© 2024 WLRN
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
WLRN has partnered with PolitiFact to fact-check Florida politicians. The Pulitzer Prize-winning team seeks to present the true facts, unaffected by agenda or biases.

PolitiFact FL: Trump says AI was used to make him ‘look bad.’ The clips are real

Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally.
Reba Saldanha
FR170646 AP
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally Saturday Dec. 16, 2023, in Durham, N.H.

WLRN has partnered with PolitiFact to fact-check Florida politicians. The Pulitzer Prize-winning team seeks to present the true facts, unaffected by agenda or biases.

Former President Donald Trump has a few gripes with the Lincoln Project, a political advocacy group composed of Republicans who oppose Trump’s leadership. A recent complaint: that the group is showing altered footage of him committing gaffes.

"The perverts and losers at the failed and once disbanded Lincoln Project, and others, are using A.I.(Artificial Intelligence) in their Fake television commercials in order to make me look as bad and pathetic as Crooked Joe Biden," Trump posted Dec. 4 on Truth Social.

In the Lincoln Project’s Dec. 4 video, titled "Feeble," a narrator addresses Trump directly with a taunt. "Hey Donald," the female voice says. "We notice something. More and more people are saying it. You’re weak. You seem unsteady. You need help getting around." The video flashes through scenes showing Trump tripping over his words, gesturing, misspeaking and climbing steps to a plane with something white stuck to his shoe.

Screenshot from Truth Social

Are these clips the work of AI? We reviewed them and found the Trump clips are legitimate — and not generated using AI. We reached out to the Trump campaign but did not hear back.

The Lincoln Project posted on X, formerly Twitter, that its "Feeble" ad was not AI-generated. We also looked at two other ads the group published in the days preceding Trump’s post and found no evidence they included AI-generated content, either.

We identified the origin of all but one of the 31 photos and videos used in the "Feeble" ad, 21 of them featuring Trump. We’ve corroborated them with footage from C-SPAN, news outlets, and/or government archives. In some of the clips, Trump is trying to publicly mock President Joe Biden, which the Lincoln Project ad does not make clear.

Here are sources and context for the clips and photos used in the ad.

  • Trump stared at the eclipse Aug. 21, 2017.
  • At the 11:33 time stamp in this Dec. 18, 2017, C-SPAN video, Trump drank a glass of water using two hands. 
  • On Nov. 13, 2017, news footage shows Trump nearly forgot during a media event to sign a bill that aimed to weaken the Affordable Care Act.
  • Trump mispronounced "anonymous" during a rally in Billings, Montana, on Sept. 6, 2018, as seen at the C-SPAN video’s 46:08 time stamp.
  • Trump mispronounced "you deserve" in his remarks at the National Historically Black Colleges and Universities conference on Sept. 10, 2019.
  • In an October 2023 speech in Derry, New Hampshire, Trump made an impression of Biden supposedly walking around stages looking confused. (1:07)
  • photo credited to Adam Scull for MediaPunch showed Trump with his father, Fred Trump, on Dec. 31, 1976.
  • In a Sept. 15 speech, Trump said, "We did it with Obama, we won an election that everyone said couldn’t be won." (22:35) Moments later, he said, "We beat Hillary Clinton."
  • Trump mistakenly said "Sioux Falls" at a rally in Sioux City, Iowa, on Oct. 29, 2023. He was corrected by Iowa State Senator Brad Zaun. (06:28)
  • Trump mistook Paradise, California, for "Pleasure" on Nov. 17, 2018, before being corrected. 
  • During a Republican rally in Michigan on Aug. 11, 2015, Trump criticized his political competitors as being controlled by donors and gestured as a puppeteer, making the sound effects, "bing, bing, bong, bong, bing, bing, bing." (21:38) 
  • Former first lady Melania Trump smiled and turned away from her husband while attending Game Four of the World Series on Oct. 31, 2021.
  • A clip of Trump descending from a plane is featured in this Aug. 21 local TV news report.
  • photo of Trump with his head down, leaving the stage after addressing the Detroit Economic Club, was taken on Aug. 8, 2016, credited to Rebecca Cook for United Press International. 
  • A Nov. 15, 2017, Fox News video showed Trump using two hands to drink from a water bottle.
  • Trump held up his closed fists in a keynote address at the America First Policy Institute Summit on July 26, 2022. (44:47)
  • At the California Republican Party Convention on Sept. 29, 2023, Trump mocked Biden by doing an impression of him acting confused. (40:12)
  • Melania Trump did not stop to take photos with her husband at the Palm Beach International Airport on Jan. 23, 2021, as shown on this Guardian News video.
  • Trump had something stuck to his shoe while boarding a plane Oct. 4, 2018, as can be seen on this KSTP-TV video at 4:51.
  • This Guardian News video showed Trump dumping fish food into a koi pond with former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on Nov. 6, 2017. He followed Abe’s lead in dumping all of the fish food.
  • Trump exited a stage in Buenos Aires on Dec. 3, 2018, leaving Argentinian President Mauricio Macri. 

For good measure, we also checked the clips in the video that didn’t feature Trump. These included clips and photos of Biden and stock videos. None of them were AI-generated, either. Here are the sources:

We were unable to find the source for a 1-second video of Biden smiling at the 0:45 timestamp in the ad. We reached out to the Lincoln Project and will update this story if it responds.
But of the 21 Trump-related images and clips in the ad, we found no evidence they were created or altered using AI.

Other recent Lincoln Project ads

The Lincoln Project also uploaded two other ads near the time of Trump’s post that appeared to attack Trump. One called "Christian Trump" was also published on YouTube on Dec. 4. Another, titled "Welcome to the clown show … ," was uploaded Dec. 3.

We checked those, too, and found no evidence that AI was used to alter Trump’s appearance or make him seem to say something he didn’t.

At the 1:09 timestamp of "Christian Trump," the Lincoln Project included a photo of Bibles stacked in a bathroom, which appears to have been altered. The original photo shows a bathroom in Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, which an indictment said was used to store boxes of records; it did not include a stack of Bibles.

In "Welcome to the clown show … ," we were unable to identify the source for a clip of a person talking about his preferred leader at the 0:58 timestamp. We were also unable to identify the source of the audio at the end of "Christian Trump," which sounds like Trump saying "Jesus Christ."

But there were no AI-generated clips of Trump’s likeness. You can view the clips’ sources for these two other ads in this spreadsheet.

We rate Trump’s claim that the Lincoln Project is using AI in its television commercials about Trump False.

PolitiFact Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Our Sources

Loreben Tuquero is a reporter covering misinformation for PolitiFact.
More On This Topic