- President Donald Trump posted a video that was edited to make it look like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped up his State of the Union speech while he recognized special guests.
- Democrats demanded Facebook and Twitter remove the video, while others said it would set a dangerous precedent concerning parody videos.
- Facebook refused to remove the video, saying that it did not violate the platform’s new policy on manipulated media.
- Twitter also said it would not remove the video because its new policy on manipulated videos does not go into effect until March 5, and the company will not apply it retroactively.
Facebook and Twitter have refused to take down a controversial video shared by President Donald Trump that was edited to look like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tore up the president’s State of the Union speech while he was honoring special guests.
The video, shared by Trump on both social media platforms Thursday, took actual footage from the now-viral moment when Pelosi tore up his speech following his State of the Union address.
The video, however, spliced the real footage so that it appeared as though the speaker was tearing Trump’s speech while he was recognizing one of the last Tuskegee Airmen, a reunited military family, and others.
Many House Democrats responded to the video in posts on Twitter, arguing that it was misleading or doctored and calling for it to be taken down.
On the other side, plenty of people also shared and defended the video, like Suzanne Nossel, the chief executive of the free-speech advocacy group PEN America, who argued that the video “would open door to ban a great deal of parody.”
“Viewers can tell she didn’t rip up speech multiple times in exact same way. Harsh, nasty, underhanded, yes,” she wrote. “But parody often is.”
Benny Johnson, the chief creative officer of Turning Point USA, the conservative nonprofit that originally made the video, defended the move in a thread on Twitter.
“Here is how we made it: We took real lines from the President’s State of the Union speech and then used a real footage of Speaker Pelosi tearing up Trump’s speech as a transition for each clip,” he wrote. “That’s it. Real events that really happened, in a timeline.”
First: watch the video.— Benny (@bennyjohnson) February 8, 2020
Here is how we made it:
We took real lines from the President’s State of the Union speech and then used a real footage of Speaker Pelosi tearing up Trump’s speech as a transition for each clip.
Real events that really happened, in a timeline.
Johnson also argued that removing the video would set a bad precedent.
“Would you call a Super Bowl highlight reel ‘doctored’ because the footage of the big play it did not show every play before and after in sequence?” he wrote. “Is a news package ‘doctored’ when they clip just a small part of a politicians speech? No!”
The precedent set here is horrifying.— Benny (@bennyjohnson) February 8, 2020
Would you call a Super Bowl highlight reel “doctored” because the footage of the big play it did not show every play before and after in sequence?
Is a news package “doctored” when they clip just a small part of a politicians speech?
Twitter and Facebook Respond
Pelosi’s Deputy Chief of Staff Drew Hammill called for Twitter and Facebook to remove the video in a tweet on Friday.
“The latest fake video of Speaker Pelosi is deliberately designed to mislead and lie to the American people, and every day that these platforms refuse to take it down is another reminder that they care more about their shareholders’ interests than the public’s interests,” he wrote.
The latest fake video of Speaker Pelosi is deliberately designed to mislead and lie to the American people, and every day that these platforms refuse to take it down is another reminder that they care more about their shareholders’ interests than the public’s interests.— Drew Hammill (@Drew_Hammill) February 7, 2020
In an unusual move, Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone responded to Hammill’s tweet.
“Sorry, are you suggesting the President didn’t make those remarks and the Speaker didn’t rip the speech?” he asked, to which Hammill responded, “what planet are you living on? this is deceptively altered. take it down.”
Stone later told reporters over the weekend that the video did not violate Facebook’s new policy from January on manipulated media and deepfakes.
He specifically pointed to a specific part of the policy that says Facebook will remove that kind of content if it “has been edited or synthesized – beyond adjustments for clarity or quality – in ways that aren’t apparent to an average person and would likely mislead someone into thinking that a subject of the video said words that they did not actually say.”
Facebook also said in their post announcing the new policy that the platform “does not extend to content that is parody or satire, or video that has been edited solely to omit or change the order of words.”
A Twitter spokesperson separately told reporters that it too would not remove the video because its new policy regarding manipulated media, which it announced last week, does not go into effect until March 5 and will not be applied retroactively.
The spokesperson also did not answer hypothetical questions about whether or not the new policy would apply to videos similar to the edited one of Pelosi in the future.
According to Twitter’s new policy, users cannot “deceptively share synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm.” Twitter may also label those kinds of tweets.
Although notably, the criteria outlined by Twitter for what it will consider when removing or labeling posts includes, “Whether the content has been substantially edited in a manner that fundamentally alters its composition, sequence, timing, or framing.”
The video of Pelosi is expected to be an important test case for how social media companies deal with manipulated media at a time when there is mounting pressure on these platforms regarding the spread of misinformation.
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Politico) (Fox News)
House Votes To Censure Rep. Gosar, Remove Him From Committees Over AOC Video
Gosar remained defiant in remarks delivered on the floor where he defended the video and refused to apologize.
Republicans Stay Defiant Amid Censure Debate
The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Az.) and remove him from his committees after he tweeted an anime video last week that showed him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)
The video, which has since been removed by Gosar, was a parody of the popular anime show “Attack on Titan.”
At one point in the clip, Gosar, along with Reps. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Co.), are seen battling and then killing a titan version of Ocasio-Cortez.
That post garnered widespread backlash, but Gosar continued to defend it and refused to apologize.
During the heated debate leading up to Wednesday’s vote, the lawmaker again expressed no regret and remained defiant.
“I rise today to address and reject the mischaracterization and accusations from many in this body that the cartoon from my office is dangerous or threatening. It was not,” he said. “I reject the false narrative categorically.”
“I do not espouse violence toward anyone. I never have. It was not my purpose to make anyone upset,” he continued. He then went on to insist the video was just a rebuke of President Joe Biden’s immigration policy and compared himself to Alexander Hamilton.
Many Republican leaders — who have largely refused to condemn the video — also defended Gosar and dismissed the post as a joke.
While some said they do not condone violence, few members of the party criticized the lawmaker. Rather, most focused their attacks on Democrats, arguing that they were abusing their power and silencing conservatives.
Democrats and Ocasio-Cortez Condemn Incitement of Violence
Democrats slammed Republicans’ continued refusal to reprimand Gosar. They said there must be consequences and that they were forced to act because his party would not.
Many also argued that they must speak out against actions that could incite the kind of violence that unfolded during the Jan. 6 insurrection. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), for instance, described the situation as “an emergency” that amounted to “violence against women” and “workplace harassment.”
“When a member uses his or her national platform to encourage violence, tragically, people listen,” she said, adding that “depictions of violence can foment actual violence, as witnessed by this chamber on Jan. 6, 2021.”
The Speaker additionally noted that there are legal implications for Gosar’s video because it amounted to a threat against a member of Congress, which is a criminal offense.
Ocasio-Cortez echoed the sentiments expressed by Pelosi during her speech on the floor.
“What I believe is unprecedented is for a member of House leadership of either party to be unable to condemn incitement of violence against a member of this body,” she said. “It is sad. It is a sad day in which a member who leads a political party in the United States of America cannot bring themselves to say that issuing a depiction of murdering a member of Congress is wrong.”
“What is so hard about saying this is wrong?” she continued. “It’s pretty cut and dry. Does anyone in this chamber find this behavior acceptable?”
“Our work here matters. Our example matters. There is meaning in our service. And as leaders in this country, when we incite violence with depictions against our colleagues, that trickles down into violence in this country.”
Ultimately, the vast majority of House Republicans voted against the resolution to censure Gosar. Only Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Il.) supported the measure, which passed 223 to 207.
While removing Gosar from his committees effectively takes away a major platform for him to effect legislation, the censure is basically just a public condemnation. Still, the move is significant because it represents the first time in more than a decade that a member of the House has been censured and only the 24th instance in American history.
Gosar, for his part, appeared to be unmoved by the decision. Just an hour after the vote, the lawmaker retweeted a post praising him that also included the same video of him killing Ocasio-Cortez.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (NPR)
Former Trump Aide Steve Bannon Surrenders to FBI After Contempt of Congress Charges
The charges stem from Bannon’s failure to comply with a subpoena from the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Bannon Faces Contempt Charges
Former White House advisor Steve Bannon surrendered to the FBI Monday morning on two contempt of Congress charges.
Bannon, who previously served as an aide to former President Donald Trump, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Friday after he defied a subpoena to testify and provide documents to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“I don’t want anybody to take their eye off the ball…We’re taking down the Biden regime every day,” he said when briefly addressing the media as he turned himself in to the FBI’s Washington, D.C. field office.
Bannon made his first court appearance Monday afternoon, though he did not make a plea and was released from custody. His arraignment is set for Thursday morning.
If convicted, each count of contempt carries a maximum of one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. Contempt of Congress charges are incredibly rare. According to The Washington Post, only three such charges have been brought in the last three decades.
Ongoing Legal Battle
While the proceedings against Bannon will likely be quick, they are only one part of what is shaping up to be a lengthy battle over executive privilege.
Trump has repeatedly attempted to block the Jan. 6 committee from obtaining requested documents, testimonies, and other materials under the argument that they are protected by executive privilege — which he asserts still applies to him and his former aides.
In addition to provoking a fraught legal back-and-forth over key records, the former president’s efforts have additionally prompted multiple previous top officials to refuse to comply with subpoenas.
Some top Democrats have said that Bannon’s indictment will encourage other witnesses to cooperate, but at the same time, it has reinvigorated Trump’s allies in Congress.
While some have threatened payback if Republicans take the House in 2022, others have also weaponized support of Bannon as the latest show of loyalty for Trump, effectively centering the matter as a key issue for the midterm elections.
On Saturday, Trump himself released a statement condemning all Republicans who either voted for the infrastructure bill or the contempt charges against Bannon, listing each by name and promising to back anyone who primaried them in the upcoming elections.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (NPR)
Judge Blocks Trump’s Effort To Keep Records From Jan. 6 Committee
The former president’s lawyers quickly appealed the decision, and experts have said the legal battle over the records could extend into next year.
Trump’s Attempt To Withhold Documents Rejected
A federal judge issued a ruling Tuesday rejecting former President Donald Trump’s effort to block records from being handed over to the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Trump has launched numerous attempts to prevent the committee from obtaining key documents, testimonies, and other evidence lawmakers have requested, claiming the materials are protected by executive privilege.
Last month, he went as far as to file a lawsuit against the panel and the National Archives to prevent the committee from seeing those documents.
In his suit, Trump claimed that executive privilege still applied to him even though he is no longer president, and despite the fact that President Joe Biden also declined to exercise executive privilege over the records.
The former president argued that the requested information has “no reasonable connection to the events of that day” or “any conceivable legislative purpose.”
In her Tuesday ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan broadly rejected those arguments, writing that “the public interest lies in permitting […] the combined will of the legislative and executive branches to study the events that led to and occurred on January 6, and to consider legislation to prevent such events from ever occurring again.”
Chutkan additionally argued that Congress’ ability to obtain information as part of its constitutional oversight authority outweighs Trump’s remaining secrecy powers, especially because Biden agreed that investigators should see the records.
“[Trump] does not acknowledge the deference owed to the incumbent president’s judgment. His position that he may override the express will of the executive branch appears to be premised on the notion that his executive power ‘exists in perpetuity,'” she added. “But presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not president.”
Ongoing Legal Battle
Immediately after the ruling, Trump’s lawyers appealed and moved to block the release of the records until their appeal can be heard.
According to various reports, the appeals court set an initial written briefing deadline for Dec. 27. Legal experts, however, believe the battle will likely continue into next year and will ultimately be resolved by the Supreme Court.
A drawn-out legal process will only continue to benefit Trump, whose strategy of stonewalling and stalling the investigation has so far proven effective at hindering lawmakers.
Additional delays would further aid the former president if litigation continues past the 2022 midterm elections when Republicans hope to retake the House.
In a statement on Twitter, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich indicated that the legal fight is just now starting.
“The battle to defend Executive Privilege for Presidents past, present & future—from its outset—was destined to be decided by the Appellate Courts,” he wrote. “Pres. Trump remains committed to defending the Constitution & the Office of the Presidency, & will be seeing this process through.”