Among his priority issues, Colorado Congressional candidate Erik Aadland lists “Protecting Israel.” The first-time candidate touts his “extensive time working in Israel,” and his “many dear friends, Jewish and Muslim,” who live there. The Army veteran also cites his military background and links it to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, noting that he graduated West Point “in 2002 not long after 9/11.”

Yet at a campaign event last year, Aadland responded to a question based on antisemitic conspiracy theories, including one involving 9/11, not by rejecting the premise, but saying he “didn’t have access to the information” the questioner was asserting as fact. Aadland then promised to always put America first, before leaving open the possibility that the Israeli government had done “heinous things.”

Speaking to the Jefferson County Republican Men’s Club last fall, Aadland, then still running for U.S. Senate, spoke in his introduction of how we believed the country is near a breaking point and that we need to find points of agreement, like we did after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

“9/11 was a great example of Americans coming together,” said Aadland. “I was a senior at West Point when 9/11 happened. I went to Iraq shortly after that, but I saw the country come together in that time of crisis.

After his speech, Aadland was asked why he supported Israel when they don’t share American interests. The audience member, longtime JRMC activist Russ Haas, then offered a trio of conspiracy theories related to Israel and the United States, the last of which was that Israel had a placed a team of operatives in New Jersey for the express purpose of filming the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Haas: Well I take issue with saying that Israel is an ally. To be an ally, you have to have a treaty and you have to- it’s a bilateral thing. They can support you or you can support them. I don’t see that. What I do see is, June 8, 1967: the Israelis decided to sink an American ship and kill the crew on it. In 1949 –possibly- I don’t know if ever been determined– the Israelis did not like our first secretary of defense, and he mysteriously committed suicide. September 11, we all know that. The Israelis had a photographic team in place on the Jersey Shore to film the takedown of the Twin Towers. They’re not our friends. I’m sorry. Nations have interest, but they’re not our friends. They’re not our allies.

Erik Aadland: [Long pause] There’s a lot of complexity in our geopolitical world. And I’ve seen that in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve seen where people I thought were my friends were definitely experiencing that as a politician. The world’s a complex place. And what we need is wise leaders who are going to–

I don’t have the access to the information that you’re doing you’re purporting. There are a lot of books, I’ve read a lot of books. But what I can guarantee you is that I am committed to my effort to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. And if I was a U.S. senator or as an elected official, and information came across that called into question our relationship with Israel, then I would put this country first every single time.

What I can tell you is I’m not aware of what you’re saying, so I don’t have all the information. But where I’m approaching is somebody who helped make Israel an exporter of natural gas, has helped them power their country for up to 50 years. I’m proud of that because I spent a lot of time in Israel and I have a lot of friends there. But governments must be distinguished from the people themselves. So I distinguish the United States government –which has gone off the rails, does not honor the oath that they took in many places and must be addressed, as much as the Israeli government, which may have, you know, done heinous things as well.”

None of Haas’ claims are substantiated — they’re conspiracy theories, rumor and conjecture layered on top of an underlying fact. Even without a formal defense treaty, Israel is considered a “Major Non-NATO Ally” under U.S. law, and the United States has numerous security cooperation agreements. Israel did sink the USS Liberty spy ship in 1967, during the Six-Day War, but say it was a mistaken attack on a vessel the Israeli military believed to be an Egyptian warship. All official investigations reached that conclusion, though it is disputed. The suicide of former Secretary of Defense James Forrestral is also a favorite subject of conspiracy theorists, involving either the Israelis or, conversely, aliens.

Conspiracy theories of the Israeli government being involved in the 9/11 attacks began circulating almost immediately. Just weeks before Aadland’s event with the JeffCo Republican Men’s Club, the Anti-Defamation League published a report titled, “Antisemitic Conspiracies About 9/11 Endure 20 Years Later.” Haas’ mention of a “photography team” is in reference to a real news story of Israelis arrested in New Jersey on Sept. 11, 2001, but it doesn’t prove what he’s clearly implying- that Israel knew the attacks were coming. In fact it specifically says the opposite.

“The investigation, at the end of the day, after all the polygraphs, all of the field work, all the cross-checking, the intelligence work, concluded that they probably did not have advance knowledge of 9/11,”

Faced with Haas’ barrage antisemitic conspiracy theories, Aadland paused a long time before answering, clearly deciding how to best formulate his response.

There is a model for this scenario. In 2008, U.S. Senator and presidential hopeful John McCain was asked at a town hall about the loyalties of his opponent Barack Obama, whom the questioner said was “an Arab.” McCain immediately took the mic back from her and disputed the false conspiracy theory

“No, ma’am,” McCain said. “He’s a decent family man and citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what the campaign’s all about. He’s not [an Arab].” 

Aadland’s campaign initially agreed to a phone interview, but then canceled an hour later and asked for written questions instead. The Colorado Times Recorder’s submitted several questions to the campaign, including the following:

Do you think Israel was involved in the 9-11 attacks or knew they they were going to occur in advance? If not, why didn’t you say so?

Conspiracy theories have become increasingly prevalent in our political discourse. You told JRMC in your first speech to them back in June that the “the 2020 election was absolutely rigged.”

Do you believe that to be true? If so, why and what evidence do you have? Isn’t this one of the biggest issues dividing us today?

That conspiracy theory was in large part responsible for thousands of Trump supporters storming the U.S. Capitol on January 6. You’ve referred to those people as “political prisoners.”

Do you still believe that now that many of them are pleading guilty?

The Aadland campaign did not provide any answers by our publication deadline. This article will be updated with any future response.

Aadland has embraced at least one conspiracy theory, Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen. In a June 2021 speech to this very same JRMC group Aadland said that the election was “absolutely rigged.” That video, which was reported by Colorado Politics at the time, has since been removed from the JRMC site, as Colorado Newsline recently reported.

He’s not only an election denier, but as first reported by the Colorado Times Recorder, Aadland is a fan of numerous QAnon accounts, including the rabidly antisemitic “Ghost Ezra” account on far-right social media platform Parler.