May 8, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Reality check: Pence didn't deliver empty PPE boxes for photo op

Screenshot via CNBC

Video apparently showing Vice President Pence delivering empty boxes of personal protective equipment to a Virginia nursing home on Thursday that later went viral was edited by "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" to remove important context.

The state of play: The video from Kimmel's monologue on Thursday night was tweeted by Democratic pollster Matt McDermott, but it does not show the full context of Pence's appearance. Kimmel later apologized on Twitter.

  • The video Kimmel aired has a C-SPAN marker, but lacks any clear indication that it has been edited.
  • In the Kimmel video, Pence first drops boxes in front of the nursing home. He then returns to a van, where Kimmel implies that the vice president is caught on a hot mic asking if he can carry empty boxes "just for the camera" that are loaded into the back. The clip ends after someone else tells him that he "absolutely" can.
  • The full video shows that, after Pence makes his "just for the camera" joke, others laugh as he closes doors to the van and no additional boxes are moved.

What they're saying: Kimmel tweeted "it would appear that [Pence] was joking about carrying empty boxes for a staged publicity stunt. The full video reveals that he was carrying full boxes for a staged publicity stunt. My apologies. I know how dearly this administration values truth."

  • Jon Thompson, a campaign spokesman for Pence, tweeted that Kimmel's video was "absolute garbage." He added that Pence was "clearly joking about empty boxes & if Kimmel showed the full clip from C-SPAN, not the one he selectively edited, you see and hear it."

Why it matters: The Trump administration has been quick to seize on viral media mistakes as proof of "fake news" — and McDermott's tweet of the Kimmel video received more than 47,000 retweets and 106,000 likes in less than three hours.

  • President Trump demanded an apology from Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel in 2017 after he tweeted a misleading photo of the crowd size at a Florida rally that went viral.
  • In the early days of the Trump administration, TIME pool reporter Zeke Miller mistakenly tweeted that a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the newly decorated Oval Office, prompting him to apologize to the White House.

Worth noting: The Trump administration is known for its own distortions of the truth, and the Washington Post has counted more than 18,000 false or misleading claims from the president himself throughout his tenure.

  • Trump presented a doctored version of an official National Hurricane Center map of Hurricane Dorian's path to bolster his claim that Alabama was at risk last year.
  • Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders shared an allegedly doctored video of CNN reporter Jim Acosta interacting with a female staffer while trying to grab a microphone in 2018.

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