Analysis | Manipulated video portrays a ‘sleepy’ Biden at Maui wildfire event – The Washington Post

“Joe Biden just fell asleep in the middle of his meeting with victims of the Maui fires”

Text posted on social media with an edited video featuring President Biden, Aug. 22, 2023

Attacks on President Biden’s age and overall mental and physical fitness are far from new.

This latest example — a moment clipped from the live coverage of the president’s Monday visit to Lahaina, Hawaii, by Gray Television-owned Hawaii News Now — shows how the internet can be used to amplify, escalate and manipulate a moving image.

An isolated 32-second clip, posted and reposted by several accounts, seemingly showed an octogenarian president, head tilted down, struggling to stay awake at an event as community leaders expressed the pain felt by Lahaina residents reeling from a deadly wildfire.

It was a viral moment, thanks to shares from notables like Fox News host Sean Hannity, Rep. Andrew Ogles (R-Tenn.) and others, who framed the clip as yet another example of Biden demonstrating that an old and tired president was unable to lead the country through moments of crisis, as he was once again caught nodding off by roving news cameras.

Though misleading and lacking context, these posts didn’t make use of video editing tricks; instead, they relied on selective isolation.

The outright manipulation comes in the form of an even shorter version, cut down to 12 seconds. The edited video featured in a post by Matt Wallace, a conservative influencer with more than a million followers, shares the same markings found in the longer viral version and sourced to a Hawaii News Now broadcast. However, it slices and dices through the moment — cutting away from Biden right at the moment he nods his head while gazing down, clearly awake. This catchier edit of “sleepy” Biden gained more traction, racking up over 12 million views. That reach was extended with shares by Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.), a right-wing House freshman.

The moment in full, of course, paints a different picture. It shows a somber Biden, reacting when directly addressed, tilting his head down and nodding as the speaker continues to illustrate the challenges facing a devastated Lahaina community. At the 17:49 mark of this higher-quality C-SPAN feed of the same camera angle, viewers can see fuller detail — and get a better look at Biden’s gaze, which remains clear and wide-eyed.

This is a classic case of manipulated video. Anyone who shared it earns Four Pinocchios.

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