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Woman in video at Capitol with arrested activist is not with CNN

January 16, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: A video shows a CNN reporter disguised herself as a Trump supporter and conspired with a Black Lives Matter activist to incite a riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The woman in the video does not work for CNN. She is a filmmaker who said she was at the Capitol filming a documentary.  

THE FACTS: Social media users are sharing a video shot during the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6 by Utah activist John Sullivan, who was arrested Thursday, with false claims about what the video shows.

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Sullivan, 26, was arrested in connection with being inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 and was charged with civil disorder, violent entry or disorderly conduct and entering a restricted building or grounds. Before his arrest, Sullivan had shared footage he captured of the moment when Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt of San Diego was fatally shot that day by Capitol Police. 

Both Sullivan and Jade Sacker, an independent filmmaker who is following Sullivan for a documentary she is making, were later interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN about what they saw in the Capitol. 

A different video Sullivan shot at the Capitol on Jan. 6 is now coming under scrutiny on social media.

In that footage, Sacker appears inside the Capitol rotunda in a baseball cap, mask and black jacket, and gives Sullivan a hug. She can be heard laughing and saying, “We did it!” and “You were right.” Sullivan says, “Is this not going to be the best film in your life?” Sacker asks if Sullivan is filming and he says he will delete it. 

Social media users are sharing the clip, which has been viewed more than 2 million times, with the false narrative that it shows a CNN reporter conspiring with a BLM activist.

“BREAKING: CNN’s Jade Sacker penetrating the Capitol with a member of BLM/Antifa cheering, ‘We did it!’ And then asking her conspirator if he was filming, he said he’d delete it, he lied. CNN was in on it,” reads a tweet that was retweeted more than 43,000 times since it was posted Thursday night.

Another widely shared tweet reads: “WATCH: @CNN’s Jade Sacker caught on film coordinating with BLM activist, John Sullivan, to lure Trump supporters into the Capitol Building and then celebrating after they successfully sieged the Capitol.”

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But Sacker does not work for CNN. “I am not a CNN journalist,” Sacker wrote Friday in an email to AP, adding that she is not “currently affiliated with any news organization.”

Some other posts called her an “NBC/NPR affiliated reporter.” But while Sacker said she has freelanced for CNBC and NPR in the past, she was not working for either on Jan. 6.

“I was in the Capitol following John Sullivan as part of a documentary I have been producing for the past four months, which follows both him and his brother James,” Sullivan wrote in the email. “The film intends to portray the emotional interior of the family’s story as they become divided” by the brothers’ “opposing political activism.”

Sacker told the AP the video was shot early in the insurrection, “before crowds closed in” and Babbitt was shot, which she said she did not witness. She said when she gave Sullivan a hug, she had been separated from him throughout the day and had been relieved to see him. 

“My statements after this are not ones of conspiratorial success, but rather that I was shocked we were on the frontlines of covering this historic and very surreal event. At the time, I hadn’t seen John’s footage or heard many of the things he was saying,” Sacker said.

Sacker told the AP she had asked Sullivan not to record because “I am incredibly private.”

Other videos Sullivan recorded on Jan. 6 show him seeming to encourage and congratulate Trump supporters as they pass through police barriers and climb a wall to enter the Capitol. In others, he is heard telling police to stand down to not get hurt, according to an FBI affidavit.

Matt Dornic, a spokesperson for CNN, responded to some of the false tweets directly to debunk the claim that Sacker works for CNN.

“We booked a number of eye witnesses after last week’s attack on the Capitol,” Dornic told The Associated Press. “Jade Sacker absolutely does not work for CNN.” He also confirmed she “was not at the Capitol on our behalf.”

Ben Fishel, a spokesperson for NPR, told AP, “NPR retained Jade Sacker in October of 2020 for a freelance photography assignment. She has not performed any services for NPR since. She was not at the Capitol at our request or on our behalf. If we determine that her actions in any way contributed to the incident at the Capitol, Ms. Sackler will not be engaged by NPR again.”

Sullivan, who has said on social media he does not support Trump, has been accused by Trump supporters of infiltrating the mob and instigating the riot at the Capitol on behalf of antifa or BLM. 

Before he was arrested on Thursday, Sullivan had said on social media that he is not with antifa. He also told the AP in an email on Tuesday, “I am not linked to the BLM Organization.”

He said he is affiliated with Insurgence USA, an organization he started last May. The group’s website says it was founded to oppose police brutality.

Shalomyah Bowers, a spokesperson for BLM, also denied Sullivan’s organization has any affiliation with BLM.

“We’ve never heard of Insurgence USA,” Bowers wrote in an email to the AP. “It is not part of our official BLM apparatus and John has never been a leader of Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation & Black Lives Matter Grassroots. We’ve never had contact with him.” 

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.


Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536