Less than 24 hours after Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, President Trump effectively fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He did so for no discernible reason other than his frustration with Sessions’ recusal from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, which has led to the indictment of several figures in the Trump’s orbit. Replacing Sessions is his chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, who last year wrote an op-ed arguing that Mueller’s investigation had “gone too far.” According to the New York Times, Trump first took a liking to Whitaker after watching him criticize the investigation on TV. Whitaker will now be overseeing Mueller’s investigation, effective immediately. This is a big deal.
But something else happened on Wednesday that has drawn a more substantial portion of the media’s attention than Trump’s plain-sight move to hamstring the Russia investigation. At an unrelated press conference shortly before Sessions’ resignation letter was made public, Trump got into an argument with CNN’s Jim Acosta. “You are a rude, terrible person,” Trump said after Acosta attempted to ask a question about the president’s rhetoric regarding the caravan of Central American migrants making its way through Mexico. “You shouldn’t be working for CNN. You’re a very rude person. The way you treat [Press Secretary] Sarah Huckabee [Sanders] is horrible. The way you treat other people is horrible.”
The confrontation grew so heated that a White House intern attempted to forcibly remove the microphone from Acosta’s hand. It was a jarring scene, and it ended with Trump once again calling a journalist the “enemy of the people.” The media was outraged; the White House saw an opportunity. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted on Wednesday night that the White House had revoked Acosta’s credentials, citing how he placed his “hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern.” It was a “disgusting” example of CNN’s “outrageous disregard for everyone, including young women, who work in this Administration,” Sanders wrote. She then tweeted a video of the incident that many have alleged was doctored to make Acosta’s interaction with the intern more aggressive than it actually was.
This video is doctored. It's slowed down and then sped up at the moment Acosta's hand comes down to make it look like he's doing a karate chop or something. This is shameful propaganda. It's Orwellian. https://t.co/in8m3iHn18
— Dana Schwartz (@DanaSchwartzzz) November 8, 2018
The video tweeted out by the White House last night adds motion blur and repeats frames to make it appear Acosta is being much more forceful than he actually was pic.twitter.com/hAgQodceCZ
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) November 8, 2018
The intern's reach for the mic is slowed down, and the "chop" motion is accelerated. Here's an annotated side by side comparison: pic.twitter.com/wLCG5GVdo1
— Aymann Ismail (@aymanndotcom) November 8, 2018
1) Took @PressSec Sarah Sanders' video of briefing
2) Tinted red and made transparent over CSPAN video
3) Red motion is when they doctored video speed
4) Sped up to make Jim Acosta's motion look like a chop
5) I've edited video for 15+ years
6) The White House doctored it pic.twitter.com/q6arkYSx0V
— Rafael Shimunov 🔥 (@rafaelshimunov) November 8, 2018
InfoWars contributor Paul Joseph Watson posted the same video two hours before Sanders did. Watson has denied altering the footage, claiming that he simply zoomed in on a GIF tweeted by Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire. Regardless of who distorted the video — or if it was distorted at all — Acosta’s credentials were revoked because the president didn’t like his “rude” questions. No reasonable person watching the original video could conclude that there was anything inappropriate, and certainly not “disgusting,” about Acosta’s interaction with the intern. He even said, “Pardon me, ma’am,” as she reached across his body to grab the microphone.
The Trump administration’s continued efforts to demonize the media and cultivate skepticism in what it reports amount to a dictatorial show of domination, and the more the media fights back, the deeper it entrenches itself in a battle it can’t win. Nevertheless, the media chooses to spend an exceedingly large portion of its limited bandwidth dissecting its own relationship with the president. When it’s not wringing its hands over the sanctity of the free press, it’s focusing on the president’s relationship with reality, as shown by the exhausting coverage the imaginary “invasion” of Central American migrants making its way through Mexico.
These things do deserve attention, but much of this coverage is still a ratings ploy. The White House knows it can take advantage of this, as it did Wednesday night. Not only did Sanders baselessly revoke the credentials of a legitimate journalist, she justified the action by fabricating an alternate reality in which he assaulted a woman, going so far as to share an apparently doctored video that was originally promoted by a discredited outlet whose owner recently dressed up as a frog to raise awareness for the idea that the government is putting chemicals in the nation’s water supply in an effort to turn the population gay.
It’s a sensational story, which means it will be covered to no end. Meanwhile, you’ve probably already forgotten that this article began by highlighting how Trump has installed a Dave Matthews Band-loving WiFi thief at the top of the Justice Department to stymie a federal investigation into the potential criminality of the president and his family.