But despite the protests of the Trump campaign, this clearly is manipulated video. Last year, the Fact Checker unveiled our guide to manipulated video, which includes three broad categories: Some video is taken out of context; other content is deceptively edited; or, in the worst instances, deliberately altered.
The Trump tweet is an example of “Missing Context”: The video is unaltered, but the way it is presented to the viewer lacks or misstates the context in which events occurred. In this specific case, this is an example of what we labeled as “isolation” — a brief clip from a longer video to create a false narrative that does not reflect the event as it occurred.
For instance, Republicans in 2018 cried foul when Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) shared on Twitter a clip of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings, claiming he uttered a “dog whistle for going after birth control.” The video snippet from his testimony did not make clear that Kavanaugh was quoting from the plaintiffs’ position in a contraceptive case, rather than offering his own opinion.
Similarly, the Trump campaign ended the clip before Biden completed his full sentence: “Excuse me. We can only reelect Donald Trump if in fact we get engaged in this circular firing squad here. It’s gotta be a positive campaign.”
In other words, Biden was calling for Democratic Party unity, not the reelection of Trump. But the video — eagerly shared by supporters of both Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — does not let viewers know that. Instead, it appears to be part of an ongoing effort to suggest that Biden, who stutters, is too old or feebleminded to assume the presidency.
Here are two other recent examples of manipulated videos involving Biden, both intended to suggest that he is a racist — apparently in an effort to undermine his strong support among African Americans.
Reynolds hearing, 1985
(Warning: These videos contain offensive language.)
In this clip, viewed more than 100,000 times, Biden is shown using the “n-word.” He’s holding a piece of paper, so perhaps viewers would realize he’s reading from something. But why? The video does not explain.
It turns out this is from a 1985 hearing for the nomination of William Reynolds to be associate attorney general, the No. 3 position at the Justice Department. Reynolds had been the assistant attorney general for civil rights, but his nomination foundered after he apologized for giving inaccurate or possibly misleading testimony about his civil rights record. Nevertheless, he went on to serve as a top aide to Attorney General Edwin Meese III.
Here’s what is going on. Biden, the panel’s ranking Democrat, had crafted a strategy that derailed Reynolds’s nomination. He repeatedly focused on a Louisiana redistricting case — which President Richard M. Nixon’s civil rights chief had called “a blatant racial gerrymander.” White officials in the state had excluded blacks from their meetings to draw up a plan that prevented a majority-black congressional district in New Orleans. Reynolds refused to challenge the plan, which was later overturned by the courts.
Biden during the hearing read from a confidential memo written by Reynolds’s staff. The memo said that white legislators allegedly used the “n-word” when they crafted the redistricting plan that did not allow for a majority-black district. Biden’s tactic succeeded — enough Republicans joined Democrats to block the nomination.
We would label this video as another example of “missing context - isolation.”
Here’s a fuller clip that puts these comments in context:
Cleveland speech, 1973
On March 6, Sean Hannity of Fox News highlighted a speech Biden gave in 1973 to the City Club of Cleveland, a prestigious venue for a politician. The clip was widely circulated on Twitter.
Hannity claimed that Biden referred to African Americans with “a horrible, degrading word” in the speech, and the network bleeped it out. The implication was that Biden used the “n-word.”
But the word Biden used was “Negro.” The word may seem archaic or obsolete now, but is it really so offensive that it needs to be bleeped out? Some organizations, such as the United Negro College Fund and the National Council of Negro Women, still use it as part of their names.
Negro was commonly used in the 1960s by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other early civil rights era leaders. But the mid-1960s brought the rise of “black” as a replacement term, and by 1973, “black” had most likely become more common than Negro. (“African American” came into vogue in the 1980s.)
The audio of the speech shows that Biden was responding to a questioner who used the word Negro: “For some time I have had the feeling that the Southern senators are warmer now to the problems of the Negro in America. … Do you feel that way about it?”
Biden, in his response, used both Negro and black, indicating the transition in phrasing that was underway at the time: “I think the two-party system is good for the South, and good for the Negro, good for the black in the South.”
We sought an explanation from Fox News for the bleep but did not get a response. This video falls into another category of manipulated video that is missing context -- “misrepresentation.” That’s when unaltered video is presented in an inaccurate manner. Hannity told viewers the word that was bleeped out was “horrible, degrading,” when it is not.
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