By Agence France-Presse
US President Donald Trump drew fierce condemnation Wednesday after he retweeted three anti-Muslim videos posted by the deputy head of a British far-right group who has been convicted of a hate crime.
Trump faced criticism both at home and from abroad — in London, the government of Prime Minister Theresa May said he was “wrong” to promote the “hateful narratives” of the group, British First.
The White House scrambled to limit the fallout, saying even if the anti-Muslim videos were misleading, Trump was pointing out a real problem.
“The threat is real, and that’s what the president is talking about,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.
Deputy spokesman Raj Shah also defended Trump’s actions: “It’s never the wrong time to talk about the security and safety of the American people. Those are the issues he was raising in his tweets this morning.”
One of the videos falsely claims to show a Muslim beating up a Dutch boy on crutches.
The Dutch embassy in Washington took the unusual step of publicly criticizing a sitting US president on Twitter.
“.@realDonaldTrump Facts do matter. The perpetrator of the violent act in this video was born and raised in the Netherlands. He received and completed his sentence under Dutch law.”
Another is described as showing an Islamist mob pushing a teenager off a rooftop, without any context — it appears to be footage filmed during unrest in Egypt in 2013. A man was executed for his role in the teen’s death.
The third video allegedly depicts a Muslim smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary.
All three videos were originally posted by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the far-right group Britain First, which hailed Trump for his support.
“THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, DONALD TRUMP, HAS RETWEETED THREE OF DEPUTY LEADER JAYDA FRANSEN’S TWITTER VIDEOS!” the group tweeted in triumph.
“DONALD TRUMP HIMSELF HAS RETWEETED THESE VIDEOS AND HAS AROUND 44 MILLION FOLLOWERS! GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP! GOD BLESS AMERICA!”
Fransen was found guilty last year of a hate crime after hurling abuse at a Muslim woman wearing a hijab.
Britain First, which was formed in 2011 and is known for picketing outside mosques, has run and lost in several British and European parliament elections.
Brendan Cox, widower of MP Jo Cox who was murdered by a right-wing extremist last year, said: “Trump has legitimized the far right in his own country, now he’s trying to do it in ours.
“Spreading hatred has consequences & the president should be ashamed of himself,” he said.
David Lammy, a lawmaker for Britain’s opposition Labour Party, said: “The president of the United States is promoting a fascist, racist, extremist hate group whose leaders have been arrested and convicted.
“He is no ally or friend of ours,” he said.
Stephen Doughty, another Labour MP, called the videos “highly inflammatory,” and his colleague Yvette Cooper said Trump had given Fransen a “huge platform.”
Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said the retweets were “abhorrent, dangerous and a threat.”
Trump’s interventions in British politics and controversial foreign policy have strained the so-called “special relationship.”
He has infuriated British authorities with his tweets on terrorism in Britain, including highly publicized run-ins with London’s Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan.
Khan on Wednesday described Britain First as “a vile, hate-fuelled organisation whose views should be condemned, not amplified.”
Wednesday’s retweets were part of an early morning burst in which Trump again dismissed CNN as “Fake News” and insisted the US economy was in “record territory” by many measures.
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