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It’s been another terrible day for CNN, though Trump’s favorite “fake news” network to mock and its notoriously grandstanding reporter don’t appear to have figured that out just yet.
On Wednesday, CNN’s chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta managed to get his press pass suspended “until further notice” after he refused to give up the mic to a White House intern and, in the process, ended up “placing his hands” on her, as White House Press Sec. Sarah Sanders put it. After Acosta accused Sanders of telling a “lie” about what went down, Sanders tweeted out a video clip showing Acosta clearly pushing the intern’s arm down.
That’s when CNN executive Matt Dornic got involved, alleging that Sanders was spreading “actual fake news” by using a “doctored” video to make Acosta’s bad behavior look worse. The result was even more people watching Acosta act like a person who doesn’t deserve to be among the press corps — and CNN promoting a paranoid conspiracy theory that BuzzFeed effectively debunked.
The “actual fake news” hysteria started after Sanders announced that Acosta’s hard pass had been revoked “until further notice.”
“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,” she wrote Wednesday. “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.”
Acosta responded by calling Sanders’ statement a “lie.”
This is a lie. https://t.co/FastFfWych
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) November 8, 2018
A few hours later, Sanders posted video proof that her claim that he had “plac[ed] his hand” on the girl was verifiably true. “We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video,” 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. pic.twitter.com/T8X1Ng912y
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) November 8, 2018
It was this tweet that started off the media firestorm, with CNN’s Dornic raising the biggest stink.
“Absolutely shameful, @PressSec,” he tweeted. “You released a doctored video – actual fake news. History will not be kind to you.”
— Matt Dornic (@mdornic) November 8, 2018
Other outlets echoed CNN in declaring Sanders’ video deliberately “doctored” to make Acosta look, well, worse — including New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, who wrote: “Yes, the White House press office is sharing a manipulated video that makes it appear that Acosta was menacing the intern when he was not and did not. The intern reached over Acosta to grab the microphone while he was trying to ask another q and Acosta tried to pull away.”
Yes, the White House press office is sharing a manipulated video that makes it appear that Acosta was menacing the intern when he was not and did not. The intern reached over Acosta to grab the microphone while he was trying to ask another q and Acosta tried to pull away. https://t.co/2cqjHSYmr4
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 8, 2018
The Washington Post also got in on the Sanders-bashing. “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,” wrote the Post’s Drew Harwell. “But in the original video, Acosta’s arm appears to move only as a response to a tussle for the microphone.”
But then BuzzFeed ended up raining on everyone’s “actual fake news” parade. After looking more closely at the video, BuzzFeed concluded that rather than some nefarious attempt to mislead the public about Acosta’s unprofessional actions, the alterations in the video appear to simply be what happens when converting video from one format to another.
“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,” BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel reports. “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.”
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. pic.twitter.com/XcDXD8FBCb
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) November 8, 2018
In other words, all CNN ended up doing was making sure that more people saw footage of Acosta’s embarrassing behavior and highlighting their own paranoia about the imagined machinations of the White House.