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NRCC’s deceptively edited attack ad offers a glimpse of 2022 spin

An ad posted on Nov. 6, by the NRCC titled “Chaos” misrepresents multiple video and audio elements through deceptive editing. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)
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“Democrats can’t protect us across the world, Democrats can’t protect our street. Democrats can’t protect us at the border. How did President Biden get this so wrong?”

— Audio of Joe Scarborough and Jake Tapper, edited into a new attack ad released by the NRCC targeting President Biden and Democrats, Nov. 6

It’s no secret that Republicans are gunning to reclaim the House majority in 2022. Encouraged by electoral wins in Virginia and beyond, Republicans have signaled they will focus on hot-button issues such as immigration, inflation, and crime.

But a new ad sponsored by the National Republican Congressional Committee, titled “Chaos,” blurs the line between fact and fiction with misleading video clips. CNN first highlighted some of the deceptive images, and we found additional elements that deceive viewers.

The Facts

The ad, bookended by scenes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) official April 27, 2020, endorsement video of then-presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, wastes no time setting up its electoral argument against Biden’s presidency. But it’s based on clips largely taken from former president Donald Trump’s term.

The opening blink-and-you’ll-miss-it montage begins with (as the voice-over says) “migrants crossing illegally in the United States” and “the crime situation out of control.” The video of the border comes from Biden’s term, so that’s fair game.

But, wait, the “crime situation” shows images of protests in Portland, Ore., in 2020. The video, which takes place in front of the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse, features graffiti and other markings consistent with what the exterior of the building looked like at the height of the protests.

Video of tense protests in Portland appears twice more, edited back to back. The first, posted on Twitter by journalist Sergio Olmos on Sept. 24, 2020, shows a molotov cocktail thrown and exploding on the street. The second was posted on Twitter by journalist Justin Yau on July 22, 2020, and shows billowing red smoke amid a quick, bright explosion. In all three instances, the ad does not make a distinction — visual or otherwise — of the discrepancy.

At the 12-second mark, inflation is highlighted. The ad features an animated graphic with the headline, “Grocery store shoppers sound off on surging prices,” dated Oct. 20 — implicitly tying current supply chain difficulties directly to the Biden administration.

The ad, however, omits the sourcing of said piece, which, after an Internet search, leads us to a Fox News post with the same name and publication date. The piece features a video component weaving together “man on the street” interviews of shoppers sounding off on current supply chain issues outside chain grocery stores in the surrounding areas of Washington, D.C. Neither the text nor video piece directly mentions Biden by name — but one shopper does lay blame for supply issues on “the previous administration, who did not deal with covid.”

Oops, that would be Trump.

The ad then quickly transitions into a quick montage, showing now-viral video of the fall of Kabul in August, followed by video of a Black Lives Matter sign engulfed in flames.

The video used to illustrate violence is again from 2020, when Trump was president. The fire occurred in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 14, during the unrest that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Interestingly, this particular bit of signage was the subject of a widely debunked rumor blaming Black Lives Matter activists for setting the fire that led to the sign’s destruction.

The aforementioned montage is anchored by a forceful voice-over declaring: “Democrats can’t protect us across the world, Democrats can’t protect our street and Democrats can’t protect us at the border. How did President Biden get this so wrong?”

But the quote is actually two different clips edited together. The ad juxtaposes audio of MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough from an Aug. 18 “Morning Joe,” segment, and an Aug. 15 interview between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and CNN’s Jake Tapper. When strung together, the ad’s intended impact can be felt. However, in both cases, the audio is sliced in a misleading way.

In Scarborough’s case, his words are part of a larger thought concerning the upcoming midterms. We have highlighted in bold what was removed.

SCARBOROUGH: “If Democrats want to know what they are going to be facing, let’s talk about it right now. Because if I were a Republican running, I would say: Democrats can’t protect us across the world, Democrats can’t protect our street, and Democrats can’t protect us at the border.”

It’s marvelously circular: This is not Scarborough’s opinion, just how he thinks the GOP would frame the argument. The NRCC certainly took his advice.

In the case of Tapper, his words are part of a direct line of questioning posed to Blinken related to intelligence failures during the fall of Afghanistan — and so it has nothing to do with the subjects of the ad. (During the Scarborough quote about the world, however, there is briefly an image of the chaotic departure from Afghanistan that took place under Biden.)

TAPPER: “Secretary Blinken, as you know, the Taliban has closed in on Kabul. We’re evacuating the embassy, burning documents. Biden increased troops. Deploying to the country twice in just three days just to rescue those there. This is not just about the overall idea of leaving Afghanistan. This is about leaving hastily, and ineptly. Secretary Blinken, how did President Biden get this so wrong?”

When reached for comment, the NRCC did not engage with our questions concerning the discrepancies found in the ad. Instead, NRCC spokesman Mike Berg issued a statement that rested on a falsehood: “If Joe Biden and DC Democrats want to dispute the fact that they actively supported and encouraged the riots in 2020, they are welcome to do so.”

There is no evidence Biden or the Democrats “actively supported and encouraged” rioting in 2020. Biden frequently decried the riots.

The Pinocchio Test

The NRCC willfully misrepresents video of events that occurred well before Biden’s term and selectively edits audio to bolster what the GOP sees as a winning message. We remain dedicated to highlighting manipulated video and so award Four Pinocchios. This ad combines several practices we frown on, including misrepresentation and splicing.

Four Pinocchios

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