On Sunday, Barkan, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and uses a computerized voice to speak, called out the House Minority Whip before Twitter placed a “manipulated content” label on the post.
“These are not my words. 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,” Barkan wrote.
The quote that Scalise manipulated came when Barkan and Biden were discussing shifting responsibilities assigned to police to social services to prevent police shootings.
In the original video, Barkan said, “We can reduce the responsibilities assigned to police and redirect some of the funding into social services, mental health counseling, and affordable housing. Are you open to that kind of reform?”
“I’ve proposed that kind of reform,” Biden responded. “And by the way, the idea, though — that’s not the same as getting rid of or defunding all the police.”
Later in the conversation, Barkan asked the former vice president, “But do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?”
“Yes, absolutely,” Biden said.
But in Scalise’s manipulated video, his campaign spliced together two sentences and added “for police” to the end of Barkan’s question, making it sound as if he said, “But do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding for police?”
There's a clip here of @AdyBarkan, who has ALS and speaks via voice assistance, asking Biden about "re-directing" public safety funding. The clip alters the quote. It splices "for police" into it, using Barkan's artificial voice. https://t.co/WKkbRzlrXF https://t.co/mUysm9YDeQ pic.twitter.com/uofqi9428E
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) August 30, 2020
A spokesperson for Scalise, Lauren Fine, defended the manipulation to the Washington Post‘s Dave Weigel, who first reported the manipulation, saying 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.”
Fine continued, “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. 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.”
Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke out against the manipulation in a tweet, writing, “Steve Scalise tried to steal Ady Barkan’s health care with more than 60 votes to repeal or undermine Americans’ health care. Now, he’s trying to steal Ady’s words by lying.”
And Biden also condemned the video in a Sunday night tweet. “This video is doctored — and a flagrant attempt to spread misinformation at the expense of a man who uses assistive technology,” Biden said. “It should be removed. Now.”
All of the attention from the video, which included other clips that were taken out of context to appear as if Democrats were encouraging people to assault elected officials prompted Scalise to eventually delete the original tweet. The congressman did not apologize, but instead tweeted: “we will honor the request of Ady Barkan and remove the portion of his interview from our video.”