WASHINGTON — on Wednesday President Trump retweeted three anti-Muslim videos posted by the deputy head of a British far-right group who has been convicted of a hate crime and previously posted a number of misleading videos.
But the three Trump shared were provocatively titled “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!”; “Muslim destroys a statue of Virgin Mary!” and “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!”
The video of the Virgin Mary statue being wrecked has been on YouTube at least since 2013. It is labeled as showing a jihadist in Syria destroying the statue.
The video of the rooftop mob dates to July 2013 and was purportedly filmed in Alexandria, Egypt, shortly after the military overthrew President Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist and the country’s first democratically elected president. The coup set off weeks of protests and violent clashes between Morsi’s supporters on one side and Egyptian security forces and military supporters on the other, culminating in an Egyptian security force raid on a pro-Morsi protest camp that killed as many as 1,000 people.
The videos — whose authenticity could not be independently verified — were first shared by Jayda Fransen, 31, the deputy leader of Britain First, which bills itself as a political party but has been widely condemned as an extremist group that targets mosques and Muslims.
Britain First, which was formed in 2011 and is known for picketing outside mosques, has ran and lost in several British and European parliament elections.
Fransen was found guilty last year of a hate crime after hurling abuse at a Muslim woman wearing a hijab.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment as to why the president retweeted Fransen’s provocative and unverified videos. It was not immediately clear how the videos came to Trump’s attention, but conservative columnist Ann Coulter, whom Trump follows on Twitter, retweeted one of them on Tuesday.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump’s post as evidence he wants to “promote strong borders and strong national security.” But she sidestepped questions on whether the president should give his Twitter endorsement to content whose authenticity was not verified.
“Whether it’s a real video, the threat is real and that is what the president is talking about,” Sanders told reporters.
There was widespread outrage in Britain at Trump’s retweets, including a statement from the office of Prime Minister Theresa May stating that Trump was “wrong” to redistribute material from a group that promotes “hateful narratives.”
“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,” said the statement.
It added that Britain First “seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives” and uses falsehoods to “stoke tensions.”
“They cause anxiety to law-abiding people,” the statement said.
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 and the president should be ashamed of himself,” he said.
David Lammy, an MP for the 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, said the videos were “highly inflammatory” and his colleague, Yvette Cooper, said Trump had given Fransen a “huge platform.”
Following Trump’s retweets, Fransen took to Twitter to tout the president’s promotion of her videos.
“Donald Trump himself has retweeted these videos and has around 44 million followers!” she wrote. “God Bless You Trump! God Bless America!”
Trump’s interventions in British politics and his controversial foreign policy have strained the so-called “special relationship” between the two nations.
He has infuriated British authorities with his tweets on terrorism in Britain, including highly publicized run-ins with London mayor Sadiq Khan.
Both Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich) strongly condemned Trump’s comments.
“President Trump’s retweet of hateful and inaccurate videos about Muslims is wrong and undermines our relationship with one of our most critical allies,” Stabenow said in a statement. “The impact of his actions is felt in our homes, schools and businesses. In Michigan, those being hurt are our friends, our teachers, our family members, our coworkers, our doctors and our neighbors. These actions do not represent our American values.”
“It is unacceptable for the president to give a platform to dangerous and hateful rhetoric and groups,” Peters tweeted. “I’m proud to represent strong Muslim and Arab American communities in Michigan, and I stand with them against this kind of bigotry and hate.”
Trump’s tweets were also condemned by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.
“By his unconscionable and irresponsible actions this morning, President Trump is clearly telling members of his base that they should hate Islam and Muslims,” said Nihad Awad, the group’s national executive director. “These are actions one would expect to see on virulent anti-Muslim hate sites, not on the Twitter feed of the president of the United States. Trump’s posts amount to incitement to violence against American Muslims. His actions should be condemned by all American political and religious leaders, regardless of their party or faith.”
Wednesday’s retweets were part of an early morning burst in which Trump again dismissed CNN as “fake news” and insisted the U.S. economy was in “record territory” by many measures. Trump also said consumer confidence was at an all-time high.
“I guess somebody likes me (my policies)!” the president wrote.