Fox News has been accused of selectively editing a clip of president Joe Biden speaking at a Veterans Day event in an attempt to show him making racially insensitive remarks.
The video, taken from Mr Biden’s address at Arlington National Cemetery this week, included a section where the president talked about Satchel Paige, a baseball player known for breaking down racial barriers who played in the Negro leagues before they were finally disbanded in 1962.
In his speech, Mr Biden says: “I’ve adopted the attitude of the great Negro, at the time, pitcher in the Negro Leagues, went on to become a great pitcher in the pros and Major League Baseball after Jackie Robinson. His name was Satchel Paige.”
The full clip was shared and criticised by some blue-tick conservatives on Twitter, including former president Donald Trump’s son Eric Trump, though most dismissed it as a minor stumble over words.
But a clip of the speech aired by Fox News removed the context provided by the middle section of the quote, so that it appeared Mr Biden had said he had “adopted the attitude of the great Negro at the time, pitcher, name was Satchel Paige”.
Fox host Sean Hannity referred to the incident as “one of [Biden’s] most disturbing, troubling moments to date”.
On Friday morning Fox & Friends discussed the edited version of the video, with its hosts saying Mr Biden’s choice of words was “landing him in hot water”.
Many journalists tried to question this interpretation online. “I missed this last night but what Hannity calls one of the most ‘disturbing’ Biden gaffes is total fake news,” tweeted former Vox editor Aaron Rupar. “When Biden referred to Satchel Paige as a ‘great Negro’ he was clearly referring to the fact that Paige pitched in the Negro leagues. Watch the clip for yourself.”
Nonetheless, it appears the damage had been done, and by late on Friday the hashtag #RacistJoeBiden had started trending on Twitter.
A spokesperson for Fox News admitted they carried the edited video but told the Guardian this was only done for time reasons, and that later broadcasts including on Fox & Friends carried the president’s complete remarks. A news story about the incident on the Fox News website called it Mr Biden’s “latest gaffe”, but carried the full quote in context.
Media ethics experts have pointed out the essential responsibility of journalists while trimming videos to ensure that in doing so, they don’t change the meaning of what was said or leave out essential context.
“When editing video, journalists have an obligation to keep statements in the context they were delivered or explain to viewers why a change was made. In the video presented by Fox & Friends, the edit was not at all clear,” said Al Tompkins, a faculty member at the Poynter Institute, a journalism thinktank.