Rep. Steve Scalise tweets altered video, prompting apology demand to disability community


A video tweeted by the second-highest ranking Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives appears to have been edited to falsely quote an activist with ALS who uses synthesized speech generation to talk, WWL TV reports.

The clip Minority Whip Steve Scalise posted to Twitter on Sunday effectively used Ady Barkan’s voice from a NowThis interview with Joe Biden in July.

The part of the talk with the Democratic vice presidential nominee comes shortly before 3 minutes into the video.

The video Scalise tweeted misquotes Barkan’s question to say, “Do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding for police?” Barkan did not add “for police” to the end of his comment, and actually said, “Do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?”

The Barkan clip the New Orleans-area congressman tweeted was part of a 1-minute-long highlight video. “No police. Mob rule. Total chaos. That’s the result of the Democrat agenda. Ask yourself: Is this what you want in your town next?” Scalise wrote in his tweet.

While Scalise’s video did not change the meaning of Barkan’s question about re-allocating money from police to social services, it is concerning because Barkan, who is paralyzed, talks with alternative and augmented communication. It raises the question if the video have been edited if Barkan did not use voice assistance, at least that synthesized speech could be easier to replicate.

Barkan called for Scalise to apologize to people living with disabilities and asked that he take the clip down, saying, “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,” Barkan said on Twitter. “Please remove this video immediately. You owe the entire disability community an apology.” 

The Louisiana lawmaker’s office says the video was clipped to the essence of Barkan’s question because the full Biden conversation could not fit in the 1-minute video.

“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 3-minute clip in a one minute montage,” Lauren Fine, Scalise’s communications director, said in an email to WWL-TV

“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,” Fine said.

Twitter flagged the video as manipulated media, linking to its policy on labeling tweets to help people understand their authenticity and add context. NowThis journalist Versha Sharma replied to Scalise’s video as well, asking who altered the clip. 

Scalise defended himself, tweeting the full video later. 

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul also tweeted in support of his colleague, mentioning that Scalise was gravely wounded in a 2017 shooting at a Virginia baseball field. Prosecutors said the gunman was angered by President Trump’s election supported of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. 

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