Last week, Vice President Kamala Harris appeared in a YouTube video for World Space Day, which was meant to inspire new interest in space exploration. However, instead it has become the focus of scrutiny as reports surfaced that claimed it was a scripted event that included child actors instead of average kids who had a real interest in space.
Harris, who also chairs the National Space Council, was further criticized for appearing to lack in-depth knowledge on the subject of space exploration.
The news of the alleged “fakery” of the video was first reported by the UK’s Daily Mail tabloid, which suggested, “Grinning school-age children who took part in a NASA YouTube video about space exploration with Kamala Harris have been revealed to be child actors. The ‘Get Curious with Vice President Harris’ video was filmed in August and tweeted out by the Vice President on October 7 to celebrate World Space Week. It appeared to viewers that the children she was with were all normal kids.”
The video was apparently produced by the Canadian-based Sinking Ship Entertainment, which reportedly booked five teens to participate in a segment filmed at the Naval Observatory, the official residence of the vice president of the United States. The UK tabloid also reported that the video was shot from August 11 to 13, at the same time when the Taliban had been making rapid advances across Afghanistan.
Let The Conspiracy Theories Begin
None of this has the making of a faked moon landing of course, but the video does have a polished look that doesn’t seem quite natural. Moreover, to her critics it was the way that the vice president even promoted it.
“I love the idea of exploring the unknown. There’s so much out there that we still have to learn. As the chair of the National Space Council, I’m eager to get our young people interested in STEM and space exploration. Watch ‘Get Curious’ at http://youtu.be/Wlxq4S-4CCY,” wrote the official Twitter account of Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) last Thursday.
Fake News Indeed
Almost on cue, many of the vice president’s critics pounced on the news that the video involved hired actors.
Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo (@MariaBartiromo) wrote, “Wow even worse than we knew. Kamala Harris used child actors in her space video.”
“Just when you thought the most fake human being in the history of the world couldn’t get any more phony there’s this… Her commitment to cringe is truly impressive! Kamala Harris hired child actors to be part of her widely-mocked NASA space video,” suggested Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr).
Nick Short (@PoliticalShort), digital media manager of The Claremont Institute, was even more blunt and direct, writing, “Vice President Kamala Harris takes fakery to a new level.”
“Kamala Harris’ cringy video was produced by a company called ‘Sinking Ship Entertainment.’ You can’t make this stuff up,” noted Tom Bevan (@TomBevanRCP), co-founder of RealClearPolitics.
Conservative columnist Todd Starnes (@toddstarnes) also called out VP Harris, “They actually used crisis actors to make @VP look motherly.”
“My Agent Called’: Viral Kamala Harris Space Video Featured Child Actors,” mocked the Daily Caller (@DailyCaller).
The video’s, which has been seen more than 413,000 times to date, actually saw a significant uptick in viewers since the news of the use of child actors broke.
What is still in question how is that there has been little to no corroboration that the video did use actors, and while it seems likely that this is the case, the responses are based on a single source. Yet, the follow up on social media has given this story greater creditability.
“That has been a trend since social media has gotten really hot,” warned Chris Haynes, associate professor of political science at the University of New Haven.
“The tendency for opinion journalist and actual news has distorted in a lot of ways,” Haynes explained. “That is concerning for journalism, which is predicated on facts. We’re seeing increasing a tendency where there isn’t corroboration and stories don’t have confirmation. At the same time, many Americans don’t see the difference between opinion and actual news.”
There is also the issue of whether Harris would have been informed as to whether the kids were actors.
“The producers of the video set up an application that required the kids to send in what amounted to a casting monologue,” said Matthew J. Schmidt, PhD, associate professor of national security and political science at University of New Haven.
“So of course child actors had agents telling them to apply, and of course trained actors looked like pretty good choices to the producers,” added Schmidt. “I don’t know if Harris even knew what was going on. Why would she?”
Should Harris Have Responded
Regardless of whether child actors were used or not, there is also the question as to whether the response on social media may have warranted a response given that so many of the vice president’s critics had weighed in.
“That is really a hard call,” suggested Haynes.
“There is one school of thought that you don’t want to respond as you could give the story legs and even credibility that it didn’t have,” he added. “But there is also the chance that if you don’t respond it could go completely viral, and then you find yourself having to play defense at some point.”
In this case the story was one of a video about space exploration, but it also shows that everything any politician does today will be put under great scrutiny on the social networks.
“If Harris were to response it could also extend the life of the story,” said Haynes. “Her critics aren’t likely to be satisfied with any response. So there isn’t really a clear answer here.”
It may seem noteworthy too that only conservative outlets and commentators have picked up on the story, but is that the case?
“Center/center left outlets just didn’t see it as newsworthy,” said Schmidt. “It is newsworthy if you’re rightwing media and your goal for the day is to keep your vase viewers and rightwing base voter amped up. This was bad optics for the vice president, but it nothing larger about her or the administration.”