No, the Taliban Did Not Just Hang an Interpreter From a US Helicopter

Republican lawmakers including Ted Cruz are claiming a viral video shows the Taliban hanging someone from a Blackhawk helicopter.
August 31, 2021, 12:46pm
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Right wing blogs and Republican lawmakers like Sen. Ted Cruz are falsely claiming that the Taliban has hanged a man from a U.S. Blackhawk helicopter as it flies over the city of Kandahar.

The claim is based on a video shared by an account claiming to be the official news source for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The video does indeed appear to show a Blackhawk helicopter being flown over an Afghan city and there is a person dangling from the aircraft.

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However even a cursory glance at the video reveals that the person is moving around and is strapped into a chest harness. At one point, the person even reaches up and holds onto the rope.

The video was first shared on Monday by a Twitter account called Talib Times. The video was accompanied by the caption: “Our Air Force! At this time, the Islamic Emirate's air force helicopters are flying over Kandahar city and patrolling the city.”

The video is one of dozens of videos and images that the account has shared in the last 24 hours showing Taliban troops securing some of the U.S. military equipment, weapons, aircraft and vehicles left abandoned after the final U.S. troops departed Afghanistan on Monday.

But the video has since been taken out of context and used as “evidence” to criticize the Biden administration’s handling of the evacuation of Afghanistan.

“This horrifying image encapsulates Joe Biden’s Afghanistan catastrophe: The Taliban hanging a man from an American Blackhawk helicopter,” Cruz tweeted late on Monday night, adding: “Tragic. Unimaginable.”  

The video Cruz shared has been viewed almost 2 million times already.

Many on Twitter also shared the baseless claim that the person dangling from the helicopter was an interpreter who worked with the U.S. military. That rumor originated from a tweet by notorious right-wing troll Ian Miles Cheong.

Ian Miles Cheong

Ian Miles Cheong

Rep. Jason Smith from Missouri, followed his Republican colleague in falsely using the video to critique the Biden administration:

Twitter/Rep. Jason Smith

Twitter/Rep. Jason Smith

 Rep. Dan Crenshaw also shared the video, asking: “In what f***ing world was it a good idea to just hand over a country to these people.”

Right-wing pastor Greg Locke, who has repeatedly espoused QAnon conspiracies from the pulpit and who claims former President Donald Trump is the legitimate winner of last year’s election, tweeted:  

“The Taliban is literally hanging people from American helicopters that Biden gave them. Anyone still supporting this fraudulent fool is either lying or is straight up evil.” 

Data from Facebook’s own analytics tool Crowdtangle shows that multiple right wing blogs and websites have repeated the false claim about the Taliban hanging someone from a U.S. helicopter, racking up tens of thousands of interactions in the last 24 hours.

Twitter and Facebook did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment on the misinformation being spread on their platforms.