President Donald Trump retweeted inflammatory anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant videos Wednesday originally shared by a far-right U.K. political group, sparking a rare rebuke from the British government.
Trump shared the three videos posted by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of fringe group Britain First, which opposes what it calls the “Islamization” of Britain and has engaged in a series of stunts, such as occupying mosques and staging “self-defense” exercises, to draw attention to its cause.
“It is wrong for the president to have done this,” said Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesperson.
The first video Trump shared claimed to show a Muslim migrant beating up a Dutch boy on crutches. The second was captioned “Muslim destroys a statute of Virgin Mary,” and the third read “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!”
The Netherlands’ public broadcaster contacted NBC News and said that the group’s description of the first video was inaccurate and in fact showed two Dutch citizens. NBC News could not verify Britain First’s claims that the videos are what they purport to be.
Fransen thanked Trump for sharing the videos with his “44 MILLION FOLLOWERS!”
“GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP! GOD BLESS AMERICA!” she tweeted.
The husband of a British lawmaker who was killed by a far-right nationalist in 2016 slammed Trump for trying to legitimize the far-right in the U.K.
“Trump has legitimized the far right in his own country, now he’s trying to do it in ours,” tweeted Brendan Cox, whose wife, Jo Cox, was fatally shot and stabbed last year in her constituency by a man who witnesses said shouted “Britain First.”
“Spreading hatred has consequences and the president should be ashamed of himself,” Cox added.
Britain First — which has run candidates in local and national elections with little success, and campaigned against the construction and expansion of mosques — denied involvement in the attack.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said the group sought to “divide communities in their use of hateful narratives which pedal lies and stoke tensions.”
“This causes anxieties to law abiding people,” the statement added. “The British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudice rhetoric of the far-right, which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents; decency, tolerance and respect.”
The invitation to visit the U.K. was still in place, however, according to the prime minister’s office.
Several British opposition lawmakers criticized Trump and called on the U.K. government to rescind an invitation to visit the country.
“The U.S. president is normalizing hatred. If we don’t call this out, we are going down a very dangerous road,” tweeted Labour Party politician Chuka Umunna. “His invite to visit the U.K. in 2018 should be immediately withdrawn.”
London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan also hit back at the political group. “Britain First is a vile, hate-fueled organization whose views should be condemned, not amplified,” he said in a statement.
Trump criticized Khan for his reaction to the June 3 London Bridge terror attack. London’s mayor has also called for the cancellation of a presidential state visit to the U.K.
Britain First has a significant presence on social media with over 24,000 followers on Twitter and well over a million likes on Facebook. In past years it has staged a number of demonstrations around Britain which usually attract a few hundred protesters.
In September, the leaders of the organization, including Fransen, were charged with causing religiously aggravated harassment by disseminating leaflets and sharing online videos.
NOV 29 2017, 11:36 AM ET