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Manipulated Video Targeting Pelosi Goes Viral

Quick Take

A doctored video of an interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi portrays her speech as being slowed and slurred, and has been used to advance a false claim that she was “drunk.”

Full Story 

Within hours of her interview at the Center for American Progress Ideas Conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi became the target of an online deception that purported to show she was “drunk.”

The manipulated video clip, which was posted May 22, shows the California Democrat talking about President Donald Trump at the conference. But it was more tightly cropped than the original video and edited to slow Pelosi’s speech, making it appear that she was slurring her words.

Tens of thousands of Facebook users shared the distorted clip, which received more than 2 million views. Many users spread the video by posting comments advancing the false claim that she was “drunk” — mirroring a claim made in the caption of a YouTube version of the video, which was widely shared before being removed by the platform.

The same portion of Pelosi’s full exchange with Neera Tanden, CAP’s president, makes clear to viewers that the viral version was doctored. In fact, the 3-minute and 7-second doctored version adds more than 40 seconds to the same section of the interview as seen on C-SPAN and CAP’s YouTube channel.

Maura Shea, an associate teaching professor of film-video and media studies at Penn State, said in an interview that the length added to the version on Facebook, as opposed to the one on C-SPAN, is one sign of its manipulated nature: “Time is time.”

The sound, too, of the Facebook copy shows signs of editing — notably a “tin can or a swirling sound in the background” that’s especially apparent in the moments when Pelosi is not talking, Shea said.

“It can happen when you digitally slow something down and you don’t want the pitch to change,” Shea said. “Which is normally what would happen with a slowed down clip.”

She added: “You’re making frames that don’t exist so they don’t sound perfectly clean.”

A spokesman for Pelosi told FactCheck.org that Pelosi does not drink — something we were also told by staff in 2010 — and noted that Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani shared the video on Twitter before deleting it. Giuliani seemingly referred to the video again on Twitter Friday, calling it a “caricature exaggerating her already halting speech pattern.”

Pelosi and Trump have exchanged jabs following the president’s walkout from a planned infrastructure meeting on May 22.

A day later, Trump shared a Fox Business segment that was critical of Pelosi’s speaking during a press conference that day. “PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE,” he wrote. That video does not appear to be distorted, but instead uses selective clips of her full exchange with reporters.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.


Giuliani, Rudy (@RudyGiuliani). “Nancy Pelosi wants an apology for a caricature exaggerating her already halting speech pattern. First she should withdraw her charge which hurts our entire nation when she says the President needs an ‘intervention. ‘People who live in a glass house shouldn’t throw stones.’” Twitter. 24 May 2019.

Pelosi at CAP Ideas Conference.” Video. C-SPAN. 22 May 2019.

Shea, Maura. Associate teaching professor of film-video and media studies at Penn State. Phone interview with FactCheck.org. 24 May 2019.

The 2019 Ideas Conference – Part 1.” Video. Center for American Progress. YouTube. 22 May 2019.

Trump, Donald (@realDonaldTrump). “‘PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE.’” Twitter. 23 May 2019.

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It's a Doctored Video
A social media video appears to show Nancy Pelosi slurring her words during an interview at the Center for American Progress Ideas Conference.
Wednesday, May 22, 2019