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Z on TV Critic David Zurawik writes about the business and culture of TV

Doctored video of Pelosi: Trump, Giuliani, Fox hit new low - even for them

If the ugly video attempt to smear Nancy Pelosi that was fully aided and abetted by the president of the United States, his personal lawyer and the Fox Business Network makes you as angry as it has me, here’s more maddening news: It’s only a warm-up for where our politics are headed in coming weeks and months.

That someone would take video of Pelosi talking to the press and slow it down by nearly 75 percent to make it sound as if she is verbally impaired and then put it out on social media, does not surprise me one bit. Nor am I shocked that it and other similarly edited and altered videos spread like a cancer through the media eco-system of the right.

Now that all but a few of the post-World-War-II media gatekeepers have been driven from the battlefield, that’s how the brave new media landscape created for us by the likes of Mark Zuckerberg operates. (Don’t talk to them about democracy and editorial responsibility; the new tech masters of the universe welcome all lies, misinformation and smears as long as they promote conflict, engagement and membership on their platforms.)

But as debased as Trump has made the presidency, I was still disgusted to see his tweet promoting a video that smeared Pelosi Thursday night. And the fact that there isn’t a torrent of outrage 18 hours later tells us how successfully Trump has normalized such disgusting behavior as he debased the office of president.

The video below that was included with Trump’s tweet came from the Fox Business Network and was aired on “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” a show hosted by a right-wing ideologue often praised by Trump for his on-air allegiance to the president.

It is heavily edited mash-up to pack verbal pauses or gaffes tightly together to the point where it sounds like Pelosi is incoherent.

I saw the press conference live, and that is not what she sounded like. With the fast-paced editing of the clip, it is hard to tell if any portion was slowed down the way another heavily circulated video was, but the effect of incoherence is the same.

You can see how Trump contextualized it for his followers: “PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE.”

And you can see from the caption on the screen how Fox linked it to her saying Trump’s friends and family should stage an “intervention” for him.

Classic Trump: You hit me, and I punch back twice as hard. Only Pelosi didn’t create a false document and spread it like a fast-acting poison through the media ecosystem to support her claim that Trump needed an intervention. She let his erratic actions and threat to not deal with Congress on behalf of matters like infrastructure until it stops investigating him speak for themselves.

It’s also classic how Trump uses Fox to deliver the punch. (Check out the conversation between guest host Gregg Jarrett and Republican media strategist Ed Rollins that follows the clip.)

Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, weighed in Thursday night with a tweet as incoherent as Trump’s infamous “covfefe.” You tell me why there’s a GIF of an basketball team celebrating included in the tweet.

Here’s what Giuliani was trying to say, according to a subsequent tweet:

Beyond the disgrace Trump brings to the presidency with associates like Guiliani, and the shame Fox brings to media with its shilling for the president, what troubles me most about this exchange is what it signals about the next stage of the battle between Trump and Congress and the upcoming 2020 election.

The civic conversation of any democracy is going to be rough and tumble at times. The founders fully knew that when they created the Constitution.

But the place that Trump and his cohorts have taken that conversation is appalling.

And some media masters like Zuckerberg are unwilling to act on democracy’s behalf to try and limit the damage being done through their venues. Facebook did not remove the video in which Pelosi’s speech was slowed to one-fourth its normal speed even after it was exposed as heavily altered. A spokesperson said only that it would not promote the video as heavily as it initially had.

With the help of such media irresponsibility, Trump has taken American political and civic life to a place darker even than the McCarthy years of the 1950s when smears where the order of the day on the right and careers and lives were destroyed with lies and innuendo for a favorable headline for McCarthy and his team, led by attorney Roy Cohn.

Cohn, who was Trump’s lawyer, taught his student well. I wonder if he’s enjoying the ugly spectacle of American political life under Trump from the lowest rungs of hell.

I know I’m not.

david.zurawik@baltsun.com

twitter.com/davidzurawik

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