What’s the deal with the Trump-Putin press conference video?
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow aired a segment Tuesday night in which she claimed the White House misleadingly edited the official U.S. government transcript and video of President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s. The White House video, she alleged, cut out a key question from Reuters’ Jeff Mason, who asked whether Putin wanted Mr. Trump to win the election.
“We can report tonight that the White House video of this exchange has also skillfully cut out that question from the Reuters reporter, as if it didn’t happen,” she said on her show Wednesday night, juxtaposing the White House’s version of the video with MSNBC’s version. “… What the White House has disappeared from the official U.S. government record of that meeting, both in print and in their video of the meeting, is President Putin answering in the affirmative when he’s asked if he wanted Trump to win the election.”
In MSNBC’s version of the exchange, Mason can be heard saying, “President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?”
“Yes, I did. Yes, I did,” one can hear Putin respond, through the translator.
The video CBS News aired also plays that full question and answer from Putin, although translator voices muddle the audio slightly.
In the White House’s version of the video, one can only hear the second half of Mason’s question.
“And did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?” one can hear Mason saying.
“Yes, I did. Yes, I did,” one can hear Putin respond.
The Washington Post pointed out that their transcript and audio of the press conference also do not include Mason’s full question, similar to the White House’s video.
“We did not edit the question out. This is the feed we were provided,” the Post’s Phillip Bump wrote.
So, what’s the deal?
The discrepancy — although the question and answer were obviously key in the press conference — is both simple and complicated.
If one listens closely, it’s possible to tell that the video feed in the White House version goes from the translator who says “president” before a delayed switch to Mason’s question.
A White House official told CBS News that the White House stenographer uses the White House audio to produce the transcript. The audio mixer at the site did not bring up the question mic level in time to catch the beginning of Mason’s question because the translator was still speaking, the official said. That the video and transcript did not include the first part of the question, the official said, was by no means malicious.
The White House official added the transcript has been updated for presidential records.
The White House’s public version online, as of Wednesday afternoon just before 3 p.m., did not include the first part of Mason’s question.
Maddow tweeted Wednesday afternoon that the video feed switches as first explained by the Post could be one explanation, but that she still stands by her report.
— CBS News’ Kathryn Watson, Arden Farhi, and Emily Tillett contributed to this report.
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