Bullshit Viral Videos of Nancy Pelosi Show Fake Content Doesn't Have to Be a Deepfake

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill on May 22, 2019
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill on May 22, 2019
Photo: AP

Two videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have gone viral over the past 24 hours, raising ethical questions about the use of editing on social media. President Donald Trump even shared one of the videos last night, calling it “PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE.” But only one of the videos is truly “fake” and surprisingly it’s not the one that President Trump shared.


The video that President Trump shared on Twitter was from a Lou Dobbs segment that attempted to portray Pelosi as someone experiencing cognitive decline. The video shows Pelosi tripping over her words on a few occasions, and the way that it was edited, showing her flubs in quick succession, paints an unflattering picture of the 79-year-old politician.

President Trump has even made the video clip his pinned tweet, which keeps it at the top of his Twitter page. But as journalist Timothy Burke points out on Twitter, Trump’s video of Pelosi is playing at normal speed. It’s just been cut up to highlight places where she stumbled rhetorically.

And the editing, done by Fox Business, uses a blurring wipe effect that heightens the feeling of disorientation:

The Fox Business channel show also points out that Pelosi said “three” while holding up two fingers, causing the host to say, “last time I checked, this was three, not this,” while holding up two fingers.

But that viral video is distinct from another video that has gone viral recently, appearing to show Pelosi drunk and slurring her words. That video was slowed down by about 25 percent and the pitch was adjusted to match her normal tone of voice. The result is that Pelosi, who reportedly doesn’t drink alcohol, sounds hammered.


The Washington Post has created a video showing the side-by-side of how Pelosi’s words were slowed down to make her sound ridiculous.

Rudy Giuliani, one of the president’s attorneys, even tweeted a link to the video last night before deleting it.

Illustration for article titled Bullshit Viral Videos of Nancy Pelosi Show Fake Content Doesn't Have to Be a Deepfake
Screenshot: Twitter

Giuliani told the Washington Post that he deleted the link because he wasn’t sure if it was doctored adding, “But I have been noticing a gradual change in her speech pattern and gestures for sometime.”


Some have called for platforms like Facebook to take down the altered video of Pelosi, and the social network’s Terms of Service do, in fact, prohibit users from using its platform “ to do or share anything” that is “unlawful, misleading, discriminatory or fraudulent.”

From the Washington Post:

Facebook said late Thursday that the video had been “enqueued” for review by third-party fact-checkers, but that the process had not yet begun. If the video is deemed misleading, the company said it would “significantly reduce the distribution of this video in News Feed.”


But ultimately, Trump voters probably don’t care whether the videos they’re sharing of Nancy Pelosi are fake or real anyway. Gizmodo spoke with a Trump supporter over the phone last night who shared the video of “drunk Pelosi,” taken from Facebook.

The Trump supporter, who we’ll call Jim, is 63 and from North Carolina. Jim told Gizmodo that he didn’t know it was fake when he shared it.


“I have read this afternoon, after I did a little more research, somebody’s saying it’s a doctored video. Now, I’m not that technically capable [...] I mean, it looks very real to me, but you know with all the technology today...” Jim told Gizmodo.

“But anyway, the reason that I shared it is I’m just so aggravated with the Democratic Party over Trump winning the election, and they just went crazy,” Jim told Gizmodo. “They went absolutely crazy. And nothing’s getting done as far as the country or the government other than hating on Trump.”


“I just wanted to share what I thought was a drunk House of Representatives Speaker giving an interview,” said Jim.

“I think it’s been viewed 2 or 3 million times now, so even if it was altered, it’s been seen by so many people, that’ll be the impression that everyone will have,” said Jim.


After Gizmodo told Jim that it was indeed fake he thanked us for letting him know. Asked if he still would’ve shared the video knowing it was fake, Jim said no, but with a caveat.

“If I had known it was altered, I would’ve never shared. Or if I did I would’ve said, ‘somebody did a good job of altering it’ or something like that. But I genuinely believed it was genuine because it actually looks genuine.”


Meanwhile, President Trump continues to erode democratic norms, by announcing last night that he was giving the U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr the power to declassify highly sensitive documents from the intelligence community, something that will presumably be done in a selective manner.

While we’re all pondering the definition of “fake” and the spread of misinformation on social media, the president is lining up political opponents for persecution. President Trump has previously said that his political opponents are guilty of treason for conducting the investigation into whether he colluded with the Russian government to win the 2016 presidential election. And yesterday in the White House a reporter noted that the punishment for treason includes the death penalty.


“The constitution says treason is punishable by death. You’ve accused your adversaries of treason. Who specifically are you accusing of treason?” one reporter asks.

“Well, I think a number of people, And I think if you look, they have unsuccessfully tried to take down the wrong person. If you look at [James] Comey, if you look at [Andrew] McCabe, if you look at people higher than that. If you look at [Peter] Strozk, you look at his lover Lisa Page...”

Notably, the YouTube video above from the Washington Post where the President of the United States suggests that the death penalty would be fine for his political enemies, has just 6,000 views as of this morning, and barely cracked the news cycle. The “drunk Pelosi” video has over 2 million views.


It’s only going to get worse from here.

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog


Man, it sure would be terrible if we had a president where you didn’t need to do any editing tricks to make sound like your demented racist grandpa.