Sarah Sanders slammed for sharing 'doctored' footage of CNN reporter Jim Acosta's confrontation with White House intern
The doctored video was originally posted by alt-right conspiracy theorist website Info Wars employee Paul Joseph Watson on his Twitter account
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders is facing heavy criticism for sharing doctored footage of CNN reporter Jim Acosta's confrontation with an intern that the Trump administration used as an excuse to revoke his press pass access.
The incident in question came after Acosta had a heated argument with President Donald Trump when the intern attempted to take away the microphone from the reporter's hands. In the C-Span footage of the incident, Acosta can be seen using his left arm to push the intern's arm away, and Sanders heavily played on the altercation to state it was "disgusting" and "inappropriate behavior."
We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video. pic.twitter.com/T8X1Ng912y— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) 8 November 2018
To justify the revocation of Acosta's pass, in a series of tweets, Sanders wrote, "President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration. We will, however, never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern..."
"This conduct is absolutely unacceptable. It is also completely disrespectful to the reporter’s colleagues not to allow them an opportunity to ask a question. President Trump has given the press more access than any President in history. Contrary to CNN’s assertions there is no greater demonstration of the President’s support for a free press than the event he held today. Only they would attack the President for not supporting a free press in the midst of him taking 68 questions from 35 different reporters over the course of 1.5 hours including several from the reporter in question," Sanders said.
"The fact that CNN is proud of the way their employee behaved is not only disgusting, it‘s an example of their outrageous disregard for everyone, including young women, who work in this Administration. As a result of today’s incident, the White House is suspending the hard pass of the reporter involved until further notice," she added.
Acosta soon confirmed that be had been barred from entering the White House, writing, "I’ve just been denied entrance to the WH. Secret Service just informed me I cannot enter the WH grounds for my 8 pm hit."
Sanders shared a video of the confrontation on the official White House Twitter account with the caption, "We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video," to justify the ban. However, the footage she shared had been quite obviously doctored.
According to the Daily Mail, it emerged that the footage — which has the C-Span logo — is heavily dramatized and speeds up the moment Acosta's arm touches the intern to make it seem as if he's 'karate-chopping' her, and had first been shared by alt-right conspiracy theorist website Info Wars employee Paul Joseph Watson on his Twitter account.
CNN's Brian Shelter was one of several to call out the authenticity of the video, writing, "Where'd you obtain the distorted @Acosta video you posted? InfoWars personality @PrisonPlanet (Paul Joseph Watson's account) posted the same video two hours before you did. Surely you don't trust InfoWars...?"
A commenter who replied to her post similarly wrote, "So a doctored video from InfoWars is what you are using on an official Whitehouse twitter account? Seems valid to me," with another posting, "Has it possibly occurred to you that the reason you've lost control of Congress is because fewer and fewer people accept your blatant lies? Yet you still you lie."
Acosta himself responded to the video indirectly, stating, "Don’t believe the lies coming from the WH. Believe in our freedoms. Thank you all for your support. We won’t back down." He also appeared on CNN colleague Anderson Cooper's program to defend himself, saying, "I do think, Anderson, that this is a test for all of us. I do think they're trying to shut us down to some extent inside the White House press corps. I didn't put my hands on her or touch her as they're alleging. It's unfortunate the White House is saying this... I think I handled myself professionally."
CNN also released a statement defending Acosta and accusing Sanders of lying. "She provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened," the statement read. "This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better. Jim Acosta has our full support."
More damningly, the White House Correspondents' Association also criticized the move and threw their support behind Acosta. "Revoking access to the White House complex is a reaction out of line to the purported offense and is unacceptable," they said. "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 offense to view the video of the events from earlier today."