It’s a story of bravery, courage, pluck, grit, and luck. It’s also a story of self-promotion and media manipulation for personal gain.
When the all-girl Afghan robotics team escaped the clutches of the Taliban earlier this week, most people saw it as a big win for the good guys. These girls were prime targets of the Taliban’s wrath for daring to not only learn how to read and write but excel in a difficult and challenging scholastic endeavor.
An American woman from Oklahoma supposedly played a large part in the daring rescue that someone in Hollywood is going to make into a movie one day. But as it turns out, Allyson Reneau played barely any role at all in the girls’ rescue. Now, a lawyer for the girls’ sponsoring organization, Digital Citizen Fund, has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Reneau, calling for her to stop her self-aggrandizing efforts to put herself in the middle of a story she had little to do with.
“Continuingly recycling old pictures with the Afghan Girls Robotics Team, many of whom are minors, as validation that you had anything to do with their immensely stressful and dangerous escape not only impacts the safety of the girls but it also significantly affects the safety of the members of the team who still remain in Afghanistan,” wrote Kim Motley, a lawyer for the group and a Digital Citizen Fund board member, in a letter sent to Reneau just after midnight Wednesday. “It is highly unfortunate that you would use such a tragically horrible situation … for what appears to be your own personal gain.”
A spokesman for the Qatari Foreign Ministry, which helped evacuate many Afghans, including the robotics team members, also accused Reneau of taking credit for a rescue she had little to do with — and lambasted the U.S. media for making her a “White savior.”
How did Reneau end up being the public face of the rescue for a time? She showed up in an article on “Today,” in a piece titled “Oklahoma mom of 11 helps rescue 10 girls on Afghanistan’s robotics team.” In fact, much of her narrative was made up or exaggerated.
The story said that Reneau — an entrepreneur who graduated from Harvard’s extension school in 2016 and serves on the board of the Mars Explore foundation — had met some of the girls at a 2019 space exploration conference in D.C. and then kept in touch with them.
Unable to sleep as the Taliban advanced across Afghanistan, Reneau said, she resolved to get the girls out even if it meant flying across the world. “I decided that Monday, I’m just going to fly to Qatar — like a leap of faith — and see what I can do,” she told Today.
In the end, Reneau didn’t get on the plane. She told Today that, instead, she contacted an old roommate who worked in the U.S. Embassy in Qatar and the two worked to secure paperwork for the girls’ exit from Afghanistan.
“Today” began backtracking on the story almost immediately, changing the focus from Reneau to the sponsoring organization that actually did most of the leg work to get the girls out.
But by the time they did, the story had become clickbait — too good not to be true — and Reneau got her 15 minutes of fame. She appeared on CNN, as well as a local NBC affiliate. “I just had an overwhelming, dreadful feeling that they were in a lot of danger,” Reneau told the Oklahoma station.
The New York Post wrote that she had actually flown to Qatar as did the Wall Street Journal editorial page. The Journal even suggested that Biden had put her in charge of the evacuation.
The truth was easy to find. Doing the legwork to confirm facts is apparently too demanding for the woke reporters who made some crazy woman the face of the heroic story of escape by teenage girls from Afghanistan.