Election 2024

Donald Trump Jr. shares transphobic deepfake footage of DeSantis wearing women’s clothing

Deepfake AI-generated footage of Ron DeSantis in an episode of "The Office" wearing a women's suit
Photo: Screenshot

The Trump campaign continues to use AI-generated deepfake videos to mock Donald Trump’s opponents in the 2024 presidential race.

On Friday, Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted one such video featuring Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) edited into a scene from the office as Steve Carrell’s character, Michael Scott. In the scene, Scott’s coworkers mock him for accidentally wearing a women’s suit, but Trump Jr.’s version of the video has DeSantis substituted for Scott.

Trump Jr. posted the video along with the message, “DeSantis does seem to spend a lot of time in high heels,” followed by several laughing emojis.

The stunt indicates Trump will continue to peddle homophobic and transphobic tropes this time around, and it also further raises concerns about Trump’s and other people’s willingness to disseminate fake, AI-generated audio of other famous people as part of the upcoming presidential campaign. 

Last week, Trump shared a deepfake video of gay CNN anchor Anderson Cooper reacting to Trump’s appearance at a recent Town Hall event. The video, which shows Cooper speaking immediately after Trump’s May 11 CNN Town Hall, has the anchor saying, “That was President Donald J. Trump ripping us a new ass**le here on CNN’s live presidential town hall. Thank you for watching. Have a good night.”

Cooper didn’t actually say that, but there is so much video and audio footage of him online that an AI program can easily generate footage that looks and sounds like him. Similar deepfake videos are often made of famous celebrities who have appeared in numerous films or TV clips.

The technology will likely be used to make other obviously fake and comedic videos like this. But candidates and foreign agents could also use the technology to sway voters with high-quality deepfakes that seem very real.

Trump and DeSantis have been engaged in an escalating war for the Republican nomination for the presidency.

The candidates have spent the last few months publicly trading barbs at one another. Trump has expressed regret over endorsing DeSantis during his successful 2018 campaign to become Florida’s governor. In a March interview, DeSantis took some thinly veiled swipes at Trump, stating, “The way we run the government I think is no daily drama; focus on the big picture and put points on the board…. Governing is not about entertaining. Governing is not about building a brand or talking on social media and virtue signaling. It’s ultimately about winning and producing results.”

In a recent video, Trump said, “The problem with Ron DeSanctimonious is that he needs a personality transplant, and those are not yet available.”

But Trump’s campaign dug too deep a hole over Memorial Day Weekend when a campaign official tweeted a picture of out Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in uniform from when he served in the U.S. Navy Reserve in an effort to mock DeSantis’s military service.

Many conservatives did not react positively.

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