Writing on Twitter, Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke suggested that the White House -- and, in turn, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders -- appeared to take their cues for their latest assault on CNN correspondent Jim Acosta by following right-wing social media hysteria.
After a White House intern was filmed attempting to take the microphone from Acosta by grabbing at him and the mic as the reporter gesticulated while addressing President Donald Trump, rightwingers reacted immediately by stating on Twitter that the CNN reporter assaulted her with a "karate chop."
According to Huppke, he tweeted about the altercation as it happened, saying the unidentified woman should lose her job, only to be flooded with replies from what he suspects are Twitter bots defending the White House.
"Some observations on the Jim Acosta situation," Huppke began. "I watched the exchange just moments after it happened, then sent out a tweet saying the woman who tried to get his microphone should lose her job. Swiftly, I was hit with a bot-driven response."
"The responses, as you'd expect from bots, were strikingly similar. It was Acosta assaulted that woman' or 'he karate chopped her arm.'" he continued. "(I thought the karate reference was odd, since nothing in the live video suggest such a motion. It's also just a random word choice.)"
Based on those observations, Huppke jumped forward several hours when the White House lashed out at Acosta and pulled his Secret Service security press pass, effectively silencing him and keeping him from his job.
"My mentions swiftly filled up with other MAGA accounts - maybe real, maybe more bots - parroting the same language. That soon became the narrative on the right: Acosta attacked that woman! Hours later, the White House released a statement making a similar allegation," the columnist observed.
"The statement said Acosta placed 'his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern.' A few hours later, Sarah Sanders releases a doctored video that has been sped up so it looks like Acosta's arm is moving in - you guessed it - a chopping motion," Huppke explained, before getting to his point.
"I bring this up because I happened to be tuned in to the whole evolution of this thing. It shows just how swiftly an absurd disinformation campaign can be set in motion and how willingly the White House embraces these campaigns and uses them to stir the pot," he wrote. "I don't think it's unreasonable to ponder whether this could all have been a set up. Personally, I don't think this administration is clever enough for that. I think they just stumble into other people's nonsense and roll with it if it helps them. But this should concern us."
You can see his tweets below:
2/ The responses, as you'd expect from bots, were strikingly similar. It was either "Acosta assaulted that woman" o… https://t.co/UjMIMXUPrM— Rex Huppke (@Rex Huppke) 1541693013.0
4/ The statement said Acosta placed “his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern.”… https://t.co/uBPpqNUZxx— Rex Huppke (@Rex Huppke) 1541693295.0
6/ I don't think it's unreasonable to ponder whether this could all have been a set up. Personally, I don't think t… https://t.co/z4lm7wpwMz— Rex Huppke (@Rex Huppke) 1541693532.0
7/ Both because this administration is a moral vacuum that will leverage disinformation - and disseminate it - with… https://t.co/q2L11VkVQN— Rex Huppke (@Rex Huppke) 1541693659.0