Analysts claim White House's version of footage of Jim Acosta and intern interaction at Trump press conference is 'doctored'
WHEN Donald Trump invited Jim Acosta, a CNN reporter, to ask a question during a White House press conference on Wednesday, he was no doubt spoiling for a fight.
Mr Trump has a notoriously testy relationship with the journalist and once refused to call on him, simply saying "your [news] organisation is terrible".
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
But even the president could not have anticipated the row that erupted after their most recent exchange, with accusations the White House shared manipulated footage of the incident.
The row began after Mr Acosta pressed Mr Trump to answer a question, while a White House intern tried to take the microphone out of his hand.
The interaction was brief, and Mr Acosta appeared to brush the intern's arm as she reached for the microphone and he tried to hold on to it. "Pardon me, ma'am," he told her.
Hours later Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, accused Mr Acosta of "placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern". She added that it was "absolutely unacceptable".
She later posted footage of the incident, which video verification experts claimed had been digitally altered, as a justification for revoking Mr Acosta's White House press pass.
Analysts claimed that in Mrs Sanders' version, the footage was frozen for three frames to make Mr Acosta's contact with the woman appear longer and therefore more aggressive. This can be achieved by repeating the frames so fast the human eye cannot detect it.
By contrast, in the original footage his arm appears to move only as a response to the tussle. The moment where he says: "Pardon me, ma'am" is also not included in Mrs Sanders' video.
Alan O'Riordan, a video verification expert, said there were clear "discrepancies" between the original footage from US network C-Span and the version Mrs Sanders posted on Twitter.
"In [Mrs Sanders'] version, what we see is something that has been added to the original, it repeats several frames at a crucial moment... basically," he said. "We found three repeated frames where you can see Jim Acosta's arm make contact with the intern's arm."
The White House has also been accused of obtaining the footage from InfoWars, the alt-Right conspiracy theorist website. Paul Joseph Watson, the InfoWars editor-a-large, released what appeared to be the same edited footage some time before Mrs Sanders' post.
He denied claims the footage had been doctored or speeded up, saying he "merely zoomed in".
Mrs Sanders has not commented on how she obtained the footage, but said: "The question is, did the reporter make contact or not? The video is clear, he did. We stand by our statement."
Mr Acosta called Mrs Sanders' characterisation of the incident "a lie".
CNN said Mrs Sanders "provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened. This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better."
The cable news network claimed the White House had revoked Mr Acosta's press pass out of "retaliation for his challenging questions".
Matt Dornic, an executive at CNN, posted on Twitter: "Absolutely shameful, @PressSec. You released a doctored video - actual fake news."
Meanwhile, US news organisations rallied to defend Mr Acosta, accusing the Trump administration of clamping down on press freedom. The White House Correspondents' Association said it "strongly objects" to using press credentials as a "tool to punish a reporter with whom it has a difficult relationship".