Fact check: Prominent Republicans spread false allegations that Taliban hanged man from helicopter

Cruz and Crenshaw, among other curators, shared a video that was tweeted by a self-proclaimed “comedian” who uses the Twitter handle @Holbornlolz. The somewhat blurry video showed a man hanging from a rope attached to a helicopter. The “comedian” mistakenly captioned the video: “The Taliban hung someone from a helicopter in Kandahar.”

Cruz added his own statement above the comedian’s tweet, Tweeter: “This gruesome image sums up the Joe Biden disaster in Afghanistan: the Taliban hangs a man from an American Blackhawk helicopter. Tragic. Unimaginable.” Crenshaw also used the video to criticize Biden’s withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan, Tweeter: “What the hell was it a good idea to just hand over a country to these people.”
Some popular Twitter accounts have gone so far as to make statements about the identity of the person supposed to be executed. Indian journalist Sudhir Chaudhary, who has more than 6 million followers on Twitter, wrote, “The Taliban are hanging a person, believed to be an American interpreter, from an American Blackhawk helicopter.”
CNN could not immediately confirm what exactly the man in the harness was doing. But Bilal Sarwary, a Afghan journalist who fled the country during the evacuation in late August, tweeted Tuesday: “The Afghan pilot in command is someone I have known for years. He was trained in the United States and the United Arab Emirates, he confirmed to me that he was flying the Blackhawk helicopter. The Taliban fighter seen here was trying to put up the Taliban flag from the air but it didn’t work in the end. ”
The Afghan news agency Aśvaka, which checked in his own video of the helicopter flight, told Indian fact-checking website Alt News that his team had confirmed that the person attached to the helicopter “was being checked and hung from the helicopter to secure the flag in the building of the governor in Kandahar “.
Cruz deleted his fake tweet on Tuesday afternoon, after several reporters posted fact-checks on Twitter and CNN contacted his office by email. Cruz recognized in a subsequent tweet that the claim that the Taliban hanged a man from a helicopter “may be inaccurate” – although he included the inaccurately captioned video of the “comedian” in his corrective tweet.

The origins of video

The history of the brutal executions of the Taliban is well documented. But there was never any basis for the claims that this particular video depicts a helicopter execution.

When video of the helicopter flight was posted to a pro-Taliban Twitter account on Monday morning, the account – which was suspended by Twitter on Tuesday – offered no indication that there had been an execution. The caption of the story read: “Our Air Force! Right now the Islamic Emirate Air Force helicopters are flying over Kandahar City and patrolling the city.”

The “comedian” then released a video clip from counterterrorism analyst Faran Jeffery’s account. But the legend of Jeffrey had also said nothing about an execution; he simply wrote: “I swear I don’t know what’s going on here.” The “comedian” added the caption “suspended”.
Then the video took off – receiving millions of views on social media, generating inaccurate headlines in the Indian press and prompting inaccurate tweets from many American conservatives.
It should be noted that the exterior of the helicopter in the video strongly suggests that it was in possession of the Afghan armed forces before it was seized by the Taliban, not left behind by the US military. In other words, it was almost certainly not one of the pieces of equipment left by the US military during the evacuation. The Pentagon says the departing troops rendered this plane unusable.

Cruz’s office and Smith’s office did not immediately respond to Tuesday’s requests for comment. A spokesperson for Crenshaw, Justin Discigil, said he would return to CNN to comment on this fact check only if we agree to his request to verify the facts of the separate comments made by Biden.

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