White House social media director Dan Scavino is no stranger to sharing manipulated video online. In March 2020, Twitter applied its “manipulated media” label for the first time to a deceptively edited video of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden that was posted by Scavino and retweeted by President Trump. The video was cut short to make it sound as though Biden inadvertently endorsed Trump for reelection.

On Sunday, Scavino shared another altered video targeting Biden. Let’s dig in.

The Facts

Scavino tweeted a manipulated video from his personal account that makes it look like Biden fell asleep during a TV interview. The video spliced together two different clips — one from a 2011 KBAK interview with actor Harry Belafonte and the other of Biden at a virtual town hall event with Hillary Clinton in April 2020.

The video has a photoshopped chyron that reads “On air: Joe Biden | The importance of this election.” A soundtrack of snoring has been added.

It has a look of authenticity, but close observers might have been confused when, at one point in the short clip, anchor Leyla Santiago says, “This is your wake up call, Harry,” referring to Belafonte.

Belafonte, in a response to the New York Times, said the original video flub was due to a technical glitch, and he criticized the fake video.

Twitter marked the content as “manipulated media,” and the video was disabled on the platform “in response to a report by the copyright holder.” The video, initially shared by Trump supporter Brian Smyth, had 2.4 million views, according to the original tweet.

We sought comment from the White House, as Scavino is a White House official, but we were directed to the Trump campaign. Communications director Tim Murtaugh said: “This was a retweet of someone else’s video, and it was quite obviously a parody. It is sad that there is actual concern that people could mistake it for the real thing, though.”

The Pinocchio Test

The video is a clear case of splicing, or editing together disparate videos, which fundamentally alters the story that is being told. However, the edit is not necessarily as obvious as the Trump campaign suggests. Less-skeptical or less-observant viewers could believe the content of the video, given the fake chyron, and think Biden fell asleep during an interview when he did not.

Scavino’s tweet is the latest example of the Trump team’s efforts to cast Biden as “Sleepy Joe,” mentally absent or unfit to run for president. The Trump campaign is also not opposed to altering images or video of Biden for political gain. As the 2020 presidential election ramps up, we will continue to hold both campaigns accountable for sharing misleading visual content with millions of potential voters.

Scavino earns Four Pinocchios for circulating a manipulated video that could be so easily interpreted as real.

Four Pinocchios

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