By Frank Long, MS, Editorial Director

Healthcare activist Ady Barkan, who is affected by paralysis caused by ALS and uses assistive technology to speak, made a forcefully worded request to Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La) to remove a digitally altered campaign video that included Barkan’s computer-generated speech.

The video made its way onto Twitter where the social media company reportedly flagged the content as “manipulated.” According to The Washington Post, several pieces of dialogue from Barkan’s computer-generated voice had been spliced together, serving to misrepresent Barkan’s thoughts.

The incident was reported August 30 and August 31 by several major media outlets including The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, and The Hill. The post has been removed from Twitter.

“I have lost my ability to speak, but not my agency or my thoughts,” Ady Barkan wrote to Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the House minority whip, in a Sunday tweet. “You and your team have doctored my words for your own political gain. Please remove this video immediately. You owe the entire disability community an apology.”

— Ady Barkan, disability activist in The Washington Post.

The actual tweet Barkan sent in response to the campaign video posted for Scalise appears below.

What He Actually Said

Saclise’s campaign ad spliced together dialogue taken from a July 2020 conversation between Barkan and Joe Biden. According to a CBS News report, Barkan’s words were edited to make Biden appear to support defunding the police. The original exchange between Biden and Barkan reportedly unfolded as follows:

“I’ve proposed that kind of reform,” Biden says, before giving a lengthy answer about the need to increase funding for mental health services. He notes, “That’s not the same as getting rid of or defunding all the police.”

Barkan later asks, “But do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?”

“Yes. Absolutely,” Biden says.

— CBS News

The dialogue that appeared in the campaign ad was edited so that Barkan’s computerized voice asks the question differently. Barkan’s original, unedited question appears at 2:56 in this video. The manipulated version of the dialogue, however, reportedly asks:

“But do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding for police?”

— CBS News

Barkan, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2016, was one of the featured speakers at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. See his complete speech from the convention — presented using voice assistive technology — in this video from the PBS News Hour.