‘Cheapfake’ Biden videos enrapture right-wing media, but deeply mislead - VietBF
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Old  Default ‘Cheapfake’ Biden videos enrapture right-wing media, but deeply mislead
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The Republican National Committee posts a clipped video. Then the New York Post, the Telegraph and other pro-Trump outlets follow suit with the same deceptive framing.

Analysis by Adriana Usero and Glenn Kessler

What is Biden doing?”

— Republican National Committee social media post, 1:01 p.m., June 13

“Biden wanders away at G-7 summit before being pulled back by Italian PM”

— headline of New York Post article, posted less than two hours later

“Meander in Chief: Biden embarrasses U.S. with confused wanderings at world conference.”

— front page of New York Post, posted June 14

A particularly effective attack on a political candidate can come in the form of a video snippet that appears to reinforce an existing stereotype. The social media feed of the RNC regularly churns out misleading clips of President Biden, 81, intended to show that he is too old for the job.

Biden’s Republican opponent, former president Donald Trump, turned 78 on Friday, but polls show there is less concern about his physical and mental fitness for office. In a recent Pew Research poll released in April, fewer than a quarter of voters expressed a high degree of confidence in Biden’s mental fitness (21 percent) and physical fitness (15 percent). By contrast, about four in ten voters were extremely or very confident about Trump’s mental and physical fitness. So there is an incentive for the Republicans to keep hammering away at a perceived vulnerability for Biden.

This past week, the RNC feed has misleadingly called attention to two video clips of Biden. One was so distorted that it resulted in a “community note” on the X platform calling out its dishonesty. But the RNC’s dismal track record — which we have highlighted on multiple occasions — has not stopped right-leaning outfits from echoing the RNC’s framing and reinforcing its narrative that Biden has lost a step.

The ‘meandering’ clip

On June 13, at about 1 p.m., the RNC posted a clip it captioned, “What is Biden doing?” The post has been viewed more than 3 million times. Biden is seen with other Group of Seven leaders watching skydivers in Italy, carrying the flags of the nations. Biden turns and walks a few steps to chat with one of the parachutists, the only leader to do so. Then Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni turns him back to the other leaders. In one feed distributed by news services — the one used by the RNC — it’s not entirely clear who Biden is talking to, but an alternative feed, also distributed by news services, makes it clear that Biden is having a conversation.

The New York Post jumped on the RNC clip, posting a story less than two hours later and embedding the RNC post. When the White House cried foul, saying the video had been taken out of context, the newspaper buried that comment in the bottom of the story, while noting that the video feed had been distributed by news services. (None characterized it as the RNC did. C-SPAN, for instance, titled its video: “President Biden & G-7 Leaders Watch Skydiving Demonstration.”)

The New York Post went on to make the fake story the cover of its print edition.

The New York Post video on social media was a vertical edit, which further removed the context of Biden’s conversation — nothing of the panoramic view to the right and left can be seen. This is a good example of how cutting a viral “moment” vertically, without taking into account what’s going on in the rest of the frame, can alter perception.

An X community note was added to the video clip, saying: “Biden didn’t ‘wander off’. After viewing a skydiving demo with the other G-7 leaders, Biden stepped aside to speak with one of the other skydivers who is kneeling on the ground packing away his chute. The video in the above post has been digitally altered to remove the skydiver.”

A few hours later, for undisclosed reasons, the community note was changed to simply say “the video was cropped,” with a link to a 14-minute clip on the YouTube channel of Sinclair Broadcasting, another conservative outlet. The new note does little to combat the framing of the post: “President Biden appeared to wander off at the G-7 summit in Italy, with officials needing to pull him back to focus.”

Another news organization that regularly follows the signals of the RNC feed is the Telegraph newspaper in Britain. It published an article that accepted the RNC’s framing even as it quoted the British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, as saying the story was bunk. “Sunak defends Biden after he ‘wandered off’ at G-7 event: Video shows U.S. president drifting away from leaders during a photo op with parachutists,” the headline said.

The Telegraph’s YouTube channel framed the clip this way: “Joe Biden appears to walk off during G-7 flag ceremony.”

Jake Schneider, the RNC’s rapid response director, defended the use of the clip, saying it “came straight from the official G-7 feed.” He added: “Joe Biden is not only lost and confused, but he is also weak, failed, and dishonest.”

Representatives of the New York Post and the Telegraph did not respond to requests for comment. (Robert Winnett, a deputy editor of the Telegraph, will become editor of The Washington Post in November.)

The ‘freezing’ clip

Earlier in the week, the Telegraph ran another article based on a misleading RNC clip: “Watch: Biden appears to freeze at White House concert.” The article was based entirely on speculation, advanced by the RNC, that Biden had some sort of episode that caused him to freeze. The article suggested that the person next to him “seemed to notice something was amiss, putting his arm around Mr. Biden before the pair bumped fists.”

In a post on June 10 that had 3.3 million views, the RNC asked: “Why isn’t Biden moving?” In the clip, Biden is standing still while people around him are dancing at a Juneteenth celebration. The full video, when it pans, shows other people similarly standing still at the right end of the screen.

Biden, as he did in this 2009 Associated Press interview, has often said he doesn’t dance. “Joe Biden wants to make one thing clear: He can’t dance,” the article said, quoting him as saying “the reason I want to keep talking is because I can’t dance.” The article noted that at an inaugural ball he danced “stiffly” with his wife, Jill. “I may not be able to dance, but I sure like holding her,” Biden said.

“Unfortunately, some of President Biden’s right-wing critics don’t respect their readers or themselves and resort to misinformation and cheap fakes because his performance in office — fueling the strongest economic growth in the world, bringing violent crime to historic lows, and advancing our national security in the world — is so threatening to them that they feel a need to make things up,” deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement. “It’s also telling that President Biden’s critics believe that giving a thumbs up to a skydiver or taking the time to thank veterans in Normandy is somehow negative.”

The Pinocchio Test

The use of these clips is an especially pernicious couple of examples of manipulated video — what we label “isolation” under our guide to manipulated video — because it’s intended to create a false narrative that doesn’t reflect the event as it occurred. The RNC and its avid followers in the conservative media earn Four Pinocchios.


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