White House defends President re-tweets as world leaders respond

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is facing new criticism after he re-tweeted three anti-Muslim videos posted by a member of a far-right British group.

The videos were posted by Jayda Fransen, the leader of Britain First, a far-right group that is against what it calls the Islamification of the United Kingdom.  She was convicted last year of a hate crime, but currently out of jail on bail facing new charges.

The President posted the first video titled “Muslim migrants beat up Dutch boy on crutches” late Tuesday.

It’s believed to be fake.

He then re-tweeted a second video showing a Muslim smashing a statue of the virgin Mary and  a third in which a boy is pushed off a roof. The third video is four years old.

President Trump, who has previously warned that immigration from Muslim-majority nations threatens European and US security, frequently retweets other messages whose political views he finds favorable.

While Fransen praised President Trump on social media, the retweets were immediately met with outrage in the United Kingdom and condemned by Downing Street.

A spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Theresa May said Mr. Trump was “wrong” to share the videos, adding that “Britain First seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives which peddle lies and stoke tensions.”

“British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far-right, which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents — decency, tolerance and respect,” the spokesperson added.

The Muslim Council of Britain slammed the actions in a statement, saying the retweets were “the clearest endorsement yet from the US President of the far-right and their vile anti-Muslim propaganda. The US-based Council on American-Islamic Relations similarly condemned President Trump’s retweets, saying he is “clearly telling members of his base that they should hate Islam and Muslims.”

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the UK opposition Labour Party, called the retweets “abhorrent, dangerous and a threat to our society.” Labour lawmaker David Lammy told the President he was “not welcome in my country and my city.”

Brendan Cox, the husband of Jo Cox, the British MP who was murdered last year by a man who reportedly shouted “Britain First” as he attacked her, tweeted, “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.”

Asked about President Trump’s retweets on CNN’s “New Day,” former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he found them “bizarre and disturbing.”

“I think it causes friends and allies to question where is he coming from with this. So it has all kinds of ripple effects both in terms of perhaps inciting or encouraging anti-Muslim violence, and as well, causes, I think, our friends and allies to wonder about the judgment of the President of the United States,” he said.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended the retweets, telling reporters that he shared them to start a conversation about border security and immigration.

“I think his goal is to promote strong borders and strong national security,” Sanders told a small group of reporters after appearing on Fox News.

Sanders also downplayed questions about whether the videos were authentic, because “the threat is real.”

“That is what the President is talking about, that is what the President is focused on, is dealing with those real threats, and those are real no matter how you look at it,” she said.

Sanders said she didn’t know how he came across the videos, but conservative commentator Ann Coulter, who is one of the 45 accounts Mr. Trump follows, had retweeted Tuesday one of the clips shared by Fransen.