After yet another headline-grabbing confrontation with President Trump, CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta learned that the White House had revoked his press pass “until further notice.” Following her announcement of the decision online, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders posted a video showing Acosta refusing to give up his mic to a White House intern and at one point pushing downward slightly on her arm as she reached for the mic.
“President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration. 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,” wrote Sanders in the initial announcement. “This conduct is absolutely unacceptable. It is also completely disrespectful to the reporter’s colleagues not to allow them an opportunity to ask a question. President Trump has given the press more access than any President in history.”
A few hours later, she posted video of the incident. “We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass,” she wrote. “We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video.”
As Fox News notes, Sanders has come under fire for posting what some media figures — including CNN executive Matt Dornic, New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, and the Washington Post’s Drew Harwell — insist is a “doctored” video of the incident that appears to speed up Acosta’s arm motion to make it look more like a “menacing” chop than a light nudge.
The video Sanders used was reportedly first posted by InfoWars editor Paul Joseph Watson. Watson has defended himself, writing, “The only editing done to this clip is that it is zoomed in.” But Dornic is accusing Sanders of pushing “actual fake news.”
“Absolutely shameful, @PressSec,” wrote Dornic. “You released a doctored video – actual fake news. History will not be kind to you.” Dornic shared a side-by-side video comparison he says proves that the video was doctored to make Acosta’s actions appear more menacing:
Harwell, technology reporter for the Washington Post, agrees that the video shared by Sanders appears to have been altered:
The edited video looks authentic: Acosta appeared to swiftly chop down on the arm of an aide as he held onto a microphone while questioning President Trump. But in the original video, Acosta’s arm appears to move only as a response to a tussle for the microphone. His statement, “Pardon me, ma’am,” is not included in the video Sanders shared.
But since the initial outrage by media members, BuzzFeed took a closer look and offered a different perspective: Any changes were not deliberate, but rather a result of a change in format:
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.
This video analysis by BuzzFeed News demonstrates what the GIF conversion process does to video. While it’s not technically “sped up” by intent, it effectively is in practice. The video-to-GIF conversion removes frames from the source material by reducing the frame rate. The GIF-making tool GIF Brewery, for example, typically reduces source video to 10 frames per second. Raw, televised video typically has a frame rate of 29.97 frames per second.
That matches up with what Watson told BuzzFeed. “Fact is, Daily Wire put up a gif, I download a gif, zoomed in saved it again as an mt2 file – then converted it to an mp4,” he said. “Digitally it’s gonna look a tiny bit different after processing and zooming in, but I did not in any way deliberately ‘speed up’ or ‘distort’ the video. That’s just horse sh**.”
Acosta has claimed that he did not touch the intern, which the original footage shows is untrue, though his actions do not appear to be threatening, just out of line and “rude.”
The blow-up came after yet another instance of grandstanding by Acosta, in which he refused to let other reporters ask questions, and strong chastisement by Trump.
“That’s enough. Put down the mic,” said Trump after a lengthy back and forth between the two. “I tell you what. CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN. Go ahead.”
“I think that’s unfair,” said Acosta.
“You’re a very rude person,” said Trump. “The way you treat Sarah Huckabee is horrible and the way you treat other people are horrible. You shouldn’t treat people that way.
Video below (via WFB):
This article has been updated to include BuzzFeed’s analysis.