"Fox & Friends" admits Trump supporters doctored Pelosi video that depicts her as drunk

Heavily edited, "highly deceptive" video goes viral thanks to Lou Dobbs and Trump — before Fox walks it back

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published May 24, 2019 4:23PM (EDT)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meets with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, May 23, 2019. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meets with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, May 23, 2019. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

President Trump and his supporters have widely shared multiple heavily doctored videos that were manipulated to falsely depict House Speaker Nancy Pelosi struggling with her words.

“PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE,” Trump tweeted Thursday, quoting a chyron from Fox Business and sharing a video that was played on “Lou Dobbs Tonight.” The tweet came after Trump called Pelosi “crazy Nancy” at a news conference earlier and the day after Pelosi urged Trump's family and aides to “stage an intervention for the good of the country.”

The heavily edited video showed a 30-second montage taken from a 20-minute news conference that Pelosi held on Thursday. The video purports to show her trip over her words as she hesitates to answer certain questions and repeats one moment several times. The video also included Fox analysts suggest that Pelosi is “getting worn down” because of her age.

“I think she’s very inarticulate, which she’s never been in the past,” Republican operative Ed Rollins, who heads a pro-Trump super PAC, said in the clip.

Hany Farid, a computer science professor and digital-forensics expert at the University of California, Berkeley, told the Washington Post that the video “is highly deceptive as it compiles in rapid succession relatively small verbal stumbles in an attempt to portray Speaker Pelosi as stumbling through her press conference.”

"The original C-SPAN video clearly shows that this montage that the president tweeted is not an accurate depiction of her press conference," Farid continued.

Trump’s tweet came after tens of thousands of his supporters, including his attorney Rudy Giuliani, shared other heavily edited videos manipulated to falsely depict Pelosi as drunk.

Giuliani tweeted a link to one of the videos, writing, “What is wrong with Nancy Pelosi? Her speech pattern is bizarre.”

He later deleted the tweet. Giuliani told the Post that he deleted it because he wasn’t “sure” it was legit but went on to allege that he has been “noticing a gradual change in her speech pattern and gestures for some time.”

The video, which shows Pelosi’s comments at a Center for American Progress event Wednesday, was heavily slowed down to make her words seem slurred.

"By my calculation, the altered video has been slowed by almost 75% introducing a significant distortion in her speech," Farid told CNN.

Despite the obvious distortion, the video was shared widely on Facebook. The company told CNN that the video would not be taken down and was instead referred to a third-party fact-checker for review. By Friday, one of the videos had been viewed about 2.5 million times on Facebook.

A Twitter spokesperson told CNN that the platform has no current plans to take action on the video. YouTube, on the other hand, removed the video.

"YouTube has clear policies that outline what content is not acceptable to post and we remove videos violating these policies when flagged to us. These videos violated our policies and have been removed," the company told CNN.

Even Fox News issued an on-air fact check debunking the video after pro-Trump online pundits Diamond and Silk cited the video to smear Pelosi as a “non-functioning alcoholic” who “slurs her words.”

“She is the poster child for term limits. She is deteriorating like a snowflake,” said Silk.

After the segment, host Steve Doocy refuted the video that the pair had cited.

“I was unfamiliar with what they were talking about — I’m looking at a FoxNews.com story: ‘Manipulated videos of Nancy Pelosi edited to falsely depict her as drunk spread on social media.’ And according to a report from the Washington Post, experts believe the original video was slowed down to 75 percent from the original and that her pitch was manipulated in order to present her as under the influence,” Doocy said. “Not a real video. It’s doctored.”

Back in January, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned that some bad actors may use “deep fakes” using artificial intelligence technology to produce “convincing — but false — image, audio and video files to augment influence campaigns directed against the United States and our allies and partners.”

But the Pelosi video is no deep fake and was edited crudely.

"It is striking that such a simple manipulation can be so effective and believable, to some," Farid told CNN. "While I think that deep-fake technology poses a real threat, this type of low-tech fake shows that there is a larger threat of misinformation campaigns. Too many of us are willing to believe the worst in people that we disagree with."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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