By ROBERT MACKEY/New York Times
As my colleague Jennifer Preston reported, there were scuffles between union activists and supporters of Michigan’s Republican-dominated Legislature outside the state Capitol in Lansing on Tuesday, as the lawmakers approved sweeping changes to the way unions will be financed.
At one stage during the tense standoff, union members opposed to the so-called right-to-work legislation ripped down a tent erected by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity. Several supporters of the conservative group recorded video of their efforts to defend the tent, but the footage that got the most attention, with more than half a million views on YouTube, was an 80-second clip that showed a conservative comedian named Steven Crowder getting punched in the face by a union activist.
Immediately after the incident, Mr. Crowder posted photographs on Twitter documenting what he said were his injuries — a cut on his forehead and a chipped tooth — and his video quickly went into heavy rotation on Fox News, where he frequently appears and is identified as a contributor.
On Wednesday, however, questions were raised about the way in which Mr. Crowder had edited his video. After speaking with a witness to the events, the liberal blogger Chris Savage argued on his site Eclectablog that the video edit was misleading:
This video is actually a composite of a things that happened over the course of the day, many of them hours apart. The initial conversation happened early in the morning. At about 0:16, it cuts to Crowder saying, “You’ve already destroyed one tent, leave this one alone.” That happened hours after the interview with the union workers that starts the segment. The guy he’s talking to is standing quite a distance from the tent but Crowder insists that he’s somehow tearing down the tent.Selective editing at about 0:39 mark shows what appears to be union guy attacking Crowder for no apparent reason. However, if you look closely, you’ll see that the guy is getting up off the ground — that he was NOT the one that became aggressive first.
As Mr. Savage noted, raw video of the scuffle over the tent shot by another camera showed that the man who punched Mr. Crowder was engaged in an angry discussion with a defender of the tent when the comedian stepped in between them. Within seconds the fight broke out.
In response to questions, including from his supporters, about the way he had edited the video, Mr. Crowder was by turns philosophical and prickly, but pointed out that more of the footage he used to make the clip was broadcast during his appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program on Tuesday night.
Unfortunately for Mr. Crowder, a look at the video broadcast on the Sean Hannity show appears to show quite clearly that he left out an important section of the footage when he put together his edit. A section of the Fox News broadcast preserved by the Web site Mediaite shows that Mr. Hannity’s producers at Fox News started the clip five seconds earlier than Mr. Crowder did. What the extra footage reveals is the man who punched Mr. Crowder being knocked to the ground seconds before and then getting up and taking a swing at the comedian.
It remains unclear what caused the man who threw the punch to fall to the ground at the start of the incident, but Mr. Crowder did say in an interviewwith a conservative blogger that he and other men defending the tent did get into a physical confrontation with the union activists. “We didn’t get violent with them, but we did try and push them off the tent,” he said.