President Donald Trump on Wednesday shared a series of videos with his Twitter followers portraying Muslims as violent and dangerous, drawing condemnation from British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office.
All three videos were originally posted to Twitter by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the far-right, ultranationalist group Britain First. She was found guilty last year of religiously aggravated harassment of a Muslim woman.
In one video, labeled by Fransen as “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches,” a young man beats up another young man, who is using crutches, punching him until he falls to the ground and then kicking him several times.
The Netherlands embassy in Washington tweeted Wednesday afternoon that the perpetrator in the video was not a migrant but was born and raised in the Netherlands. There is no obvious indication, aside from Fransen’s accompanying text, that the assailant is Muslim.
The second of Fransen’s videos retweeted by Trump — none of which could be independently verified — features a bearded man shattering a statue of the Virgin Mary. In the third, a group of men, including one carrying a black flag, attacks another group, beating them as they fall from a higher ledge.
“It is wrong for the president to have done this,” a spokesman for May said, saying Britain First uses “hate-filled narratives to peddle lies and stoke tensions.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that people concerned about the veracity or source of the videos were “focusing on the wrong thing.”
“The threat is real. The threat needs to be addressed,” Sanders said.
White House spokesman Raj Shah, speaking to reporters later on Wednesday, would not say how the videos came to Trump’s attention. Asked if Trump believes Muslims are a threat to the United States, Shah said “the president has addressed these issues with the travel order” barring people from certain Muslim-majority countries.
Thomas Mair, who killed British MP Jo Cox last year, shouted “Britain First” as he shot and stabbed the Labour politician.
Cox’s widow, Brendan Cox, accused Trump on Wednesday of spreading hatred and trying to legitimize the far right in Britain. He said “the president should be ashamed of himself.”
“Trump has legitimised the far right in his own country, now he’s trying to do it in ours. Spreading hatred has consequences,” Cox tweeted Wednesday.
Louisa Loveluck, a reporter previously based in Egypt, wrote on Twitter that the attackers in the third video, supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, had been arrested. She shared a link to a report that said one of the men involved in the attack was executed in 2015.
British journalist Piers Morgan reacted to Trump’s retweets with shock, writing on Twitter on Wednesday: “What the hell are you doing retweeting a bunch of unverified videos by Britain First, a bunch of disgustingly racist far-right extremists? Please STOP this madness & undo your retweets.”
Fransen’s religiously aggravated harassment charge came as a result of a “Christian patrol” in which she participated in early 2016, according to British media outlet The Independent. The far-right leader admitted to telling a hijab-wearing Muslim woman, who was with her four children at the time, that her faith forces women to wear non-revealing clothing because “because [Muslim men] cannot control their sexual urges” and “that’s why they are coming into my country raping women across the continent.”
Much of Trump’s political rhetoric, especially early in his presidential campaign, has been attacked as anti-Muslim. The president has sought a travel ban on individuals from certain majority-Muslim nations, an evolution of the complete ban on Muslims entering the U.S. that he proposed during the Republican primary. The travel ban, which has been the subject of multiple legal challenges, is necessary for national security purposes, Trump has said.
The president also publicly feuded during last year’s presidential campaign with the Muslim family of a U.S. soldier killed in 2004 in Iraq, suggesting that the family’s faith had kept the soldier’s mother, Ghazala Khan, from addressing the 2016 Democratic National Convention along with his father, Khizr Khan.
Charlie Cooper contributed to this report.
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