- Twitter added a “manipulated media” warning on a video that was made and uploaded by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise.
- The video edited a clip of an interview between Joe Biden and Ady Barkan, an activist who speaks with a computerized voice by taking words Barkan had said earlier in a different context to make it sound like Biden was saying he supported defunding the police.
- After receiving backlash and demands to apologize, Scalise defended the video, arguing that Biden had said he was open to redirecting funds, which he claimed was the same as defunding the police. He later deleted the video but did not apologize.
- Biden has repeatedly said he does not support defunding the police, and Barkan himself has said that Biden did not say he supported defunding the police during their interview.
“Manipulated Media” Warning
Twitter placed a “manipulated media” warning on a video Sunday posted by House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.)
“No police. Mob rule. Total chaos,” the second-highest-ranking Republican in the House wrote in the tweet sharing the video. “That’s the result of the Democrat agenda. Ask yourself: Is this what you want in your town next?”
The video included in the post showed a clip of an interview last month between Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Ady Barkan, an activist with ALS who speaks through a computerized voice.
“Do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding for police?” Barkan asks.
“Yes. Absolutely,” Biden responded.
However, that was not the way Barkan posed the question in that interview. Barkan asked Biden if he was open to reforms that would redirect some of the responsibilities and funding from police into social services like wellness counselors who could respond to non-violent incidents.
Biden said yes, and laid out some of his own reforms that did not seem to involve shifting funds, and Barkan followed up with: “But do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?”
Barkan did not add “for police,” but as The Verge explains: “The version Scalise tweeted edits in the words ‘for police,’ to the end of the question, words which Barkan says in a different context earlier in the video.”
Scalise Receives Backlash
Many responded to the video by not only condemning Scalise for creating and uploading a video with manipulated audio, but also for intentionally capitalizing on the computerized voice of a disabled person for political gain.
“Your team changed his words using his computer voice because they could,” Liz Jaff, the president of Barkan’s Be A Hero political fund wrote on Twitter.
Barkan himself also took aim at the Minority Whip.
“These are not my words,” he wrote on Twitter. “I have lost my ability to speak, but not my agency or my thoughts. You and your team have doctored my words for your own political gain. Please remove this video immediately. You owe the entire disability community an apology.”
Biden, for his part, retweeted that post, referring to the video as “doctored” and calling it “a flagrant attempt to spread misinformation at the expense of a man who uses assistive technology. It should be removed. Now.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also retweeted the Barkan’s post and echoed his demands for Scalise to take down the vide and apologize.
Scalise defended the video in another tweet shortly after Barkan called for it to be taken down.
“Twice in one interview Biden says ‘yes’ & ‘yes absolutely’ to questions about ‘redirecting’ police funding,” he tweeted. “Dems & their partners in the media want to blame ‘editing’ to pretend this isn’t exactly what he believes.”
In an emailed statement to The Washington Post, a spokesperson for Scalise said that the video was, “condensed … to the essence of what he was asking, as is common practice for clips run on TV and social media, no matter the speaker.”
“We paired the police portion with Barkan’s final question for clarity because we couldn’t include an entire 3-minute clip in a one minute montage,” the spokesperson added. “We believe Biden’s position and answer is clear regardless: When asked twice, he says ‘yes’ he is open to redirecting funding away from the police, and that is clear in our video.”
Scalise did eventually delete the video, though he did not apologize and continued to defend the video in a tweet he posted announcing the move.
“While Joe Biden clearly said ‘yes,’ twice, to the question of his support to redirect money away from police, we will honor the request of @AdyBarkan and remove the portion of his interview from our video,” he wrote.
Scalise also deleted the video from Facebook, but according to reports, Facebook did not flag the post as manipulated media even though it appeared to violate the platform’s guidelines— a point brought up by many social media users.
Under its current rules, Facebook defines manipulated videos as content that “would likely mislead someone into thinking that a subject of the video said words they did not actually say.”
Biden and Defunding the Police
While the manipulated audio appeared to be the catalyst behind Twitter’s decision, it was also not the only problem with Scalise’s video. The other issue is that Biden has repeatedly said he does not want to defund the police, despite the fact that President Donald Trump has continually made false claims that he does.
Notably, many have cited the interview with Barkan as evidence that Biden wants to defund the police and made the same argument that Scalise did about any reallocation being the same as defunding.
But Barkan himself has said that is different and that Biden did not say he wanted to defund the police during their interview.
“Though Ady would have loved Joe Biden to announce in this interview that he is in favor of defunding the police, the Vice President never said it,” Jaff said in a statement following the interview last month.
In fact, while Biden has proposed funding increases for community policing through social services, he has explicitly said he does not want to cut funding from police budgets. When asked if he supports defunding the police during an interview with ABC News last week, he again reiterated that he does not.
“I don’t want to defund police departments,” he said, referring to the fact that annual White House budgets under Trump have recommended billions of dollars worth of cuts to the Office of Justice Programs, which gives grants to local law enforcement. “The only guy that actually put in a bill to actually defund the police is Donald Trump.”
See what others are saying: (The Verge) (The Washington Post) (CNN)
Campaign Season Gets Rolling This Month With Primaries in 13 States
Several of the contests taking place this month will serve as important tests for Trump-backed candidates and how much power the former president still has over the GOP.
May Primaries Start With Key Race in Ohio
The 2022 midterm season is officially heating up this month with 13 states heading to the polls.
Voters in Indiana and Ohio will kick off the busy month on Tuesday with several highly anticipated races, including one closely watched contest for the seat being vacated by long-time Senator Rob Portman (R-Oh.)
The fight for Portman’s seat has been a heated one: candidates have spent tens of millions of dollars, held numerous debates and forums, and at one point, two of them even got into a physical confrontation.
The main reason there are so many eyes on this race is because it will prove to be a key test for former President Donald Trump and the influence he has over the party. While Portman has generally been moderate and, at times, more readily critical of Trump than many others in his party, the Republican primary campaign has basically been a fight to see who is the most in line with Trump.
According to FiveThirtyEight, all but one of the seven Republican senate candidates embraced the former president’s election fraud lies as they fought for his coveted endorsement in a state he won by eight points in both 2016 and 2020.
Trump, for his part, ultimately ended up endorsing Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance in a move that surprised many, because Vance had previously been vocally opposed to the former leader and his competitors had spent months running ads noting that fact.
However, the fight for Trump’s backing appears to have been worth it. Last week, a Fox News poll found that support for Vance has surged by double-digits since Trump’s endorsement, making him the front-runner.
Still, as FiveThirtyEight reports, “other factions of the party haven’t given up the fight either — which means the primary will be a direct test of how much clout Trump has when other Republican elites dare to defy him.”
Meanwhile, there are also concerns regarding the ongoing legal battle over Ohio’s congressional map and the confusion that has caused for the state’s election calendar. For weeks, it was widely believed the state’s primaries would be pushed back after the Ohio Supreme Court ordered GOP lawmakers to redraw their map.
The map had been gerrymandered to give Republicans 12 out of the 15 congressional seats in the state even though they had only won around 55% of the popular vote. Ohio voters also previously passed a constitutional amendment in 2018 that effectively banned partisan gerrymandering.
The election, however, is still going forward anyway, even as early voting was down a whopping 40% from the last election, and the legislative races will not be on the ballot Tuesday, meaning there will have to be a second primary, which will likely drive down turnout even more.
Other Major Races This Month
There are also other notable contests scheduled for later this month. On May 17, there will be two additional races for seats vacated by Republican senators in North Carolina and Pennsylvania that will serve as important indicators of the former president’s sway over the party.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, the main Trump test focuses on two statewide races for the positions currently held by Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R). The two infamously angered Trump after they refused to help him overturn the election, and as a result, many are watching to see if the former president’s full-fledged pressure campaign against them will work.
In Georgia and other battlegrounds voting this month, Democrats are also hoping they can make inroads — particularly in Pennsylvania. But recent polls have not painted a good picture for the party. Last week, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that 47% of voters said they were more likely to vote for the Republican in their district, while just 44% said they would back Democrats.
The poll marked the first time in eight years that a Marist survey found the GOP with an advantage for congressional ballot tests.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (FiveThirtyEight) (PennLive)
New York’s Highest Court Strikes Down Democrat-Gerrymandered Map
The move represents a major blow to Democrats, who stood to gain as many as three seats in Congress if their map had been accepted.
Appeals Court Ruling
The New York State Court of Appeals struck down a congressional map drawn by the state’s Democrats Wednesday, dealing the party a major blow.
In the decision, the state’s highest court agreed with Republicans who had argued that the map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Democrats. The justices called the map “substantively unconstitutional as drawn with impermissible partisan purpose.”
The court also condemned the Democrats for ignoring a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2014 that aimed to limit political influence in redistricting, which included the creation of an independent entity to draw maps that the legislature would then vote on. However, the commission created to prevent partisan gerrymandering was unable to decide on a map because of its own partisan stalemate. As a result, Democrats in the legislature took it upon themselves to draw a final map.
But the version that the legislature passed and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed into law re-drew lines so that Democrats could have gained as many as three new seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Such gains would be highly significant in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections, where Republicans are expected to make substantial gains and may very well take back the House. Unsurprisingly, Republicans sued, and a lower court struck down the map.
In their order, the Appeals Court justices took away the legislature’s ability to make the map and instead delegated that power to a court-appointed “neutral expert.”
While the judges did say there was enough time to finish the map before the primary elections in June, they also added that the Congressional contests would likely need to be moved to August. Races for governor and other statewide officials, however, would stay the same.
The Appeals Court ruling is unique in that it targets Democrats, but it also comes as part of the broader trend of state courts cracking down on gerrymandering — though most other instances have stemmed from GOP-drawn maps.
In just the first four months of 2022, state courts in Ohio, North Carolina, Kansas, and Maryland have all struck down redistricting plans crafted by lawmakers.
Unlike the New York ruling, some of those other courts have implied that they will still allow those maps to be used in the 2022 elections. Such a decision would very likely disadvantage Democrats even more.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
McCarthy Warned Far-Right Lawmakers Could Incite Violence After Jan. 6 in New Audio of Leaked Call
The conversations represent a marked difference from the public efforts of McCarthy and other Republican leaders to downplay their members‘ actions.
Four days after the Jan. 6 insurrection, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) expressed concern about far-right Republicans inciting violence and openly voiced support for censoring them on Twitter, according to audio published by The New York Times on Tuesday.
The recordings, which come from a call among party leaders and aides on Jan. 10, are by far the clearest evidence top Republicans acknowledged that their members played a role in stoking violence before the insurrection and threatened to do so after.
They also emphasize the vast difference between what top Republicans, especially McCarthy, said behind closed doors, and how they downplayed and ignored the actions of their members in public.
One of the most notable elements of these recordings is that McCarthy and the others explicitly identified several individuals by name. They focused mainly on Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) and Mo Brooks (R-Al.) as the primary offenders.
In the audio, McCarthy can be heard flagging Gaetz right off the bat.
“Tension is too high. The country is too crazy,” he added. “I do not want to look back and think we caused something or we missed something and someone got hurt. I don’t want to play politics with any of that.”
Specifically, McCarthy and the others talked about how Gaetz had gone on TV to attack multiple Republicans for being unsupportive of former President Donald Trump after Jan. 6. They particularly expressed concern over his targeting of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), who was a member of the leadership team and had already been facing threats.
Others on the call also noted that Brooks had spoken at the rally before the insurrection, where he made incendiary remarks that many have viewed as direct calls to violence. McCarthy said the public comments from his members “have to stop,” adding he would call Gaetz and have others do the same to tell him that this “is serious shit” and “to cut this out.”
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the second-ranking House Republican, asserted at one point that Gaetz’s actions were “potentially illegal.”
“Well, he’s putting people in jeopardy, and he doesn’t need to be doing this,” McCarthy responded. “We saw what people would do in the Capitol, you know, and these people came prepared with rope, with everything else.”
Republicans on the call also mentioned incendiary remarks from other members, including Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx.), Barry Moore (R-Al.), and Lauren Boebert (R-Co.). Cheney pointed to Boebert as a security risk, noting she had tweeted out incredibly sensitive information about the movements of top leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) during the attack on the Capitol.
“Our members have got to start paying attention to what they say, too, and you can’t put up with that shit,” McCarthy added later. “Can’t they take their Twitter accounts away, too?”
McCarthy in Hot Water
The newly published recordings also come just days after The Times reported that McCarthy had told members on a call after the insurrection that he would urge Trump to resign.
McCarthy initially called the reporting “totally false and wrong,” but shortly after his denial, The Times received permission from their source to publish audio where he can be heard saying precisely that.
McCarthy, for his part, has tried to spin the situation, claiming that his remarks were still true because he never actually followed through on the plan to call Trump.
Still, the situation prompted widespread backlash from the far-right faction of the Republican party.
Multiple people expressed hesitancy about their support for McCarthy as Speaker of the House if Republicans take control of the chamber in the midterm elections. Some said they could not trust him.
Speaking on his show Tuesday, Foxs News host Tucker Carlson called McCarthy “a puppet of the Democratic Party.”
Gaetz also responded with ire, tweeting out a statement in which he referred to the call as “sniveling” and said of McCarthy and Scalise: “This is the behavior of weak men, not leaders.”
Other members mentioned in the call, however, appeared to brush it off. In a statement to Axios, Moore claimed that the story was engineered by “RINOS” (Republicans in Name Only), and that “Republicans will be more united than ever after taking back the House this November.”
It currently remains unclear whether these revelations with pose any long-term threat to McCarthy, but if Trump is any indication of the far-right party line, the House leader may be in the clear.
After The Times published the audio of McCarthy saying Trump should resign, the former president told The Wall Street Journal that the relationship between the two men was untroubled.
“I think it’s all a big compliment, frankly,” he added. “They realized they were wrong and supported me.”