Press secretary stood by decision to revoke CNN reporter’s access and sharing video edited to make his actions more aggressive
The White House has stood by its decision to revoke the access of CNN reporter Jim Acosta after a fiery standoff with the president, and defended sharing a video on social media that had been altered to make Acosta’s actions towards an intern look more aggressive.
The video, originally made by an employee of Infowars, a far-right conspiracy website, shows Acosta’s reaction to a White House employee who tried to grab a microphone from him while he attempted to question Donald Trump at a press conference on Wednesday.
The video is cut so that it appears that Acosta tries to forcefully use his arm to push away the White House staffer’s arm, rather than use his arm to pull back the microphone.
The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, shared the video on Twitter on Wednesday night and said: “We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video.”
Despite the video’s dubious origins, Sanders doubled down in a White House statement on Thursday saying “The question is: did the reporter make contact or not? The video is clear, he did. We stand by our statement.”
Paul Joseph Watson, who makes videos for Infowars, called claims that he had altered the video a “brazen lie”.
But in an analysis done for Storyful, which describes itself as a social-media intelligence agency that sources and verifies insights for media, there are apparently several frames repeated in the video.
According to an analysis by Shane Raymond, a Storyful journalist, “these frames do not appear in the original C-SPAN footage, and appear to exaggerate the action of Acosta”.
In an interview with Fox Business Network on Thursday, senior White House communications advisor Mercedes Schlapp insisted that the intern was “shaken up” and “intimidated” by Acosta and added: “What we are seeing is bad behavior that cannot be tolerated.”
The revocation of Acosta’s “hard pass”, which provides access to the White House grounds, is without any precedent in modern history. The CNN reporter has made a name for himself by asking forceful questions of Trump and other administration officials.
Acosta has served as a White House correspondent for CNN since 2013 when he covered the Obama administration. He was promoted to chief White House correspondent earlier this year.
Acosta called the White House’s claims “lies” and CNN defended its reporter in a statement.
The network said: “[The revocation] was done in retaliation for his challenging questions at today’s press conference. In an explanation, press secretary Sarah Sanders lied. She provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened. This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better. Jim Acosta has our full support.”
Don’t believe the lies coming from the WH. Believe in our freedoms. Thank you all for your support. We won’t back down. 🇺🇸 #1A— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) November 8, 2018
A network spokesman later attacked the video shared by Sanders on Twitter. Matt Dornic, a CNN executive, tweeted at Sanders that her behaviour was “absolutely shameful”. He added “You released a doctored video – actual fake news. History will not be kind to you.”
The White House Correspondents Association also condemned the action to revoke Acosta’s credentials. Its president, Olivier Knox, said in a statement Wednesday night that the group “strongly objects to the Trump administration’s decision to use US Secret Service security credentials as a tool to punish a reporter with whom it has a difficult relationship. Revoking access to the White House complex is a reaction out of line to the purported offence and is unacceptable.”
Knox added: “We urge the White House to immediately reverse this weak and misguided action. We encourage anyone with doubts that this reaction was disproportionate to the perceived offence to view the video of the events.”
• This article was amended on 9 November 2018. An earlier version misnamed Shane Raymond as Shane Richmond. This has been corrected.