Donald Trump called out Hillary Clinton on Monday for her claim that ISIS has used him in propaganda videos as a recruiting tool and demanded the Democratic frontrunner apologize for the erroneous claim.
“I demand an apology from Hillary Clinton for the disgusting story she made up about me for purposes of the debate,” he tweeted. “There never was a video.”
Call it a Christmas miracle, but for once, the facts are actually supporting part of Trump’s accusation because terrorism experts say no such video exists.
Trump’s comments come after Clinton claimed during Saturday night’s debate that Trump was “ISIS’s best recruiter.”
“They are going to people, showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadist,” she said.
William McCants, a Brookings Institution scholar focused on the Middle East, said there is “no official ISIS propaganda that I have seen that yet mentions Trump either in print or in video.”
The group certainly might mention Trump’s call for a ban on Muslim immigration in their propaganda, McCants added, but it wouldn’t have happened this quickly.
“It’s the kind of thing they would mention, but you would probably find it in their English-language magazine, and it’s a month or two, usually, behind events. So if they’re going to use it you wouldn’t see it just yet,” he said.
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies who studies ISIS and other radical extremist groups, also said Clinton’s claim is baseless.
“The claim that Trump’s posturing can feed IS’s narrative is correct,” he said. “But he hasn’t appeared in an IS video as of the time of Hillary’s claim, as far as anyone can tell.”
But that didn’t stop Clinton’s team from hitting the Sunday shows to defend the comments.
After all, Clinton’s comments at the debate certainly sounded plausible enough.
“He’s becoming a very important recruitment tool for ISIS,” John Podesta told Meet the Press. “I think if you, if you go back and look at social media, if you look at what is going on there, they are definitely pointing to Mr. Trump.”
Jennifer Palimieri, Clinton’s communications director, also doubled down on Clinton’s comments on ABC’s This Week.
Clinton’s campaign also highlighted a tweet from an ISIS supporter regarding Trump. But just because a supporter of a group says something doesn’t mean the group uses it in propaganda.
When we reached out to the Clinton campaign about the claim, a spokesman emailed back an NBC News story quoting Rita Katz of the SITE Intelligence Group speaking in general about terrorist groups’ views on Trump.
“They love him from the sense that he is supporting their rhetoric,” Katz said.
But loving him isn’t the same as featuring him in propaganda.
Some pundits have argued that Trump’s rhetoric likely benefits ISIS, there’s no evidence that the terror group has actually used his words or image in recruitment propaganda. Whoopi Goldberg made this point on The View this month, saying the candidate’s anti-Muslim comments are a boon to ISIS’s recruiting efforts and should land him on the terror watchlist.
But fact-checkers immediately pounced on Clinton’s claim that Trump appeared in ISIS propaganda.
“For now, it seems that Clinton has turned speculative left-of-center rhetoric into fact,” wrote Politifact, which gave Clinton’s claim a False rating.
“There is an enormous amount of IS propaganda being produced, both official and unofficial, so there are very few analysts who have watched all of IS’s videos,” Gartenstein-Ross, a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies said. “This is true even for those of us who spend a lot of time following the jihadist web and watching jihadist propaganda. That being said, I believe Hillary Clinton’s claim was false.”
Still, the likelihood that Trump—the guy who made up thousands and thousands of Muslims celebrating in New Jersey after the 9/11 attacks gets an apology from the Clinton campaign? Well, hours after his demand he got his answer.
“Hell no,” Brian Fallon, her press secretary told ABC News. “Hillary Clinton will not be apologizing to Donald Trump for correctly pointing out how his hateful rhetoric only helps ISIS recruit more terrorists."