According to internet archives, The New York Times published, then quietly deleted, a baseless conspiracy theory that a video of President Trump after a hospital stay for coronavirus was recorded not on the White House lawn but in front of a “digital backdrop.”
Titled “Trump Lashes Out at His Aides With Calls to Indict Political Rivals” and subtitled, “The pressure on his top administration officials to take action came as President Trump bristled at the restraints of his illness,” the Oct. 8 Times article coauthored by Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman originally questioned the veracity of this video from Trump’s Twitter feed.
TO MY FAVORITE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD! pic.twitter.com/38DbQtUxEu
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2020
Trump’s video was posted at 1:13 p.m., ET, on Oct. 8. According to the Wayback Machine archive of the article, the NYT article posted at 8:50 p.m., ET, on Oct. 8 originally contained this section:
In the video, Mr. Trump was shown on the South Lawn of the White House hundreds of feet away from the mansion, but it appeared to be a digital backdrop as leaves blowing in the wind behind him could be seen repeating on a loop. Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, insisted that ‘he was definitely outside.’ Mr. Trump has not appeared before news cameras since his return from Walter Reed on Monday evening.
The Wayback Machine timestamps record this section as being eliminated between 2:50 a.m. and 4:56 a.m. on Oct. 9.
The New York Times published this bizarre and embarrassing conspiratorial claim that Trump was standing in front of a "digital backdrop" in a front page story this morning, then scrubbed it without noting any correction. pic.twitter.com/IXaX8KqXlU
— Ben Domenech (@bdomenech) October 9, 2020
The “digital loop” conspiracy made its way into the NYT article despite being flatly rejected as false by Trump’s spokesman. So did numerous other anti-Trump allegations depicting the president as mentally and physically sick, and constantly debating his statements, such as this line: “Mr. Trump’s doctors have said he has not experienced fever in days, but the dexamethasone steroid he is taking is known to hide a fever.”
By 4:56 a.m. ET Oct. 9, the NYT article lacked the section quoted above, according to Wayback Machine. The article’s discussion of Trump’s Twitter video had been changed to read as follows:
Mr. Trump later released a video addressed specifically to senior citizens, who were once his political base but have increasingly soured on him as they have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, according to polls.
‘To my favorite people in the world, the seniors,” he said in the video. “I’m a senior. I know you don’t know that. Nobody knows that. Maybe you don’t have to tell them. But I’m a senior.’
Acknowledging that he had been ‘very sick,’ he praised the experimental treatments he was given for the virus and vowed to provide them to seniors. ‘I want you to get the same care that I got,’ he said. ‘You’re going to get the same medicine. You’re going to get it free, no charge, and we’re going to get it to you soon.’
These changes did not include a correction notice. One has not been added as of the latest Wayback Machine update the morning of Oct. 9.