Pants on Fire!
Says Tammy Baldwin is "more worried about the mastermind of 9/11" than supporting CIA director nominee Gina Haspel.  

Leah Vukmir on Monday, May 14th, 2018 in an interview

Pants on Fire for attack that, without evidence, links U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin with 9/11 mastermind

Republican Leah Vukmir's U.S. Senate campaign produced this image depicting Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Vukmir later made a claim related to the pair that we're fact checking.

Does U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin have so much more concern for a 9/11 terrorist, compared to the president’s nominee to run the CIA, that she would vote against the nominee?

It’s an attack that appears to question the Wisconsin Democrat’s patriotism.

And if it’s correct, where is the evidence?

The claim was made by Leah Vukmir, who is vying with fellow Republican Kevin Nicholson for the chance to run against Baldwin in November 2018.

As stated, Vukmir’s claim draws a conclusion based on what is publicly known about Baldwin’s stance toward Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  

Let’s examine if the evidence matches the rhetoric.

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‘Team Terrorists’

Vukmir took flak, even from conservatives, when she branded Baldwin and Mohammed as "Team Terrorists." But Vukmir then doubled-down and even tripled-down in a series of statements, including one that makes the claim we want to check.

In a May 14, 2018 interview, Steve Scaffidi, a conservative talk show host on WTMJ-AM in Milwaukee, asked Vukmir to explain "what you were trying to say" in tying Baldwin to Mohammed.

Vukmir alluded to Gina Haspel, the nominee of President Donald Trump to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and said:

Tammy and her party are more interested, and they’re more worried about, the mastermind of 9/11 -- the individual that plotted and ultimately killed over 3,000 Americans on our soil. And she‘s more worried about those individuals than to support a very strong woman with a track record to be the head of the CIA.

No evidence

When Vukmir did the interview, it was expected that Baldwin would ultimately oppose Haspel. But Baldwin had not yet said whether she would vote for or against the nominee, who needs Senate confirmation to become CIA director. (Three days after the interview, Baldwin announced she'll vote against the nomination.)

In any case, Baldwin’s support or opposition to Haspel is not what we’re fact checking here.

When we asked Vukmir’s campaign staff for evidence to support Vukmir’s claim that Baldwin is "more worried" about Mohammed than supporting Haspel, it was lacking.

Latest fact checks on the Senate candidates:

  • Baldwin: 97 percent of gun owners support universal background checks. Mostly True.

  • Nicholson: Baldwin cosponsored legislation that wanted to establish the Department of Peace and Nonviolence." Mostly True.

  • Vukmir: Baldwin "claims to support a 'Buy America' philosophy, but her actions speak louder than her empty words." False.


We were referred only to a New York Times news article, published six days before Vukmir’s interview. Vukmir’s campaign said the article shows Mohammed’s "opposition" to the nomination of Haspel, a career CIA officer.

The article reported on Mohammed’s request to share six paragraphs of unspecified information about Haspel with the Senate Intelligence Committee, before the committee voted to recommend Haspel’s confirmation. Mohammed had been captured in 2003 and tortured by the CIA. But it is not known whether Haspel was involved, directly or indirectly, in his torture, according to the article.

Haspel has since declared that the agency should not have undertaken its interrogation program in which al Qaeda detainees were tortured after the Sept. 11 attacks, and is likely to be confirmed by the Senate, according to another Times news article.

The article did not even mention Baldwin -- much less provide any evidence that Baldwin had any concern for Mohammed.

About Baldwin

For her part, when asked the day after Vukmir’s interview about Haspel and Vukmir’s "Terrorist Team" attack, Baldwin said on MSNBC she was on a "third iteration" of attempts to meet with Haspel.

Two other points are worth noting:

  • Baldwin did not call for Mohammed’s testimony to be allowed by the Senate Intelligence Committee. (She is not a member of the panel.)

  • In the days after 9/11, Baldwin, as a member of the House, voted for a measure overwhelmingly approved by Congress that gave the president authority to use force to invade Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks.

In short, Vukmir provided nothing of substance to support linking Baldwin with a terrorist.

Our rating

Vukmir says Baldwin is "more worried about the mastermind of 9/11" than supporting Trump’s nominee for CIA director.

She provided no information to back up an extreme claim that Baldwin has serious concern for a terrorist that it is motivating her not to support the nominee.

We rate Vukmir’s statement Pants on Fire.

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Pants on Fire
Says Tammy Baldwin is "more worried about the mastermind of 9/11" than supporting CIA director nominee Gina Haspel.
In an interview
Friday, May 4, 2018