There’s a Donald Trump pee tape floating around on the internet. It looks real, but it is almost uncontestably not, according to a Thursday report by Slate reporter (and Gizmodo alum) Ashley Feinberg.
Said tape is not a secret, per se. The extremely NSFW footage, purporting to be a mythical tape Russian intelligence services obtained of Trump watching sex workers defile a bed in a suite at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow while he was hosting the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant, has been hovering around at PissTape.org since earlier this year. (In the piss tape mythos, Trump did this because Barack Obama once slept in the same bed.) Rather, it’s been a non-item since it arrived on the internet at least as far back as January, which is curious because it is astonishingly well-done.
Slate found that practically everything is in alignment: The figure seen in the chair bears an unmistakable resemblance to Trump and uses a cell phone with one index finger in the exact manner he does; the room matches up perfectly with photos of the Ritz-Carlton suite, down to the paneling; visual effects expert and director Jamison Fry initially told Slate that the lighting seemed staged, but when presented with a photo of the actual lighting arrangement in the room, conceded it was almost perfect. One of the women in the footage is clearly either urinating on the bed or doing a pretty good job of faking it.
There are just a few discrepancies. First, it’s not so much a pee tape as low-resolution footage of footage of a pee tape playing on another monitor. That’s an immediate red flag, as that’s precisely what someone would do to mask any revealing standout details. Beyond that, there’s a minor possible error and a very big, disqualifying one.
The minor quibble, Slate wrote, is that the Trump in question may be wearing a partially disrobed black tie outfit, whereas he was photographed at the pageant wearing a regular suit. (It’s nearly impossible to tell from the footage.) The smoking gun, however, is that that the suite shown in the video could not possibly be as it appeared when the real Trump stayed there in 2013. The footage is clearly shot after the Ritz-Carlton Moscow renovated the suite in 2015, Slate wrote, indicating that the piss tape was “clearly either filmed in the renovated room itself or filmed in a room meant to model the renovated room down to the very last detail.”
Either would be extraordinarily expensive; the actual suite costs around $26,658 each night.
The 2013 room:
— The Ritz-Carlton (@RitzCarlton) September 12, 2013
The 2015 room:
Hotel spokesperson Ekaterina Mikhaylova confirmed that the room was renovated sometime in 2015.
This is super odd! So Slate attempted to track down the video, finding that it appears to have first been uploaded around Jan. 15, 2019:
A half-hour later, at 12:33 p.m., another user uploaded a 25-second version of the video (LiveLeak watermark included) under the file name TP.webm. The responses to the second post were fairly evenly split on the video’s veracity, but both instances did seem to be the first time anyone there had seen it.
One minute before the video’s 4chan debut, though, a Twitter user with the handle @4tuneAn0n and the display name Sue D Nim (very clever) posted a nonwatermarked version of the video, @-ing Trump in the process.
After its appearance on 4chan and Twitter, the video made the usual rounds on sites including LiveLeak, YouTube, Imgur, and the Something Awful forums, though with no other evidence to suggest the identity of its creator.
The individual who registered the PissTape.org domain, Slate wrote, said that they had registered the site as “DMCA bait” in the hopes that the actual persons who made it (perhaps Sacha Baron-Cohen, they theorised) would reveal themselves. Beyond that, no one appears to have aggressively pitched the purported urine reel to reporters, as would be expected for an elaborate online disinformation effort.
That leaves a few options! It could be a deepfake — they’re pretty good these days, though perhaps not so good as to just upload unobscured footage of the thing without raising human eyebrows or evading AI-assisted detection.
It could be staged with actors by parties unknown; Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election influence operations during the 2016 elections noted that investigators had concluded the supposed tapes in Vladimir Putin’s possession were fake. Maybe a comedian made it. There is an infinitesimal, but theoretically non-zero, chance that perhaps someone who looked very much like Trump was recorded watching the bed get a golden shower in the suite and the whole pee tape story was later constructed around that.
(There is also, of course, the possibility that Trump returned to the same Ritz-Carlton suite at a later date for an edition of Piss Tape 2: Urination Boogaloo.)
This is quite the mystery, and perhaps one that will never be solved by internet sleuthing alone. But one thing is certain: It is beautiful just the way it is, and no real Trump pee tape can ever take that away.