“This is the Trump theory on war. I’m really good at war. I love war, in a certain way.”
“Including with nukes, yes, including with nukes.”
–Quotes by Donald Trump used in a political ad by pro-Hillary Clinton group Priorities USA Action
Howard Stern: “So you treat women with respect?”
Trump: “Uh, I can’t say that, either.”
Stern: “Alright, good.”
–Exchange used in a political ad by Hillary for America
Given that Trump is a prolific tweeter who frequently grants interviews with news media, there is no shortage of information about Trump’s views on an array of issues. Many political ads and speeches attacking Trump have been using Trump’s own words to contrast the two candidates’ stances.
In two recent attack ads, we found scenarios where ad-makers pushed the boundaries editing Trump’s audio and video clips when they really did not need to. One ad uses Trump’s words to say he is “too dangerous for America.” The other uses Trump’s words to say someone with “this much contempt and disrespect for women has no business becoming president.” But both ads air his quotes without context, when there are plenty alternatives that could have been used without the risk of creating a misleading impression to viewers. Let’s take a look.
Priorities USA Action ad
In an ad titled “Presidential,” the pro-Clinton group used Trump’s comments on war, nuclear weapons, foreign policy approach (“I want to be unpredictable”) and the Islamic State to say Trump is “too dangerous for America.” The ad uses audio and video clips of Trump’s comments while written quotes flash onscreen.
The ad plays an audio clip from a campaign rally, during which Trump said: “This is the Trump theory on war. … I’m really good at war. I love war, in a certain way.” A quote by the Indianapolis Star editorial board flashes on screen at the same time: “A President Trump would be a danger to the United States.”
Then the screen blacks out, and a video clip is shown of Trump’s November 2015 interview with Fox News. He says, “including with nukes, yes, including with nukes.” But there is no context given to this statement.
The blackout indicates the claims about his “love” for war and his comment on “nukes” could have been made in two different instances. But that’s not entirely clear. We concur with conclusions by PolitiFact and FactCheck.org, that the juxtaposition of these two clips with no context given to the latter could create a misleading impression to viewers that Trump “loves” “nukes.”
The full context of the “nukes” quote is below (we have highlighted in bold the portion used in the ad). As readers can see, Trump was talking about arming Japan with nuclear weapons to defend itself from North Korea:
Host Chris Wallace: “You want to have a nuclear arms race on the Korean peninsula?”
Trump: “In many ways, and I say this, in many ways, the world is changing. Right now, you have Pakistan and you have North Korea and you have China and you have Russia and you have India and you have the United States and many other countries have nukes.”
Trump: “It’s not like, gee whiz, nobody has them. So, North Korea has nukes. Japan has a problem with that. I mean, they have a big problem with that. Maybe they would in fact be better off if they defend themselves from North Korea.”
Wallace: “With nukes?”
Trump: “Maybe they would be better off — including with nukes, yes, including with nukes.“
If Priorities USA Action wants to draw attention to Trump’s stance on nuclear weapons, there are plenty of audio and video clips it can use to make the same point while giving viewers ample context. In fact, Priorities USA Action sent us multiple other examples where Trump expressed similar sentiments.
Trump has said in several interviews that Japan might be better off with nuclear weapons. As PolitiFact noted, Trump has declined to walk that statement back, which he was given the opportunity to do so many times. In an interview with the New York Times, Trump said: “If Japan had that nuclear threat, I’m not sure that would be a bad thing for us.” He has said in multiple other interviews that he would not “rule anything out” regarding the use of nuclear weapons, though he considers them a last resort.
Priorities USA Action spokesman Justin Barasky said it is clear they are aired as separate statements: “It’s obvious to anyone that these are different clips and there’s no suggestion all 5 are one statement. The only suggestion we make is that each clip shows that Trump is too dangerous for America, which we say at the end of the ad.”
Hillary for America ad
In this ad by Hillary for America, audio clips of Trump’s comments about women play while images of women looking directly at the camera flash on the screen. The ad ends with a video clip of Trump telling Howard Stern that he “can’t say” he treats women with respect. The accompanying post on Twitter reads: “A man with this much contempt and disrespect for women has no business becoming president.”
Again, the claim that Trump “can’t say” he treats women with respect lacks context, and cuts him off before Trump laughs and walks back the statement.
In a 1993 interview on E! entertainment channel, Howard Stern asked about a comment attributed to Trump: “You have to treat them like s—.” This is a reference to a November 1992 New York magazine feature on Trump, in which the author wrote: “His contempt for beautiful women who like to be abused is boundless, and he is full of stories of supermodels, women he might call twelves (not their size), clinging to a rock star’s legs and the rock star kicking them away. You have to treat them like s—.”
Stern asked Trump about the comment, and Trump denied he said the words that were attributed to him. The exchange used in the ad is in bold below. (The conversation begins at about 23:30 mark here.)
Stern: “So you never did say that?”
Trump: “No, I never said that, but it was attributed to me.”
Stern: “I see. So you treat women with respect?”
Trump: “Uh, I can’t say that, either.” [Laughs]
Stern: “Alright, good, alright. Somewhere in between –”
Trump: [Interrupts Stern] “I do, I do. I treat women with great respect.”
Stern: “– treat somewhere in between respect and doodoo.”
Trump doesn’t refute Stern’s conclusion, and he can be heard chuckling in response. It’s not a ringing endorsement for women, but there’s also more to the conversation than the ad suggests.
There is ample evidence of Trump making comments critical of women that weren’t made in jest (see here and here). So again, there’s really no reason to lift a partial statement out of context. Clinton’s campaign declined to comment.
The Pinocchio Test
Snip-and-clip editing jobs that show only a part of a speaker’s statement almost automatically qualify for two Pinocchios under our standards. We get that there’s only so much that can fit in a 30-second spot, but such editing often leaves the speaker’s comment without sufficient context for the viewers.
Trump has spoken at length on his views about nuclear weapons, yet the ad quotes a partial claim about “nukes” that could leave a misleading impression to viewers. Trump has made many comments about women, both positive and negative, yet the ad uses a quote that seems to be a joke. The edited clips in both ads push the envelope unnecessarily so — earning them Two Pinocchios.
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