On August 30 2021, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted a video that purportedly showed members of the Taliban hanging an interpreter from a Blackhawk helicopter in Afghanistan:
Video shared by Cruz was in the form of a retweet. Originally, the clip was shared by the Twitter account “Old Holborn, @Holbornlolz” — a handle which hinted at a satirical focus:
A bio for @Holbornlolz explained:
Comedian. Breaking News. Satire. Humour. Politics. Free Speech. A Stoic Libertarian Legend . Also Tweets in German/French
Tweets from that account published on the same day including one lamenting that “Harambe did NOT die for this” (an indicator of the account’s general tone), and another describing flying helicopters as “HARD” — in general, clearly satirical content:
Vice News reviewed Cruz’s tweet and the video, describing clear visual indicators the “Taliban hanging an interpreter” claim was erroneous:
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.
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.
Returning to the source that Cruz — an elected and active lawmaker — selected to share to his followers, additional tweets about the video followed on their timeline. One of the follow-up tweets was from verified Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary, describing the events depicted in the video:
Afghan pilot flying this is someone I have known over the years. He was trained in the US and UAE, he confirmed to me that he flew the Blackhawk helicopter. Taliban fighter seen here was trying to install Taliban flag from air but it didn’t work in the end.
Sen. Ted Cruz’s Twitter video of the Taliban “hanging a man” from a Blackhawk helicopter was shared by him from the account of a Twitter comedian. Vice News noted the man was clearly wearing a harness, and Sarwary explained what the video actually depicted. We looked at Cruz’s tweets and replies, and he made no attempt to correct the falsehood to his followers; neither did he delete the tweet.