‘Powerful American Stories Ripped to Shreds by Nancy Pelosi’

On February 6 2020, United States President Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump) shared a disinformation video on Twitter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, apparently “ripping … powerful American stories to shreds”:

Video watermarked “Freedom Fights” showed text at the top reading “POWERFUL AMERICAN STORIES RIPPED TO SHREDS BY NANCY PELOSI,” and a thumbnail read “THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN.”

The video opened with Trump introducing “one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen … the first black fighter pilots.” A gentleman in uniform stood to applause, and the camera cut to Pelosi tearing papers. (We covered Pelosi’s speech-tearing in a previous fact check.)

From there, Trump addresses a woman in the crowd and says her “husband is back from deployment,” to her apparent surprise. Again, the room erupts in applause, and Pelosi appears to “shred” the story being told by the President. The next two “shredding” segments involved students receiving scholarships and the honoring of Gold Star Families — loved ones of servicemen and women killed in combat.

Pelosi’s tearing of Trump’s February 2020 State of the Union speech was widely viewed both live and later on social media. In a BBC video shared to Facebook, the actual tearing up of a copy of the speech is seen in context:

Just after the 45-second mark, Trump is seen concluding his speech, saying “our country is thriving and highly respected again.” In the chamber, the crowd applauds, and Pelosi gathers up papers and tears them in half. Clearly, Pelosi only tore the documents one time — not during the segment with the Tuskegee Airman, nor during the serviceman’s homecoming, nor during the scholarship portion, nor during the honoring of Gold Star families.

A side debate about the video and its spread occurred on Twitter, when Facebook’s Communications Manager Andy Stone was asked why the misleading video was allowed to circulate unchecked via Facebook. Stone validated the tearing occurred, and appeared to contest the claim the clip was deceptive:

Stone further asserted that the video as edited represented “a key element of [Facebook’s] policy on content” like the misleading video:

To recap, President Trump and others shared a video titled “POWERFUL AMERICAN STORIES RIPPED TO SHREDS BY NANCY PELOSI,” a clip which juxtaposed Pelosi’s controversial tearing of the President’s State of the Union speech in a chronologically deceptive way. Pelosi did, of course, tear the speech, and video showing that action was not a deception. It became disinformation when a video was created to falsely suggest Pelosi engaged in the “ripping” protest during moments honoring servicemen and women and Gold Star Families, something which did not occur. As such, the video as presented represented a claim which is not true.

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