President Trump’s reelection campaign has tweeted a fake video of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden calling the coronavirus a “hoax” in an effort to pressure Twitter and broadcast outlets to remove a video of President Donald Trump calling the pandemic a “hoax.”
The Trump campaign has long been the subject of intense scrutiny from fact-checkers and reporters, who have called out its false or misleading claims and sought to have the content removed from the airwaves or social media platforms.
Trump’s team is now picking up a fight with networks and has threatened legal action against TV stations for airing an ad that shows Trump calling the coronavirus a “hoax.”
It has also been sending scores of emails to Twitter to flag videos being produced and shared by Democrats to make the case that the content runs afoul of the company’s policy on manipulated media.
And this week, the Trump campaign took the unusual step of producing a deliberately misleading clip of former Vice President Joe Biden calling the coronavirus a “hoax” with the sole purpose of testing Twitter to see if it would enforce its rules equally on the Trump and Biden campaigns.
“Everything indicates that the Democrat donors who run Silicon Valley are intent on stacking the deck against President Trump’s reelection,” said Matt Wolking, a Trump campaign spokesman.
The only difference, however, is that Biden never called the coronavirus pandemic a “hoax”, but Donald Trump did call the coronavirus a “Democratic hoax” during a nationally televised rally as his fans chanted “4 more years.”
Since Trump was elected president, there has been an explosion of media fact-checking, leading to enormous pressure on platforms to sanction or pull content that is determined to be misleading.
The president and his campaign have been accused of spreading misinformation through campaign ads countless times.
Broadcast and cable news outlets have refused to run some Trump campaign ads. Twitter has used its new “manipulated media” policy to warn viewers that a Trump campaign video about Biden was taken out of context. There is pressure on the cable news outlets to stop running Trump’s daily White House press briefings about the coronavirus because of concerns about instances of misinformation.
These competing efforts underscore the degree to which the campaigns will be battling over misinformation and what’s factual ahead of the 2020 general election.
Democrats in particular are on high alert following the 2016 election, when Russian agents flooded social media with fake and divisive content aimed at damaging Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
The inciting incident for the Trump campaign was a mocking video it released of Biden that showed the former vice president saying, “We can only reelect Donald Trump.”
In the speech, Biden quickly doubled back to make it clear that he was warning that Democrats would get Trump reelected if they were divided and attacking one another.
The Trump campaign maintains that no one thinks that Biden was endorsing Trump. They say the video was merely ribbing a political rival.
Twitter, however, determined that the remarks were deliberately taken out of context.
The company cracked down, making it the first — and so far only — content it has sanctioned under its new “manipulated media” policy.
Since then, the Trump campaign has been flooding Twitter with emails flagging Democratic content, claiming it has been similarly taken out of context.
Most notably, several Democratic groups have released ads featuring audio of Trump calling the coronavirus a “hoax.”
Josh Schwerin, strategist for Priorities USA, said the ad is making the point that “Trump was using the hoax language to downplay the virus and shift blame away from himself.”
“Our ad uses a series of Trump’s own words to show that he downplayed the threat of the pandemic even as the infection spread,” Schwerin said.
“That’s entirely our point,” he added. “We stand by the facts in the ad, and every TV station has agreed that the Trump campaign’s complaints fall flat. Holding our elected officials accountable is critical when they are falling down on the job, and we will continue to do that.”
The Trump campaign argues that president’s words were taken out of order in an effort to warp the context of his remarks.
To draw attention to this, the Trump campaign this week released deliberately manipulated audio to make it sound like Biden called the coronavirus a “hoax.”
Biden never called the coronavirus a hoax, and in fact the audio is taken from two separate days.
The Trump campaign says its aim was to force Twitter to take a stand on the issue and to see if the company would apply its standards evenly.
Twitter declined to sanction the Trump campaign’s deliberately misleading ad.
The Biden campaign blasted Twitter for refusing to take action.
“Twitter was dared to act on a piece of disinformation that clearly violates their rules, and they blinked,” said campaign spokesman Bill Russo. “The Trump campaign is proudly boasting that their video is deceptive and fraudulent, which is shameful,” Russo added. “But the real damage here will come from their supporters, who will no doubt share the media as if it was true. We have seen this play before. Twitter has a responsibility to explain they will prevent the spread of this intentionally seeded disinformation on their platform.”
If Twitter removes it, then they must also remove the video Joe Biden & his allies manipulated to make it sound like President Trump called the virus a “hoax.”pic.twitter.com/gXvZQ4nEjV https://t.co/JmLM6BA7v2
— Team Trump (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@TeamTrump) April 2, 2020
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