Twitter is declining to use its new "manipulated media" policy to flag edited videos that inaccurately suggest President Trump called the coronavirus a "hoax" -- even though several independent fact-checkers have noted that the president was referring to partisan Democrats' reaction to the virus, and despite the platform's censorship of the Trump campaign's lightly edited videos mocking Joe Biden.
Twitter had previously told Fox News it wouldn't retroactively apply its new policy to older videos. But, the social media giant is now refusing to explain why it won't address a slew of recent clips that present a false picture of Trump's comments on everything from the ongoing pandemic to the 2017 white nationalist rally in Virginia.
One video in question was posted by former Mike Bloomberg campaign advisor Tim O'Brien and splices Trump's comments so that he appears to directly call the coronavirus itself a hoax. The video has been viewed more than 300,000 times.
In fact, Trump remarked, “Coronavirus. They’re politicizing it. We did one of the great jobs, you say, ‘How’s President Trump doing?’, ‘Oh, nothing, nothing.’ They have no clue, they don’t have any clue … And this is their new hoax. But you know we did something that’s been pretty amazing.”
"The Tweet you referenced will not be labeled under our synthetic and manipulated media policy," a Twitter spokesperson told Fox News on Thursday. Pressed twice for an explanation, the social media giant would not directly address the questions, only replying that it is taking false information about the coronavirus especially seriously.
Another email sent to the Trump campaign, first obtained by The Hill, provided essentially the same response.
“This is indisputable evidence that Twitter has one rule for the Trump campaign and another rule for Democrats," Trump campaign spokesman Matt Wolking said. "Twitter refused to apply its manipulated media label to a Biden campaign video that the Washington Post Fact Checker gave 4 Pinocchios for deceptive editing, and now Twitter is refusing to label a viral video that doctors audio of President Trump to spread misinformation about the coronavirus. Twitter’s political bias is obvious and it is actively choosing to protect Joe Biden."
A slew of fact-checkers, including The Washington Post, Politifact, and Snopes, all agreed that Trump was not calling the coronavirus itself a hoax, in their articles about the Biden's campaign use of a similar video.
"Twitter’s political bias is obvious and it is actively choosing to protect Joe Biden."
“The full quote shows Trump is criticizing Democratic talking points and the media’s coverage of his administration’s response to coronavirus,” The Washington Post's Meg Kelly wrote. “He never says that the virus itself is a hoax, and although the Biden camp included the word 'their,' the edit does not make clear to whom or what Trump is referring.”
Wrote Politifact's Daniel Funke: "The video makes it look like Trump called coronavirus 'their new hoax.' In fact, there was nearly a full minute between when the president said 'coronavirus' and 'hoax' during a Feb. 28 rally in North Charleston, S.C."
"The video makes it seem like Trump is calling the disease itself a hoax, which he hasn’t done," Funke emphasized. "Biden’s video is inaccurate. We rate it False."
Offered Snopes: "Despite creating some confusion with his remarks, Trump did not call the coronavirus itself a hoax."
Earlier this month, the Trump campaign has sent a scathing letter to Twitter's leadership after the platform took the unprecedented step of labeling one of its videos "manipulated media," saying that under the social media giant's new standard, Biden's team has uploaded its own "doctored and deceptively edited" video as recently as last week.
“The Biden campaign is scared as hell that voters will see the flood of unedited and embarrassing verbal stumbles that will continue go viral if ‘Status Quo Joe’ is the nominee," Trump campaign rapid response director Andrew Clark told Fox News. "Twitter shouldn’t be an enforcement arm of Joe Biden’s campaign strategy, but if they choose to police every video clip they must hold his own campaign to the same standard.”
The confrontation began when Trump communications director Dan Scavino tweeted an edited version of a Biden speech in which the former vice president appears to deliver a muddled and inadvertent endorsement of Trump. Scavino's clip, which the president later reposted, did not alter any of Biden's words, but it cut off before the conclusion of Biden's sentence at a rally in St. Louis.
Conservatives called the video an obvious attempt to highlight Biden's verbal gaffes and argued that no one would reasonably mistake it for a genuine Biden endorsement.
"Understandably, the Biden campaign has a strategic interest in intimidating social media companies into suppressing true and embarrassing video evidence of Joe Biden’s continued inability to communicate coherently—a sad truth that has been publicly noted by Democrats and media figures alike," Trump campaign chief operating officer Michael Glassner wrote in the missive to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, general counsel Vijaya Gadde, and public policy director Carlos Monje.
Glassner said he was "formally requesting that Twitter apply its new 'manipulated media' label to a doctored and deceptively edited video tweeted by the Biden campaign less than a week ago."
That was a reference to a March 3 video uploaded by the Biden campaign that contains a slew of clips that are taken out of context, and "manipulates audio and video of President Trump in order to mislead Americans and give a false impression," Glassner wrote.
The video, Glassner points out, contains two clips "spliced together to fabricate a quote and give viewers the false impression that he called the coronavirus a 'hoax,'" a claim that the nonpartisan International Fact-Checking Network has previously debunked. The president in fact called Democrats' response to the coronavirus "their new hoax."
Additionally, the Biden video effectively repeats a false claim the former vice president himself made in his campaign launch video, asserting through selective editing that the president called white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., "very fine people." That assertion, although widely made in progressive circles, is untrue; the president was referring to protesters on both sides of the issue of whether Confederate statues should be removed from public places 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,'" Glassner wrote. "As one CNN anchor said, 'he’s not saying that the neo-Nazis and white supremacists are very fine people[.]'".
Third, the Biden video contains a 2016 clip in which then-candidate Trump declares, "The American Dream is dead" -- but leaves out the second part of Trump's sentence, in which he says, "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.”
"Of course, this is not the first time the Biden campaign has used editing tricks to manipulate video and feed misinformation to the American people," Glassner wrote. "If Twitter is not seeking to protect Joe Biden, we urge it to correct its apparent oversight and apply its standards equally across the board."
Fox News has identified several other videos posted to Biden's Twitter account that contain similar misleading clips. An October 2019 post on Biden's campaign account, for example, states that Trump "has asked foreign governments to interfere in our elections," and is accompanied by a video of a White House interview that omits Trump's full remarks.
In the full interview, Trump says, "I think maybe you do both," referring to notifying the FBI as well as listening to an offer of political help from a foreign entity; but in the Biden clip, Trump says only that he would "listen" to the proposal from a foreign entity.
Glassner made clear that the Trump campaign was not backing off its original video of Biden, saying the clip was "a 100 percent real, 100 percent authentic, 100 percent unedited video of Joe Biden saying, 'We cannot win this reelection. Excuse me. We can only reelect Donald Trump[.]'"
In the post uploaded by Scavino, Biden seemingly endorses the president after stammering over some words.
"Turn this primary from a campaign that's about negative attacks into one about what we're for, because we cannot get -- reelect -- we cannot win this reelection -- excuse me. We can only reelect Donald Trump," Biden says in the edited clip. In the full speech, Biden went on to add," -- if, in fact, we get engaged in this circular firing squad here. Gotta be a positive campaign, so join us."
Twitter quickly labeled the tweet "misinformation," in the social media giant's first-ever use of its new policy, which is ostensibly designed to combat the spread of false news. The so-called Synthetic and Manipulated Media policy states that "you may not deceptively share synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm."
The policy went into effect Mar. 5 after a campaign video from Mike Bloomberg's team added crickets and a long silence when Bloomberg asked his rivals if any of them had started a business. Facebook has said that the Trump video would not meet its criteria for deceptive editing.
The Biden video that the Trump campaign flagged was posted two days after Twitter's manipulated-media policy went into effect, and Twitter said it won't apply its new rules retroactively.