Accuracy in Media

The Washington Post fact-checker gave declared that a recent Biden campaign ad met their qualifications for manipulated video and gave it its highest rating –Four Pinocchios for its deceptiveness.

According to the Post, the Biden tweeted a video with the caption, “We can’t sit by and lose this country to Donald Trump. Today, we take it back — together.” The Post said while the caption is standard political rhetoric the attached video clips of the president met their standards for manipulated video.

The fact-checker said while the video started out as a standard campaign ad, it didn’t take long before it started to mislead viewers.

At the 10-second mark, the camera shows a tight shot of the president saying “coronavirus” and then cuts to a wide shot where he says, “this is their new hoax.” Both clips are from Trump’s Feb. 28 campaign rally in North Charleston, S.C., but he never said “coronavirus, this is their new hoax.” Rather, Biden’s ad clipped a large part of Trump’s speech to make it seem as though he had. Here’s the president’s full quote (emphasis added to show the omission):

“Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. You know that, right? Coronavirus. They’re politicizing it. We did one of the great jobs, you say, ‘How’s President Trump doing?’, ‘Oh, nothing, nothing.’ They have no clue, they don’t have any clue. They can’t even count their votes in Iowa, they can’t even count. No, they can’t. They can’t count their votes. One of my people came up to me and said, ‘Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia.’ That didn’t work out too well. They couldn’t do it. They tried the impeachment hoax. That was on a perfect conversation. They tried anything, they tried it over and over, they’ve been doing it since he got in. It’s all turning, they lost. It’s all turning, think of it, think of it. And this is their new hoax. But you know we did something that’s been pretty amazing. We have 15 people in this massive country and because of the fact that we went early, we went early, we could have had a lot more than that.”

The Post notes that Trump is criticizing Democratic talking points and the media’s coverage of his administration’s response to coronavirus, and never call the virus itself a hoax. At a news conference on February 29, Trump responded to a question about the “hoax” comment.

“‘Hoax’ referring to the action that [Democrats] take to try and pin this on somebody because we’ve done such a good job. The hoax is on them, not — I’m not talking about what’s happening here [the virus]; I’m talking what they’re doing,” Trump said. “That’s the hoax… But the way they refer to it — because these people have done such an incredible job, and I don’t like it when they are criticizing these people. And that’s the hoax. That’s what I’m talking about.”

In addition to this video, which the Post labeled “deceptive,” they criticized a second clip that used old videos of Trump that portrayed him as having a dour outlook on the state of America but left out his oft-used phrase of making America great again if elected president.

The Biden campaign defended that ad, saying that “Donald Trump is the most dishonest president in American history and one of the least credible human beings in the world.”

That wasn’t enough to convince the fact-checker, which concluded that Biden’s ad presents two separate and distinctly different examples of manipulated video.

While the first, “coronavirus, this is their new hoax,” is a clear example of omission, we were torn between Three and Four Pinocchios. On one hand, the administration continues to promote falsehoods about the virus and vilify Democrats for criticizing its response. However, the video doesn’t point that out or explain what is wrong with this characterization. Rather, it just puts the words “coronavirus and “hoax” close together, leaving the viewer to assume Trump meant that the novel coronavirus itself was a hoax.

The second example is far more straightforward. The ad isolates Trump’s comment with no context.

Ultimately, the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak, the fact that Trump had clarified his comments on the matter before the ad was released, and the blatant way the Biden camp isolated his remarks about the American Dream pushed us to Four Pinocchios. Campaigns must be willing to make their case without resorting to video manipulation.



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