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Screenshot from Fox News

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Right-wing media are trying to manufacture a scandal out of President Joe Biden's visit yesterday to the dignified transfer ceremony at Dover Air Force Base, in which the remains of U.S. troops killed in last week's terrorist attack in Afghanistan were received home.

And now, Fox News is even manipulating its own news video — playing it back in slow motion — in order to provide corroboration to right-wing complaints that Biden looked at his watch during the ceremony.

Notably, the initial video that circulated online included a clip from Fox News' live coverage of the transfer ceremony on Sunday, during which co-anchors Mike Emanuel and Jacqui Heinrich, Fox national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin, and news correspondent David Spunt all did not seem to notice anything amiss. But after other right-wing media personalities jumped on this visual, based on a few seconds of Biden's hand movements during the ceremony, Fox would soon find itself having to catch up.

Within about 15 minutes of the ceremony, Newsmax host Benny Johnson tweeted the clip while alleging that Biden "appears to check his watch." Johnson's claim has since spread through a number of other right-wing outlets, including the Boston Herald, The Daily Wire, the U.K.-based Daily Mail, and Fox's corporate cousin the New York Post. Many of them used a still photo from The Associated Press — one of many from the ceremony — that selected the brief moment when it might have appeared Biden was looking at his wrist.

From there, Fox has covered the story in terms of conservatives denouncing Biden, without putting the network's own name on whether the story was true. On Monday morning, during a headline update during Fox & Friends, news reader Jillian Mele said, "President Biden being criticized for appearing to check his watch … . The video going viral, and as you can understand, a lot of people have strong opinions on this."

And as can be seen by comparing the two videos, Fox has now put Biden's movement in slow motion — at roughly half the speed, in order to double the apparent time of the movements.

The manner in which Fox jumped on this bandwagon also stands in stark contrast to how the network handled past reports of disrespect to fallen troops by former President Donald Trump. Last year, when Griffin confirmed other reporting that Trump had called fallen U.S. soldiers "losers" and "suckers," and that he did not want wounded veterans included in his special July 4 military parade in 2019, other personalities on the network continued to call the story a "hoax," trying to downplay Griffin's reporting and claim that the story had been "refuted."

But now, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich claims that the latest manufactured outrage is a lesson in the "callousness and selfishness of the current President."

Right-wing social media personalities had apparently geared up to find any reason whatsoever to criticize Biden over the ceremony. On Saturday night, a number of conservatives circulated a false claim that the remains had arrived at Dover with no administration figures present — even though the remains had not yet arrived. (Nevertheless, the claim was spread in now-deleted tweets by such figures as Fox News host Laura Ingraham and Fox contributor Richard Grenell.)

Once that story was debunked, of course, they had to move on to something else.

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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