Independent Expert Says White House Doctored Video to Make Reporter Look More Aggressive

Earlier this week, CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, had his White House press pass suspended after a confrontation with President Trump and a White House aide. Now, a video expert has claimed that the video the White House tweeted in defense of the decision has been doctored to make Acosta look more aggressive.

Abba Shapiro, a video production trainer, says he noted the anomalies in the video tweeted by White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. In particular, Shapiro says the video was sped up at the moment Acosta and the aide made contact in order to make Acosta's arm motion look more aggressive, with additional frames then inserted to restore the original timing. He also said the fact that the video is missing audio is suspicious, as this would make it far more difficult to convincingly change its timing. The White House News Photographers Association has called the footage "deceptive, dangerous, and unethical," and of course, if true, such a manipulation would be an egregious violation of governmental and journalistic practices. Multiple news outlets have reported that the video appears to have come from Infowars, an alt-right conspiracy news site. Paul Joseph Watson, an editor-at-large for InfoWars, says the video was not doctored, but was made from a GIF, which he claims explains the anomalies. It's unclear why the White House would have used the Infowars video as a source as opposed to direct footage from the cameras at the event. 

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148 Comments

Stop the politicization of F stoppers. This is a photography site, not CNN or the DNC.

Alex Cooke's picture

The ethics of visual media are well worth discussing and well within the bounds of what we cover.

Infowars is a conspiracy site. Only their "believers" think otherwise.

>> Infowars is a conspiracy site. Only their "believers" think otherwise. <<

Actually, if you look at their income stream, it's mostly a site to sell quack remedies to borderline mentally incompetent people. The conspiracy riff is just a good way of attracting gullible marks.

Christos Dikos's picture

Where's the article from Fstoppers about Twitter taking down the VIDEO of Antifa surrounding Tucker Carlson's home at night and threatening him and his family?

Alex’s assertions are plausible, though I don’t recall the articles exploring how obama used the media to suppress the truth about Benghazi - recall the concerted dis-information campaign blaming the terror attack which resulted in the murder of our liberal Ambassador and brave American heroes on an obscure video maker? That episode certainly qualified under the purported “ethics of video making”. My intent is not to make a tit for tat argument, highlight the dozens of media manipulations by the prior administration, DNC, or even demonstrate the liberal bias of the FS editors, rather disclose your agenda or be objective.

There is nothing wrong per se with exploring whether the Acosta video was doctored, but the headline reinforces the apparent bias of the analysis. Instead of asking was the video doctored, FS chose to assert that an “expert says” it was. Well there are many experts who say it wasn’t and the distinctions were due to codec conversions or other factors. The lack of an objective discussion only serves to reinforce the appearance of a political agenda.

For lack of a better comparison, if FS chose to publish only favorable reviews of Nikon equipment while selectively denigrating Canon products then I suspect that readers would be similarly suspect. Again, I would implore you to stop the politicization of an otherwise useful photography website.

Christos Dikos's picture

Trying to picture the response if a right wing group surrounded Acosta's home at night and threatened him and his family, then the video banned by Fox News.

Nonsense. It's political click bait and trash talk. Jim Acosta is another story...

Pretty poor excuse for adding politics to a photography site. If you are a repressed political reporter go find a job elsewhere Alex.

Alex Cooke's picture

I enjoy this job. Thanks, though!

So Alex, please explain how your article, published on a photography website, differs from something you would find in the Huffington Post? If you can't point out any difference then it doesn't belong here. Did HuffPo turn your application down?

Alex Cooke's picture

Easy. We live in an age where the ability to make convincing photo and video edits that can fundamentally change the content and interpretation of journalistic footage is overwhelmingly easy, and there are major legal and ethical implications that come from that that anyone who values the power of photos and videos should be aware of and have a voice on. If you don’t see that premise or agree with it, we don’t have much else to discuss.

And I’ve never applied to HuffPo. Too busy with this job that I enjoy immensely.

Seriously Brian, it's obviously relevant to the industry.

Michael Kormos's picture

Oh indeed. Especially with a strong political theme. Nothing sells ads like thousands of impressions. Press (and blogs too, I suppose) are all about sales these days.

Alex Cooke's picture

Believe it or not, some of us do care about the nuances of PJ and editing ethics and how they intertwine with current events. I find it deeply disappointing when the discussion devolves into what it has. Not everything is a scheme, Michael.

Motti Bembaron's picture

Agree. Many viewers are from outside the US and could not careless about US nasty political landscape. This is a photography site.

I visited many UK forums and not ones they had any political article, it's all photography related, clean and simple.

Maybe it's time to move on...

>> Agree. Many viewers are from outside the US and could not careless about US nasty political landscape. <<

I'm from the UK. This isn't a political story. It's a story about videography - which this site regularly has articles on - has been abused, including relevant technical details. I shoot video as well as stills, so it would be morally irresponsible of me not to be interested.

Motti Bembaron's picture

It is all political and has nothing to do with our profession and what we do. It has nothing to do about videography either. But it seems people are drawn to that kind of journalism.

How doesn't post-processing of a video to alter "have to do" with videography? This claim makes no sense.

Motti Bembaron's picture

Except the claim that the white house 'doctored' it, what exactly did we learn about the post processing of videos? That when posting on Twitter we should post a lower quality video? The video was posted on Twitter in a much lower resolution (lower frame rate) than the original, that's it.

I swear CNN should send a fat cheque to their president, if it was not for him they would be out of business. The absolute infatuation, obsession and mania they have with him is CNN's raison d'être for the past two years.

That's it for me on this thread. I have better things to do :-)

"The video was posted on Twitter in a much lower resolution (lower frame rate) than the original, that's it."

Are you blind?

Really Motti? Not relevant to the profession? You couldn't be more wrong if you tried.

This story doesn't have to be political at all. This is about tampering with video to change facts vs artifacts created by software unknowingly. This is actually a really interesting story but I think it's a total fluke.

David Penner's picture

The same article was on either dpreview or petapixel and someone posted an explanation of what happened. Basically when converting a video to gif you end up losing frames.
I personally don't think he meant to hit the intern but he should have lost his press pass a long time ago. I've watched a lot of the videos from the White House and he is constantly not following the rules. Usually it's one or two questions and then give the mic to someone else. Everyone follows those rules for the most part other than Acosta.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Thank you! I'm glad you feel the same as me.

If we want to have a discussion about the ethics of digital media manipulation by software and then presenting that media as fact or truth. That is a meaningful and constructive topic, and one we should all have. But neither of the articles posted on the site, examined that issue. If you're trying to convince me that politicians are dishonest, or that journalist need to spent less energy promoting themselves or pushing a narrative and more time reporting the news, I'am with you.

this has nothing to do with photography and personal interest in mind with these posts. trying to deflect the political aspect of it to hide the obvious reason youre focusing on the tampering part but its quite transparent its to make the trump side look bad and thats the whole issue here. keep politics out of fs please. there is nothing photography about this. so am I supposed to learn what video tampering looks like

your agenda is very transparent fs. I see it.

SS >> its quite transparent its to make the trump side look bad <<

This is stupid. The FACT may make Trump look bad, but that doesn't mean there is an ulterior motive. All moral people are under an obligation to speak the truth, regardless of how the truth may make one side or another look.

Yes: if Trump doctored a video to lie - which seems to be the case - that makes him look bad. But that doesn't mean that anyone reporting it has an ulterior motive.

>> this has nothing to do with photography <<

No, because it's a video. And fstoppers is also a vidoegraphy site, genius.

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