Since protests against police brutality broke out in response to the killing of George Floyd, President Trump has declared himself the “law and order” candidate and sought to highlight scattered outbreaks of violence and accuse liberal groups of being responsible.

The Trump campaign tried to build on that theme by releasing an ad Saturday — tweeted by Trump — that mixes shots of mayhem with quotes that suggest that Democratic lawmakers and former vice president and presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden actively supported looting, attacks on police and other violence.

Don’t be fooled. The ad uses quotes with improper context and deceptively edits them with imagery from the demonstrations, skewing the original meaning of the remarks. As of June 30, it had been viewed more than 6 million times.

The Facts

The Trump campaign ad opens with video of violence at protests, displaying the text: “In Democrat-controlled cities across the U.S.A. violent mobs of liberals are rioting and looting. They are attacking police.”

The video then cuts to a quote from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.): “I just don’t even know why there aren’t uprisings all over the country. And maybe there will be.”

The placement of the quote is designed to make viewers think Pelosi backed the violence.

But this is a two-year-old comment — that’s right, from 2018 — about the Trump administration’s family separation policies at the U.S. border with Mexico.

Pelosi’s full quote refers to the Trump administration’s practice: “They’re doing away with children being with their moms. I just don’t even know why there aren’t uprisings all over the country. And maybe there will be, when people realize that this is a policy that they defend.”

The ad goes on to show chaos, an American flag on fire and a Confederate monument being taken down. It then cuts to a quote from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), spliced together with video of police and protesters fighting.

“That is what the word ‘radical’ really means. I’ve never been offended. And I embrace that term,” Ocasio-Cortez says in the video.

However, the ad omits a substantial portion of her remarks, which were part of a longer statement about police reform and accountability, not physical violence. The ad disguises the snip by briefly cutting away to a jerky shot of police and protesters.

Here’s Ocasio-Cortez’s full quote, with the portion used by the ad in bold: “That is what the word ‘radical’ really means, by the way — it means ‘the root,’ getting to the root of problems. And that word has just kind of been co-opted as though you’re just kind of some — I don’t even know, some Looney Tune out here. But what it really means is that if you are radical, it means that you get to the root of problems. Which is why I’ve never been offended, and I embrace that term.”

The end of the ad highlights a statement from Biden with the text “Joe Biden also wants a ‘new system.’ ” Biden is then shown saying: “We have an incredible opportunity to not just dig out of this crisis but to fundamentally transform the country.”

But Biden’s remarks were about the coronavirus pandemic, and he made them during a League of United Latin American Citizens town hall about essential workers May 4 — weeks before Floyd’s death.

Biden was outlining a plan to address health disparities illuminated by covid-19. “I’ve put out a detailed plan about what I think we should be doing right now to support our front-line workers and address the disparities we’re seeing with covid-19 impacts all across the country. And I truly think that if we do this right, we have an incredible opportunity to not just dig out of this crisis, but to fundamentally transform the country,” Biden said.

Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, said her office asked Twitter and Facebook to remove the ad for its misleading content. However, spokespeople for both organizations said the ad does not violate their policies, and it remains online.

The Trump campaign declined to comment on the ad or provide an explanation for the misleading editing. A few days earlier, the Republican National Committee released an ad that claimed Democrats were “destroying America” — and it used the Pelosi and Biden clips in the same misleading fashion.

The Pinocchio Test

Regular readers of The Fact Checker know that we’re paying close attention in this campaign year to examples of manipulated video, using the metric in our guide to the practice. Both campaigns have fallen short, as we have highlighted with fact checks of misleading ads by the Trump campaign and the Biden campaign.

This ad is definitely among the worst in this election cycle, given how it mixes emotional scenes of violence with misleading clips of Democrats. The Pelosi and Biden quotes are presented as if they are about the violence, when they came weeks or years before Floyd’s death. Thus these quotes are missing context, what we label as “isolation.” The video of Ocasio-Cortez has been deceptively edited, with a large portion removed. That’s even more egregious — what we call “omission.”

We do not quite understand how this video fails to violate Facebook and Twitter’s policies. But it certainly earns Four Pinocchios here at The Fact Checker.

Four Pinocchios

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