White House press secretary Sarah Sanders has been accused of sharing a “doctored” video which exaggerates the actions of CNN reporter Jim Acosta to justify suspending his credentials.
Acosta had his hard pass to access the White House grounds revoked hours after a testy exchange with US President Donald Trump during a press conference.
The White House said it was because Acosta put “his hands on” an intern who was trying to grab a microphone off him, while CNN said it was “retaliation for his challenging questions”.
The pair began sparring after Acosta asked Mr Trump about the caravan of migrants heading from Latin America to the southern US border.
When Acosta tried to follow up with another question, Mr Trump said “That’s enough!” and a female White House aide unsuccessfully tried to grab the microphone from the reporter.
The interaction between Acosta and the intern was brief, and Acosta appeared to brush her arm as she reached for the microphone and he tried to hold onto it. “Pardon me, ma’am,” he told her.
Acosta tweeted that Ms Sanders’ statement that he put his hands on the aide was “a lie”.
But Ms Sanders later posted a video of the incident on Twitter, saying she stood by the decision to revoke Acosta’s pass and the White House would “not tolerate the inappropriate behaviour clearly documented” in the footage.
The video appears to show Acosta pushing down forcefully on the intern’s arm.
But video analysts said the clip repeats several frames that do not appear in the original footage.
Analysis by news website Storyful said the video Ms Sanders shared “halts” and then repeats several frames in order to exaggerate Acosta’s movements.
On Twitter, video editor Rafael Shimunov shared a different analysis which he said proved the video was “doctored”.
Tinting the video red and playing it over a transparent version of the original showed, Mr Shimunov said, the clip had been “sped up to make Jim Acosta’s motion look like a chop”.
The video Ms Sanders posted was first shared online by Infowars editor and conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson, who denied doctoring the video.
“The video was not ‘doctored’ by me — all I did was zoom in on the original from the Daily Wire,” Watson said.
“I did not ‘speed up’ anything. The screenshot from Sony Vegas Pro here proves that.”
According to Storyful, the Daily Wire version is a GIF-format file, which has a lower frame rate than the original footage and does not contain the repeat frames.
Buzzfeed reported there was no evidence the video shared by Watson was deliberately sped up, but that by changing format into a lower-quality GIF, it turned “the question of whether it was ‘doctored’ into a semantic debate”.
CNN executive Matt Dornic accused the White House press secretary of releasing “actual fake news” and called her tweet “absolutely shameful”.
The White House News Photographers Association decried the sharing of the footage.
“As visual journalists, we know that manipulating images is manipulating truth,” Whitney Shefte, the association’s president, said.
“It’s deceptive, dangerous and unethical.
“Knowingly sharing manipulated images is equally problematic, particularly when the person sharing them is a representative of our country’s highest office with vast influence over public opinion.”