GOP attack video using disabled activist in doctored footage is deleted


Republican Rep. Steve Scalise has deleted a controversial video that used doctored footage of a disabled activist to attack Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Scalise, who has represented Louisiana in the House of Representatives since 2008, posted a clip to his official government Twitter account of a July interview between Biden and Ady Barkan, a health care activist and paralyzed ALS patient who speaks with the aid of a computer-generated voice.

In the interview, Barkan mentioned redirecting funding for law enforcement into social services, mental health counseling and affordable housing, and asked Biden if he is open to that kind of reform.

“I’ve proposed that kind of reform. And by the way, the idea, though — that’s not the same as getting rid of or defunding all the police,” Biden said before laying out some of his own reform plans.

“But do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?” Barkan asked after Biden’s response.

“Yes, absolutely,” Biden replied.

The version Scalise tweeted Sunday was edited to add “for police” to the end of Barkan’s question, pulling his digital voice from a different part of the 27-minute interview to make it sound as if he were saying, “But do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding for police?” (Emphasis added.)

Twitter flagged the video as “manipulated media.” In January, the House Ethics Committee announced that members or their staff “posting deep fakes or other audio-visual distortions intended to mislead the public may be in violation of the Code of Official Conduct.”

Barkan retweeted the video and addressed Scalise, writing, “These are not my words. I have lost my ability to speak, but not my agency or my thoughts. You and your team have doctored my words for your own political gain. Please remove this video immediately. You owe the entire disability community an apology.”

Biden echoed Barkan, tweeting, “This video is doctored — and a flagrant attempt to spread misinformation at the expense of a man who uses assistive technology. It should be removed. Now.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “Congressman Scalise must take his doctored video down and apologize immediately.”

President Trump and his allies have worked to paint Biden as a supporter of defunding the police, when the former vice president has repeatedly stated that his plan would spend more on law enforcement, to the chagrin of activists. After the interview with Barkan was originally published, Biden’s comments were misconstrued to say he had called police “the enemy,” which was also inaccurate.

Hours later the tweet was deleted, but Scalise didn’t apologize, writing, “While Joe Biden clearly said ‘yes,’ twice, to the question of his support to redirect money away from police, we will honor the request of @AdyBarkan and remove the portion of his interview from our video.”

Scalise’s office did not immediately respond to questions regarding the origin of the video and whether he planned to apologize. His spokesperson Lauren Fine admitted the video was edited but denied that it misrepresented Biden’s position. She told the Verge, “Obviously, for a one-minute Twitter video featuring several short clips, we condensed that to the essence of what he was asking, as is common practice for clips run on TV and social media, no matter the speaker; we paired the police portion with Barkan’s final question for clarity because we couldn’t include an entire [three-minute] clip in a one minute montage. We believe Biden’s position and answer is clear regardless: when asked twice, he says ‘yes’ he is open to redirecting funding away from the police, and that is clear in our video.”

Barkan spoke at the Democratic National Convention earlier this month in support of Biden after initially endorsing Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary.


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Originally published