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Phillips campaign distances itself from consultant who allegedly commissioned fake Biden


Tom Brenner/Reuters

Democratic presidential candidate Dean Phillips speaks at an event in Columbia, South Carolina, on January 27, 2024.



CNN
 — 

The campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Dean Phillips is distancing itself from a consultant who allegedly commissioned a robocall that used artificial intelligence to impersonate President Joe Biden during the New Hampshire primary election.

NBC News reported Friday that political consultant Steve Kramer paid a New Orleans magician to use AI to impersonate Biden on the robocall in January, according to text messages, call logs and Venmo transactions the creator shared with NBC. Kramer was hired by the Phillips campaign to assist in ballot efforts in New York and Pennsylvania.

In the call, a voice that sounds like the president urges voters not to vote in the January 23 primary and instead to “save” their vote for the November election.

New Hampshire’s attorney general announced earlier this month that the call had been linked to a pair of Texas-based telecommunications companies and said state law enforcement had opened a criminal investigation. Senior US law enforcement officials have also been closely monitoring the incident to determine if a federal crime was committed, a senior US official familiar with the matter told CNN.

Paul Carpenter, a New Orleans-based magician, told NBC News he was hired in January by Kramer to use AI software to make the imitation of Biden’s voice used in the robocall.

“I created the audio used in the robocall. I did not distribute it. I was in a situation where someone offered me some money to do something, and I did it. There was no malicious intent. I didn’t know how it was going to be distributed,” he said to NBC.

When contacted by CNN, Carpenter referred all questions to his attorney, who did not immediately respond.

Kramer referred a request for comment to Hank Sheinkopf, a New York political consultant. Sheinkopf, who said he was acting as a spokesman for Kramer, told CNN that Kramer will “have a statement to make after the South Carolina primary” on Saturday but declined to comment further before then.

Phillips’s campaign confirmed to CNN that Kramer had worked on efforts to get the Minnesota Democrat on the ballot in New York and Pennsylvania but said that the campaign had no knowledge of his reported involvement with the robocall.

“If it is true that Mr. Kramer had any involvement in the creation of deepfake robocalls, he did so of his own volition which had nothing to do with our campaign,” Phillips campaign spokeswoman Katie Dolan told CNN in a statement on Friday.

“The fundamental notion of our campaign is the importance of competition, choice, and democracy. We are disgusted to learn that Mr. Kramer is allegedly behind this call, and if the allegations are true, we absolutely denounce his actions,” she added. Dolan told CNN that Kramer is no longer working for the campaign.

Last month, Phillips, who represents a Minneapolis-area district in the US House, pushed back on the notion that the robocall might have come from a supporter of his. If that were the case, he told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “I’d be the first to denounce it.”

“Whoever did that, it’s wrong, and it’s exactly why we need a leader who’s not 80-some years old, who can understand what is coming,” Phillips said, framing himself as more apt to deal with AI regulation than Biden or former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination.

CNN’s Isabelle Chapman, Majlie de Puy Kamp and Casey Tolan contributed to this report.



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