Donald Trump’s racism is no secret to most of us (although many would have you believe it doesn’t exist) but he took his xenophobia to a whole new level Wednesday when he retweeted three unverified anti-Muslim videos from a far-Right extremist group in the U.K. The videos were of instances of violence supposedly enacted by Muslims on non-Muslims to incite fear of Islamic terror. The videos’ origins are unverified and were retweeted from the account of Jayda Fransen, a leader in the far-right organization Britain First.
Fransen was arrested two weeks ago on four charges of religiously aggravated harassment at a rally over the summer. In 2016, Fransen was convicted of the same charge when she accosted a woman wearing a hijab. Britain First is known for its anti-Muslim rhetoric (under the guise of “anti-terrorism”) and its ideas were of some motivation to a man who shot, stabbed and killed U.K. Member of Parliament Jo Cox in June 2016.
Fransen responded to Trump’s attention by posting that Donald Trump had validated their cause by retweeting to his “around 44 million followers.” She also posted a video appealing to Trump to intervene and save her from prison for her racially-motivated harassment charges.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, DONALD TRUMP, HAS RETWEETED THREE OF DEPUTY LEADER JAYDA FRANSEN’S TWITTER VIDEOS! DONALD TRUMP HIMSELF HAS RETWEETED THESE VIDEOS AND HAS AROUND 44 MILLION FOLLOWERS! GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP! GOD BLESS AMERICA! OCS @JaydaBF @realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/BiQfQkTra9
— Jayda Fransen (@JaydaBF) November 29, 2017
— Jayda Fransen (@JaydaBF) November 29, 2017
These messages and Trump’s endorsement of them are dangerous. By retweeting a fringe anti-Muslim group, the President of the United States has legitimized their hate speech. He has given the highest platform in the world to racism and violence.
The White House defended Trump’s retweets with Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying that it doesn’t even matter if the videos were authentic (at least one has been proven not to be) because the “threat” is.
“Whether it’s a real video, the threat is real and that is what the president is focused on, is dealing with those real threats,” Sanders told reporters, “Those are real no matter how you look at it.”
Through a spokesman, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May condemned Trump’s retweets saying, “Britain First seeks to divide communities through their use of hate-filled narratives to peddle lies and stoke tensions. They cause anxiety to law abiding citizens. British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right, which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents: of decency tolerance and respect. It is wrong for the President to have done this.”
May was in the Middle East on a foreign trip and also addressed the incident personally in a speech she made in Jordan. She stressed the importance of the U.S.-U.K. relationship but said she would “not be afraid” of criticizing Donald Trump over the “hateful” videos. He shot back at her on Twitter (and at first mistakenly tagged a different Theresa May, just to make things worse).
.@Theresa_May, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2017
Trump is set to make a visit to the U.K. at some point during his presidency (although the date is TBD) and British citizens, leaders and lawmakers are calling for May to disinvite the U.S. president over this incident. May has said she will not discuss the trip, but that has not stopped British MPs and mayors (including the London mayor who Trump has attacked on Twitter before) from making their stances known.
British Labour MP Stephen Doughty: “I think the President needs to worry about what’s happening in the United States more than he’s worrying about far-right organizations in the UK and sharing their content” https://t.co/xcCKZ00j8R
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) November 30, 2017
British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right, which seek to divide communities & erode decency, tolerance & respect. British Muslims are peaceful and law abiding citizens. And I raised these concerns with the White House yesterday.
— Kim Darroch (@KimDarroch) November 30, 2017
— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) November 30, 2017
President Trump has used Twitter to promote a vile, extremist group that exists solely to sow division and hatred in our country. It’s increasingly clear that any official visit from President Trump to Britain would not be welcomed. pic.twitter.com/oZ1Kt0JCfY
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) November 30, 2017