The White House banned CNN journalist Jim Acosta from the press room claiming he placed his hands on an intern — and published a video it said proves it. But there are mounting suspicions that the video was manipulated.
US President Donald Trump isn't new to fights with journalists. His latest spat with CNN journalist Jim Acosta, however, has led to the reporter being banned from the White House press room and allegations of a doctored video being distributed by the White House.
It started when Trump held a press conference on Wednesday at the White House after the midterm elections. Acosta was trying to ask the president a question when Trump moved on to the next journalist and an intern tried to take away the microphone from Acosta, who continued talking.
The White House claimed Acosta "placed his hand" on the female intern while she tried to get the microphone. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrote on Twitter that the administration would "never tolerate" such behavior from a reporter, and that it had therefore revoked Acosta's press accreditation.
Sanders tweeted an edited video of a C-SPAN recording which, she wrote, clearly documents the inappropriate behavior. Independent video experts, however, believe the video in the tweet may have been intentionally manipulated.
The White House video
The video posted by Sanders only focuses on the moment when the woman tries to take the microphone from Acosta. The clip, which is without audio, zooms in twice to show the supposed "placing of a hand" in detail.
Acosta's hand can be seen apparently applying pressure and lingering for a few seconds on the woman's arm.
But according to Abba Shapiro, an independent video producer who examined the footage for the Associated Press, the video appears to have been doctored.
A frame-by-frame comparison of the video shows that Sanders' clip has been edited to speed up Acosta's arm movement as he touches the woman's arm.
Shapiro noticed that to allow the sped-up video to have the same length as the original one, a series of frames in the White House video were frozen to make them last longer and slow down the action.
According to the analysis, it is unlikely that the effect might have been caused by technical glitches. The fact that the video doesn't have any sound also makes it easier to alter.
The original C-SPAN video
The incident occurs around the 1:30-mark on the original video recorded and posted by US TV network C-SPAN.
It happens just like in the White House's version, but Acosta's hand doesn't seem to linger as long on the woman's arm and the movement appears significantly faster.
Sanders hasn't said where the video she posted comes from. The video appears to have been circulated on Twitter by the editor of conspiracy theory website Infowars.
Not all experts agree with the analysis conducted by the Associated Press. Computer science professor Hany Farid told Motherboard he doesn't believe the video was doctored, but that the effect came from the video having been slowed down and zoomed in, causing a reduction in quality.
Other experts agree, and the creator of the video is sticking to the claim that it was not doctored.
The White House is standing its ground, and, in a statement on Thursday, Sanders said that she stands by her previous position.
"The question is: did the reporter make contact or not? The video is clear, he did," the statement said.
CNN called the White House's description of the incident a lie. In a statement, the network labeled the decision to suspend Acosta's accreditation as "a threat to our democracy."