MSNBC Conspiracy Theory: Travel Ban Caused Deaths of U.S. Troops in Niger

On her primetime show Thursday night, MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow peddled an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that somehow the Trump administration’s travel ban led to the deaths of four U.S. special forces soldiers in Niger. The accusation was then repeated on Friday by fellow MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell despite a complete lack of evidence.

“September 24th of this year, which was three and a half weeks ago, the Trump administration announced it’s new Muslim ban....they added in North Korea, they added in Venezuela, and they added in Chad,” Maddow declared early in the 9 p.m. ET hour Thursday night. Connecting the supposed dots, she noted moments later: “On Friday of last week, the government of Chad announced that they had completed the withdrawal of all Chadian troops from their neighboring country, Niger, where for years they have been fighting ISIS-linked Islamic militants...”

 

 

Having laid the groundwork for her elaborate case, Maddow leveled her unfounded accusation against the President:

That means they pulled their troops out starting Friday, September 29. Which would be the Friday after the Trump administration made this baffling decision to insult and harm our closest military ally in that region....And those Chadian troops pulling out immediately had an effect of emboldening and enabling ISIS attacks....Those troops from Chad got pulled out the 29th. Right after that, that’s when four U.S. Army soldiers got attacked by a large contingent of ISIS fighters in Niger, and four of them killed, within days of the start of the Chadian soldiers being withdrawn.

“So no wonder the President doesn’t want to talk about it, right?,” the left-wing host sneered.

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On Friday, fellow liberal traveler Andrea Mitchell seized on her good friend Rachel’s phony scoop: “...there are unanswered questions about the operation in Niger over the lack of air cover, whether an unrelated decision opposed by the State Department and Pentagon to extend the travel ban to include Chad led to with withdrawal of crack troops from Chad, critical allies in Niger.”

Turning to NBC News National Security Reporter Courtney Kube minutes later, Mitchell wondered: “What can you tell us about what they were doing there and whether they were exposed by the withdrawal of Chadian troops just a day or so before?”

Kube cast serious doubt on the conspiratorial notion:

You know, you mentioned Chad. I know that’s an idea that’s sort of been floating around now. Rachel Maddow spoke about it extensively last night. And you know, we don’t know if that played anything into it. I will say, what we do know about the Chadian military’s mission there was they were focused largely on Boco Haram. And right now it seems that the attack that was carried out on the U.S. was more – was more likely this ISIS affiliate.

However, perhaps feeling pressure not to contradict the two MSNBC personalities, Kobe offered:

But you know, you were right to point out that it all came around the same time. Was there any kind of a shift in power? Did it – you know, the withdrawal of these hundreds of Chadian troops have any kind of – open up any kind of space, give any new freedom of movement? And those are all questions that we don’t know.

Kobe’s initial skepticism was completely on point. Shortly after Maddow’s show Thursday night, Colby College political science professor, Africa expert, and Washington Post contributor Laura Seay took to Twitter to declare: “Deeply disappointed by @maddow’s massively irresponsible conspiracy-mongering on Niger tonight.”

“There is no evidence that the withdrawal of Chadian forces from Niger due to Trump’s travel ban has anything to do w/the Niger tragedy,” Seay added a short time later. She explained in another tweet: “Chadian forces that withdrew from Niger were stationed in Diffa, a region of Niger that has suffered greatly at the hands of Boko Haram.”

That squares with Kobe’s reporting that “the Chadian military’s mission there was they were focused largely on Boco Haram.” In other words, Maddow’s assertion that forces from Chad were combating ISIS terrorists in Niger was false.

In its desperation to blame Trump for the deaths of U.S. troops, MSNBC got the most basic facts wrong.  

Maddow’s biased rambling was brought to viewers by Bank of America, Alka-Seltzer, and TD Ameritrade.

Here are excerpts of the October 19 segment:

9:12 PM ET

(...)

RACHEL MADDOW: September 24th of this year, which was three and a half weeks ago, the Trump administration announced it’s new Muslim ban, which they would prefer you don’t call a Muslim ban anymore. During the campaign, candidate Trump had proclaimed he would enforce a total and complete ban on Muslims entering the United States. That morphed into the Muslim ban he announced as soon as he was inaugurated, which went precisely nowhere in the courts. It’s gone through several different iterations since then, all of which have also gone nowhere in the courts.

But on September 24th, they announced a new ban that included a new list of countries from which people would not be allowed to come to this country. And I mean, they’ve been – it’s random, right? So we don’t know how this happens, but they dropped Iraq, okay? They dropped Sudan, but then they added in North Korea, they added in Venezuela, and they added in Chad.

(...)

9:15 PM ET

MADDOW: On Friday of last week, the government of Chad announced that they had completed the withdrawal of all Chadian troops from their neighboring country, Niger, where for years they have been fighting ISIS-linked Islamic militants as the most battle-hardened most effective military in the region fighting Islamic militancy.

The Reuters bureau in the region reported that already, immediately upon the withdrawal of those Chadian troops, Boko Haram attacks and other Islamic militant started to tick up in Niger. Residents immediately started to leave their villages and move out of whatever region they lived in for their own safety, because those Chadian troops withdrew from Niger.

Chad announced that their troops were all out this past Friday, but they also announced that the removal of those troops was the culmination of a two-week process. So it took the two weeks to get all those troops out of there, the process was done by Friday. Which means they started withdrawing their troops from Niger the last week in September. If we’re going to be literal as to what they announced about the two-week period. That means they pulled their troops out starting Friday, September 29. Which would be the Friday after the Trump administration made this baffling decision to insult and harm our closest military ally in that region and the leader of the regional fight against ISIS and Boko Haram in that part of the world.

(...)

9:17 PM ET

MADDOW: And those Chadian troops pulling out immediately had an effect of emboldening and enabling ISIS attacks. And those troops started pulling out, best as we can tell, last week of September, September 29th, right after the Trump administration inexplicably did what they did. Those troops from Chad got pulled out the 29th. Right after that, that’s when four U.S. Army soldiers got attacked by a large contingent of ISIS fighters in Niger, and four of them killed, within days of the start of the Chadian soldiers being withdrawn. So no wonder the President doesn’t want to talk about it, right?

(...)


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