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Right-Wing Media Won’t Stop Lying About Afghan ‘Hanged’ From Chopper


Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Multiple right-wing media figures, outlets, and social media users falsely claimed that a viral video showing a man in Afghanistan suspended from a helicopter was an execution by the Taliban. Other footage of the flight showed the man alive and well, and reportedly he was attempting to fix a flag.

This narrative is just one example of multiple falsehoods spread by conservatives to attack President Joe Biden following his decision to withdraw U.S. military forces from Afghanistan.

As Media Matters previously wrote, Fox News host Sean Hannity aired the footage on the August 31 edition of Fox News' Hannity, falsely claiming it showed the Taliban dangling a hanged man from a Black Hawk helicopter in Afghanistan. But Hannity's claim had been debunked before his show aired.

Conservative media personalities and politicians — including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) — also repeated the false claim on Twitter, using it to criticize the Biden administration's decision to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Cruz later deleted his tweet, writing that the information in it "may be inaccurate."

A tweet by Rep. Jason Smith that reads "On the day that we see innocent people hanging from an American helicopter, the Biden Administration decides to pull out early leaving behind hundreds of Americans and even more innocents to die at the hands of the Taliban. It's unacceptable and heartbreaking."

A Fox anchor along with multiple contributors and guests have also engaged with the false claim, as have other right-wing cable channels like One America News Network and Newsmax, other media organizations and users on fringe social media platforms.

Fox News and Fox Business

  • On August 30, a day before Hannity himself pushed this lie, Hannity guest Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) said that "we had a video today of one of our Blackhawk helicopters with somebody hanging from it as it moves through the sky."
  • Also on August 30, guest Elliot Ackerman said on The Ingraham Angle that "we just saw the Taliban flying a Blackhawk helicopter above Kandahar with a dead body hanging from its bottom."
  • On August 30, Fox Business guest Stephen Yates said: "We have today the Taliban hanging someone from a helicopter."
  • On August 31, Fox Business guest Sam Brown said, "We're seeing the reality of the Taliban now flying Blackhawk helicopters over Kabul, hanging their enemy."
  • Later the same day, Fox contributor Katie Pavlich said on The Five, "They are hanging people from our helicopters." Pavlich repeated this later in the show, saying the Taliban have "been using" weapons left behind "to execute our allies who helped us on the ground. … They hung a guy with a helicopter."
  • That evening, Fox Business anchor David Asman was discussing the helicopters U.S. forces left behind and said: "At least one was used yesterday in horrific fashion to hang a human being. We don't know the circumstances of that. We don't know who that person was that was hanging from the helicopter. But in one of the typically sick dimension of the way that these -- the Taliban think, or whoever was piloting that helicopter, that's how they used it."
  • And on September 1, Fox News contributor Charles Hurt said on Fox Business, "The image of our Blackhawk helicopter flying around Kabul with the body of what appears to be a dead person hanging from the bottom of it -- those images get seared into people's minds, and they never forget it."

Newsmax

  • On the August 31 edition of the morning show Wake Up America, Newsmax's Alex Kraemer showed and read a tweet claiming that the Taliban "are now hanging innocent civilians from [helicopters] for the world to see." Later in the show, co-host Rob Finnertysaid: "We saw someone hanging from a helicopter on video. This person was dead."
  • During Newsmax's August 31 midday show John Bachman Now, the host said there are "U.S. Blackhawks reportedly being flown by the Taliban with people hanging from them."
  • Later that day on American Agenda, Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield said the Taliban were "flying people hanging from Blackhawk helicopters yesterday." Later in the show, former Trump spokesperson Jason Miller referenced people in Kabul risking being "flown around the city hanging by their neck off of a helicopter."
  • On September 1, Finnerty repeated this lie on Wake Up America, saying: "We saw somebody hanging from a U.S. military helicopter over Kabul just a couple of days ago."

One America News Network

  • On August 31, the host of OAN's In Focus with Stephanie Hamill said: "There's video circulating online of them in an American helicopter with a man hanging by his neck off of the helicopter." Her guest, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), replied: "That's sick. That is sick."
  • Later on Real America, host Dan Ball previewed the video he claimed shows "the Taliban flying one of our Blackhawk choppers in Kandahar with a body hanging from it" with a long-winded warning about graphic content. He added: "Now, have we vetted it all out? Can I confirm it happened yesterday? I don't know when it happened. It's all over the web. It's from Kandahar. I can't read what that says, but we're getting this from multiple sources of folks that were there on the ground. They confirm it's one of our choppers, they confirm it's from Afghanistan. I don't know who's hanging there, but -- you want to see this stuff come over here? And I'm not trying to fearmonger one bit. I'm keeping it real, folks."

Other right-wing outlets and social media

  • On August 30, Gateway Pundit shared a screenshot of the video on its website along with tweets containing versions of the video, incorrectly claiming that "today the Islamists used US helicopters to hang 'traitors' in Kandahar Afghanistan" and argued that the Taliban was "openly mocking" the U.S.
  • On August 31, the New York Post published the video on its website along with an article that said "it is not immediately clear exactly how [the person in the video] is attached or if he is alive." The piece then quoted "some journalists" who it says "insisted that it showed someone who had been hanged — and then paraded in the skies."
  • The video of the helicopter and screenshots from the video also spread on several fringe right-wing social media platforms between August 30 and September 1, including Gab, 4chan, and Patriots.win. This content was also shared widely among right-wing users on the messaging app Telegram. Many of these posts criticized the Biden administration, with one Patriots.win user claiming, falsely, that the Taliban was "flying [a] Biden-provided Blackhawk helicopter…while hanging someone from it." This post quoted a tweet stating that "it's an absolute shitfest to see the Taliban now actually flying US BlackHawk helicopters, hanging people by the throat from them!! The American President will never be forgiven for this!!"
Research contributions from Leo Fernandez and Bobby Lewis

Suddenly, Republicans Are Upset Over A President Leaving The White House

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

After four years of tolerating Donald Trump's frequent golf vacations, Republicans are now attacking President Joe Biden for not spending every moment at the White House.

"Biden goes on vacation," Trump's handpicked Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel tweeted on Wednesday, "after leaving hundreds of Americans stranded in Afghanistan."

She was referencing an Associated Press news item that Biden plans to spend Labor Day weekend in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

In recent weeks, several congressional Republicans have also attacked Biden for spending part of August working from home or from Camp David, the official presidential country residence.

"American troops are dying. And Joe Biden is still hiding on vacation," falsely claimed House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik last Thursday.

"Biden has spent just 4 of the last 15 days in DC," complained Georgia Rep. Jody Hice. "No wonder his Administration is in chaos!"

"American citizens are still in danger, and our President went on vacation refusing to do ANYTHING," Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson baselessly charged. "Biden is INCOMPETENT!"

But Republicans stood by then-President Donald Trump for four years as he frequently left Washington, D.C., for his golf courses and other resorts.

Despite campaign promises to "rarely leave the White House" and to not "have time to play golf," Trump made spent nearly 300 days on golf courses during his term, at an estimated cost to taxpayers of about $148 million.

According to a Washington Post count, Trump spent 428 days of his lone term in office visiting one of his own Trump Organization properties — an average of more than two days out of each week.

Trump claimed these were really "working" trips — though he played hundredsof rounds of golf on those visits.

"I go to Bedminster, which is a beautiful place, but it's never a vacation. It's working, mostly," he told reporters in July 2019, plugging his Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey.

Republicans did not attack Trump for these trips. McDaniel frequently praised him as "working hard" for the American people.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) retweeted McDaniel's tweet on Wednesday. In February, he made national news for taking a vacation to Cancún, Mexico, with his family in the midst of massive winter storms in his state. Millions of his constituents were left without safe drinking water or electricity as he traveled to a Ritz-Carlton luxury resort.

Trump is not the only former president who spent much of his presidency out of Washington, D.C.

A 2014 FactCheck.org analysis noted that George W. Bush spent more than 875 days at Camp David or at his Texas ranch. He spent much of that time clearing brush.

Ronald Reagan also spent hundreds of days in California at his "Western White House" ranch.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Cruz Torched On Twitter For Sleazy Attack On CNN Correspondent

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

With Afghanistan having fallen to the Taliban following the withdrawal of U.S. troops, CNN's Clarissa Ward has been on the ground in Kabul fearlessly covering that tense and dangerous situation. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, on Monday, used the tragedy to take a cheap, baseless shot at Ward, and he is being slammed for it on Twitter.

Ward, reporting on Afghanistan's transition from a fragile democracy to a far-right Islamist dictatorship under the Taliban, was wearing a head covering and concealing her hair:

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Dodging Guilt, DeSantis Scapegoats Immigrants For Covid Surge

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is attempting to shift the blame for his state's alarming uptick in COVID cases but he's already facing pushback against that effort. Over the last week, the Republican governor has taken aim at the (CDC), President Joe Biden, his administration, and even immigrants.

"Joe Biden has the nerve to tell me to get out of the way on COVID while he lets COVID-infected migrants pour over our southern border by the hundreds of thousands," DeSantis previously said. "No elected official is doing more to enable the transmission of COVID in America than Joe Biden with his open borders policies."

On another occasion, DeSantis attempted to place the blame on unvaccinated and undocumented immigrants. According to the Florida governor, "it's immigrants crossing the border — and not the Floridians he has encouraged to behave irresponsibly, the unvaccinated or the unmasked — who are spreading variants."

DeSantis' remarks echo the words of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Fox News' Sean Hannity. Now, DeSantis' claims are being completely debunked. An analysis published by The Washington Post explains why immigrants are not to blame for the latest accelerated spread of the Delta variant of COVID.

"This idea depends on three key misunderstandings," the paper reports. "A misunderstanding of the surge in arrivals at the Mexico border, a misunderstanding of how migrants are released from federal custody, and a misunderstanding of where the pandemic is actually at its worst."

The analysis also highlights a distinct Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel for the American Immigration Council. He explained how and why immigrants are typically tested far more than any other individuals in the country.

"Migrants are in many ways the most tested group in the country. No other group of people in the entire country is being tested at a near-100 percent rate," he said by phone. "So when we talk about infection rates of migrants, what we actually know is that a lot of people who are testing positive are asymptomatic; who, if they were in the United States, would have just never been tested."

Despite DeSantis' sentiments being debunked, his office released a lengthy statement in an attempt to offer clarity about his remarks. In reference to immigrants, his office did admit that migration is not solely responsible

"What we know from official data is that about 200,000 people cross the border illegally every month. They come from over 100 countries, and some of those countries where a significant portion of the migrants hail from, such as Haiti, have extremely low rates of COVID vaccination. Therefore — When the Biden administration discusses implementing vaccine passports for legal immigrants and tourists coming to our country, but allows the free movement of illegal immigrants through the border and around the country (especially to Florida, which 70% of migrants detained and interviewed by our state law enforcement assisting with border security in Texas reported as their final destination) without any mitigation measures, that is hypocritical.

If President Biden was serious about "shutting down the virus" as he promised, his open border policies do not make any sense. At the very least, it's unfair (not to mention unscientific) that legal immigrants, tourists, and even American citizens are subject to more stringent COVID restrictions than illegal immigrants are. If public health recommendations are about public health, these recommendations should apply to all people equally.

Hospitals report data on inpatient bed usage, ICU capacity, COVID hospitalizations, and other metrics directly to HHS, but they do not report citizenship status of patients, as far as I am aware. The concern is that some people could be feeling fine, but carrying variants from different countries and spreading them to higher risk individuals, who then get extremely ill.

Of course, migration isn't the only factor in COVID spread, and the governor has never implied that to be the case. The main issue that Governor DeSantis highlighted with his comments yesterday was the paradoxical nature of the Biden Administration's support for additional restrictions on Americans and lawful immigrants (namely, the WH support for vaccine passports) while allowing illegal migrants to cross the border and travel through the country freely.

Ted Cruz Sounds Off On Cleveland Team Mascot — And Suffers Extreme Blowback

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was one of many Republican lawmakers who expressed faux outrage over the Major League Baseball (MLB) announcement of Cleveland's new mascot. On Friday, July 23, Cruz took to Twitter with a quick post sharing his reaction to the Cleveland Indians being renamed the Cleveland Guardians.

The Texas lawmaker tweeted, "Why does MLB hate Indians?"

It certainly did not take long for Twitter users to step up to the plate. With their responses, they hit a home run with relentless insults leveled toward the Republican lawmaker. One Twitter user wrote, "Wait, I thought businesses were free to make their own decisions free of government meddling."

Another Twitter user challenged Cruz with a question about the blatant disregard for indigenous people. That person wrote, "Really Ted? Is disliking native Americans what this name change is about? You're incredibly disingenuous."

Cruz's latest remark comes just months after his previous, baseless remark arguing that the name change was a partisan effort that appeared to be in favor of one political party. Speaking to reporters back in April, Cruz said, "If they're gonna play partisan enforcer, they shouldn't expect to see special goodies from Washington when they are dishonestly acting to favor one party against the other."

Cruz Faces Wicked Backlash Over His Failed Pandemic ‘Guarantee’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is now haunted by a 2020 prediction he made about the future of the COVID-19 pandemic if President Joe Biden were to win the election. As Delta variant cases of COVID-19 continue to rise across the country at alarming rates, Cruz is being reminded of how he envisioned the pandemic ending if Democrats managed to win in November 2020.

Speaking to The Hill last July 22, the Texas lawmaker claimed the pandemic would magically disappear if Democrats won the presidential election.

"If it ends up that Biden wins in November -- I hope he doesn't, I don't think he will -- but if he does, I guarantee you the week after the election, suddenly all those Democratic governors, all those Democratic mayors, will say, 'Everything's magically better. Go back to work. Go back to school. Suddenly all the problems are solved.' You won't to have to wait for Biden to be sworn in. All they'll need is Election Day and suddenly their willingness to just destroy people's lives and livelihoods, they will have accomplished their task. That's wrong. It's cynical. And we shouldn't be a part of it."

His claim was, essentially, that Democrats were fabricating their concern about the virus in order to hurt Trump's re-election chances. It was clearly false then, but it has definitively proved wrong in the meantime.

Cruz's epic blunder wasn't missed by news outlets or on social media. In fact, Twitter users wasted no time reminding him of his baseless comments as they tossed his words back at him.

Despite Cruz's prediction, the coronavirus is far from non-existent, and Democrats have been trying to fight the virus just as aggressively since the election as they were before.

Senate Republicans Shield Super-Rich Tax Cheats — And Democrats Are Silent

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Senate Republicans are dead set on making sure that the rich people who they've been helping to avoid pay their taxes continue to have the privilege of cheating the rest of us. It would appear that the Democrats participating in the sham called bipartisan infrastructure negotiations are okay with that. According to Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, the group is "looking at alternative pay-fors to IRS tax enforcement."

Again, this is about letting the wealthy off the hook for the taxes they already owe. It's not about new taxes. It's not about raising anyone's taxes. It's about continuing to allow the super-rich to cheat the rest of us, who do pay our tax bills every year.

Republicans have been raising holy hell over the idea that President Joe Biden wants to strengthen the IRS enough so that it can go after the really big tax cheats, the ones robbing the nation of hundreds of billions of dollars, instead of the working poor peoplewho are easier to audit, the ones who can't afford lawyers to intervene. Fully funding the IRS and clawing those owed tax dollars out of the hands of people who can damned well afford to pay has been included as one of the ways that the bipartisan group has said they'll pay for their almost $600 billion proposal for hard infrastructure.

That, apparently, is out and apparently Democrats in the bipartisan group are accepting that fact. Even though it's the likes of extremist Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Marsha Blackburn who are raising hell—extremists who were never going to vote for an infrastructure plan that helps President Joe Biden in the first place. Senate aides working with the group confirmed to The Washington Post that "it is likely to be removed from the deal."

That means that the fire sale of existing infrastructure to the highest hedge fund bidders, who would then be in a position to make the public pay for its use all over again, could still be in. Because they have to figure out how pay for it somehow anyway. Or at least they say they do, which they really don't because borrowing money is still cheaper than dirt. As of earlier this month, White House aides were telling Democrats in phone conversations that was not an option, but we haven't seen a high-level, public denunciation of that idea.

Republicans aren't just having hissy fits over the IRS making them and their buddies pay all their taxes, however; they're outraged that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants them to finish their work. A short exhibit of their varied tantrums:

Never mind that they've supposedly been working on this since April, when Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who is so concerned that there just isn't enough time, started negotiating with Biden. They announced this supposed bipartisan agreement more than three weeks ago. She added that she thought Schumer's scheduling the vote was an attempt "to put pressure on the group to either put up or shut up."

Well ... yes. And about time, too. Because seriously, they've been at this forever. Now, we all know Republicans are awfully rusty when it comes to doing actual work (like writing bills), but there's a bunch of Democrats who could be doing all of that hard part. So what in the hell have they been doing all these weeks, that they can't be ready by next Wednesday?

They've been wasting time, is what they've been doing, hoping to draw this process out and have it die from neglect. And Democrats have been letting them get away with it because "bipartisanship." Now that the $3.5 trillion budget resolution train is getting loaded up, yes, this group needs to put up or shut up. And pay their damned taxes.

Senate Republicans Attack Biden Nominee For Voting Rights Advocacy

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Senate Republicans on Wednesday came out against President Joe Biden's nominee for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, criticizing her support for voting rights and advocacy against the type of voter suppression tactics Republican lawmakers across the country have sought to implement.

The senators said during a Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Myrna Pérez that she would not be able to rule impartially on voting rights issues if she were seated on the court.

Pérez is currently on leave from her role as the director of the Brennan Center for Justice's Voting Rights and Elections Project, where she analyzed and criticized voter suppression laws that have been passed by GOP-controlled state legislatures in the wake of Donald Trump's loss of the 2020 presidential election.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took issue with Pérez's advocacy against voter suppression laws.

"You have waged litigation campaigns and opposed voter ID laws, you have opposed voter integrity laws, you have opposed prohibitions on ballot harvesting, you have advocated for felons being able to vote," Cruz said, calling her a "radical activist."

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said she didn't believe Pérez could be neutral, tweeting, "Myrna Pérez is too busy being an activist to concentrate on being a second circuit judge," Blackburn tweeted, sharing a video of her questioning of Pérez.

Pérez responded, "In the great genius of our Constitution, people play different roles," according to the Hill newspaper. "Advocates zealously argue on behalf of their clients in as many forms as they can. I have had the privilege and pleasure of doing that."

Democrats and voting rights groups responded to the Judiciary Committee Republicans as well.

"Sen. Ted Cruz claims that Myrna Pérez is a 'radical' activist because of her advocacy for the right to vote. Guaranteeing access to the polls is anything but radical, and we need judges with civil rights experience like Pérez on our courts," the Alliance for Justice tweeted, urging Pérez's confirmation.

The NAACP's Legal Defense Fund also tweeted support for Pérez, writing, "Federal judges play vital roles in preserving constitutional democracy. It's critical that judges have a demonstrated commitment to fairness and the rule of law. Myrna Pérez has dedicated her career to strengthening and protecting voting rights and our democracy."

Senate Democrats are taking advantage of their slim majority in the chamber to prioritize the confirmation of Biden's judicial nominees.

The pace at which they are confirming his court picks is faster than any president in the last 50 years, according to a report by CBS affiliate WUSA9 in Washington, D.C. To date, seven of Biden's judicial nominees have been confirmed, more than the two judges Trump had confirmed at this same point in his term.

Republicans have yet to block one of Biden's judicial nominees — who have been far more diverse than Trump's picks.

If Pérez is confirmed, she'll be the only Latina to serve on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, and the first since then-Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.