she wrote. “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.”
Sanders shared the video — which does not show Acosta “placing his hands” on the intern — around 10:30pm. She wrote, “We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video.”
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
Some journalists who were at the press conference took to Twitter to dispute Sanders’ account that Acosta had acted inappropriately. Some pointed out that the video Sanders shared was sped up to make Acosta look more aggressive, and it seemed to have come from the far-right conspiracy site InfoWars.
This is a video that Infowars made. They sped it up so that it seems more violent than it is. https://t.co/FH1tsGSSaU
— Nicole Goodkind (@NicoleGoodkind) November 8, 2018
This is video of the White House intern attempting to wrench the mic away from @Acosta. He is not “placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job,” as @PressSec claimed. Suspending his pass over this is a blatant abuse of presidential power. pic.twitter.com/zSmIQF0xKv
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) November 8, 2018
This video is doctored. It’s slowed down and then sped up at the moment Acosta’s hand comes down to make it look like he’s doing a karate chop or something. This is shameful propaganda. It’s Orwellian. https://t.co/in8m3iHn18
— Dana Schwartz (@DanaSchwartzzz) November 8, 2018
CNN and its media reporter, Brian Stelter, condemned Sanders’ actions on Thursday. “Absolutely shameful, @PressSec. You released a doctored video – actual fake news. History will not be kind to you,” tweeted Matt Dornic, CNN’s vice president of communications.
On Thursday, Sanders defended her tweet but didn’t say whether the video came from InfoWars. “The question is: Did the reporter make contact or not?” she said to reporters. “The video is clear, he did. We stand by our statement.”
According to Politico, Paul Joseph Watson, a far-right YouTube personality with ties to InfoWars, had posted a similar video earlier Wednesday evening. Watson denied speeding up the video, saying he only zoomed in.
“But a side-by-side video comparison by Slate’s Aymann Ismail shows Acosta’s hand touching the intern slightly faster in the White House version of the video than in a clip posted by NBC, suggesting Acosta’s arm was sped up,” said Politico.
Trump has repeatedly called the media “the enemy of the people,” a claim he repeated during Wednesday’s rambling press conference.