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ABC News gets checked for deceptive photos that appear to show AOC, Omar in handcuffs when they aren't: 'You clapping seals'

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Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

ABC News became the target of online mockery on Tuesday for using deceptive images that purportedly depict Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) in handcuffs.

What are the details?

On Tuesday, multiple Democratic lawmakers were briefly detained — or, more accurately, led away by officers — because they refused to comply with law enforcement orders to stop blocking traffic outside the Supreme Court.

The lawmakers were participating in a pro-abortion protest.

When ABC News tweeted about the incident, the news outlet used photos of Ocasio-Cortez and Omar that showed the lawmakers with their hands behind their backs as they were led away by police officers. The images thus suggest the lawmakers were placed in handcuffs and formally arrested.

But that is not what happened.

Neither lawmaker was led away in handcuffs. It is not clear why they put their hands behind their backs when officers did not handcuff them. The optics of the image, however, certainly earned brownie points with their supporters.

What was the response?

ABC News was harshly criticized over its decisions to falsely depict Ocasio-Cortez and Omar in handcuffs.

  • "It all started with the pretend handcuffs. Now it’s time for the media lies to kick in. No surprise @ABC is leading the pack," Dinesh D'Souza responded.
  • "ABC can't honestly use these photos. AOC and Ilhan Omar are PRETENDING to be handcuffed," Steve Guest, an adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz, reacted.
  • "The mainstream media just straight up told the fake story," one person noted.
  • "[H]onestly just surreal to watch the propaganda come to life like this in real time," one person observed.
  • "The pic choice is a deliberate editorial decision, by the same people who performatively wonder why trust in media is down," another person noted.
  • "What a complete f***ing lie with angles on these photos to make it look like they are cuffed. And they wonder why they're called fake news," another person observed.
  • "ABC News falsely claims they were arrested and runs photos of them appearing to be handcuffed when they aren't. Mission accomplished," one person mocked.
  • "AOC, at least, was literally not arrested. They just moved her back about 20 feet. She wasn't even cuffed," another person said.
  • "They were not arrested. They literally just had their hands behind their backs so you clapping seals would report they were arrested," another person mocked.
  • "They weren't arrested they were escorted away and it was nice of you to use the pictures that made it look like they were in handcuffs when they weren't It's cracked like this that makes it clear why the people don't trust the media any longer," one person said.

Why does this matter?

Clarifying that the lawmakers were not arrested in handcuffs is important because Ocasio-Cortez has already seized on the incident to fundraise.

"Alexandria was just arrested by Capitol Police outside the Supreme Court during an abortion rights demonstration. Rush a $3 contribution to abortion access groups right now to show Congress we stand with AOC and #WeWontBackDown," Ocasio-Cortez's congressional campaign wrote in an email to her supporters, the Washington Examiner reported.

"Alexandria will not rest until Congress does what needs to be done to codify abortion care as a human right in our country," the email added. "In the meantime, you can help folks seeking to access [abortion] care right now by splitting a $3 contribution to abortion access groups."

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