The Trump campaign team is not taking unbalanced social media interference lightly. After a video showing Joe Biden apparently endorsing President Trump was flagged by Twitter with a “manipulated media” disclaimer, questions have been raised as to just how fair the company is being.
The video, which was shared by White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino and then retweeted by President Trump, presented a short clip taken from a Biden speech. Highlighting three videos from the Biden campaign that engaged in exactly the same practice, the Trump team demanded answers as to why their candidate was being singled out. In a letter to Twitter, they wrote:
“In order for American elections to remain free and fair, it is critical that the Biden campaign be held to the same standard it is demanding apply to others.”
But what was the controversy, and is the Trump campaign right about Twitter running cover for a candidate who is seemingly unable to manage a single speech without gaffes and blunders?
Edited, Not Doctored
The video in question showed Joe Biden at a Kansas City rally fast losing his train of thought and then saying, “we can only re-elect Donald Trump.” The presidential hopeful then went on to say, “if, in fact, we get engaged in this circular firing squad here. It’s gotta be a positive campaign.” The video did not show this second part.
And the outrage ensued.
Pundits in the Biden-friendly media called the video “doctored,” which is a stretch. The speech was edited to a shorter length, not manipulated, not re-ordered, and while it certainly did not represent Biden’s intent, to accuse the campaign of doctoring is certainly not accurate.
Andrew Bates, a Biden campaign spokesperson, said Trump “has made it inescapably clear that he’s terrified of Joe Biden.” He continued:
“It’s not surprising that Trump’s re-election campaign is resorting to more disinformation about the Vice President — after all, Trump himself is so panicked about Joe Biden that he got himself impeached trying to force a foreign country to lie about him.”
But was the Trump campaign right to call out Twitter for double standards? And is the Biden campaign being hypocritical?
The letter to Twitter highlighted three instances where the Biden campaign had engaged in either the same practice or worse in their efforts to combat Trump:
Video clips presented deceptively and out of context by the Biden campaign include:
Two separate videos of President Trump spliced together to fabricate a quote and give viewers the false impression that he called the coronavirus a “hoax.” This misinformation was previously fact-checked as false by a member of the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network.
Two separate videos spliced together to give viewers the false impression that President Trump referred to white nationalists carrying torches as “very fine people.” In fact, 49 seconds after President Trump said those words, he said, “and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally.” As one CNN anchor said, “he’s not saying that the neo-Nazis and white supremacists are very fine people[.]”
A video from the 2016 campaign, before Donald Trump was elected, saying, “the American Dream is dead[.]” The Biden campaign edited the clip to cut out the second part of Trump’s sentence. What then-candidate Trump actually said in 2015 was this: “Sadly, the American dream is dead, but if I get elected president I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before, and we will make America great again.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, none of these videos have been flagged as “manipulated media.”
A Level Playing Field?
Trump’s team excoriated Twitter for running interference for the former vice president, suggesting that employees within the company are operating outside their remit and in their own politically partisan interest. The letter said:
“… it appears that many people employed by Big Tech corporations in Silicon Valley are assisting the Biden campaign by instituting a special ‘Biden protection rule’ that effectively censors and silences legitimate political speech Biden’s campaign and its supporters do not like.”
Social media is a tool that can be used by all to put forward their ideas and opinions, or even wreak havoc if they so wish. It is a digital Wild West in which a single sentence or image can shape the entire narrative of a story, and this is why Big Tech appears determined to censor and control all the content that they just don’t like.
The American public can forgive many sins, but rarely hypocrisy. If the Trump campaign content is to be flagged as misleading, so too should the Biden campaign contributions, and let the chips fall where they may.
Read more from Mark Angelides.