Trump tells May to mind her business after anti-Muslim rebuke
President Donald Trump escalated a trans-Atlantic spat he created with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday, telling her to mind her own business after her office rebuked him for retweeting a series of anti-Muslim videos posted by a far-right group.
The videos purported to show a “Muslim migrant” assaulting a Dutch person on crutches, an “Islamist mob” pushing a teenage boy off a roof and a Muslim man destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Trump’s sharing of the videos to his 43.6 million followers early Wednesday morning led May’s spokesman, James Slack, to condemn his actions. “It’s wrong for the president to have done this,” Slack told reporters in London.
“. @Theresa_May, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!” Trump said in a post to Twitter Wednesday night.
The anti-Muslim videos were posted on Twitter by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, a nationalist group that campaigns against what it calls the “Islamification” of the U.K. Fransen was arrested last week after attending a rally in Northern Ireland, police said in a statement. She will appear in court next month after being charged with using “threatening, abusive, insulting words or behaviour.”
Slack said Fransen’s group “seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives that stoke tensions” and “is the antithesis of the values that this country represents: decency, tolerance and respect.”
Fransen hailed Trump on Wednesday, tweeting: “GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP! GOD BLESS AMERICA!”
But Trump’s retweets stirred outrage on both sides of the Atlantic.
Brendan Cox, the husband of slain Labour Party member of Parliament Jo Cox – who was killed by a far-right supporter days before the June 2016 Brexit vote — tweeted: “Trump has legitimised 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.”
Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of House of Commons home affairs select committee, said Trump’s actions were “appalling” and called on the U.K. government to condemn him for promoting the views of a leader of “a far-right hate group.”
Some U.S. Republicans have also tired of the controversies around Trump’s tweets. Representative Peter King of New York told MSNBC on Wednesday that his constituents urge him to tell Trump to stop tweeting.
“The tweeting has gotten to a lot of them,” King said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations – the largest Muslim advocacy group in the U.S. — condemned Trump’s “incitement to violence against American Muslims."
The veracity of the videos Fransen posted was questioned by some journalists and followers. In one, the black banner of Islamic State is clearly visible. The extremist group routinely pushed gay people off rooftops while it occupied Mosul, Iraq.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders defended Trump’s tweets and said reporters were wrong to focus on the credibility of the videos or their source.
"I’m not talking about the nature of the video. I think you’re focusing on the wrong thing,” Sanders told reporters. “The threat is real, and that’s what the president is talking about, is the need for national security, the need for military spending. And those are very real things. There’s nothing fake about that.”
Trump later Wednesday tweeted about the stock market, proposed a CNN boycott, and commented on “Today” show host Matt Lauer’s firing from NBC. (“But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News. Check out Andy Lack’s past!” Trump said.)
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump proposed banning Muslims from entering the U.S. He has turned to Twitter to appeal to his supporters at times of political pressure, either domestically or by adversaries abroad.
The tweets came as Trump’s administration looked to pass tax reform and deal with North Korea. Kim Jong Un’s regime launched its latest intercontinental ballistic missile – the third this year — and declared that it could now hit the entire U.S. with a nuclear weapon.
“I have no idea what would motivate him to do that,” James Clapper, former U.S. director of national intelligence who held key positions under former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, said on CNN on Wednesday about Trump’s tweets. “To me it’s bizarre and disturbing and particularly when I think of him doing that in the context of North Korea, where moderation and temperance and thought is critical.”
With assistance from Kitty Donaldson and Siraj Datoo
To contact the reporters on this story: Kathleen Hunter in London at email@example.com, Toluse Olorunnipa in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org, Margaret Talev in Washington at email@example.com.