THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 30 NOVEMBER, 2017
Trump And May Spar Over Anti-Muslim Retweets
A diplomatic row has been fuelled by President Trump’s retweets of a fringe anti-Muslim UK group.
NEW DELHI: United States President Donald Trump publicly rebuked his United Kingdom counterpart Theresa May, over May’s criticism of a series of Trump’s retweets. The rare clash between allies is being reported by international media as an “extraordinary diplomatic spat.”
The cause of the spat are three controversial videos posted by Jayda Fransen of ‘Britain First’ and then retweeted by the US President. The first video purports to show a group of Muslims pushing a boy off a roof. The second is supposedly of a Muslim destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary. The third claims to show a Muslim immigrant hitting a Dutch boy on crutches.
The credibility of the third video was immediately put into question as the Dutch embassy in the US issued a statement clarifying that the perpetrator in the video was born and raised in the Netherlands. The embassy in fact tweeted to Trump: “Facts do matter. The perpetrator of the violent act in this video was born and raised in the Netherlands. He received and completed his sentence under Dutch law."
The authenticity of the other two videos remain a question mark. Fransen -- who originally posted the videos -- is deputy leader of ‘Britain First’, a fringe anti-Islam party with about 1000 followers and no electoral success. Fransen in fact lost her deposit when she stood for parliament in a 2014 byelection, receiving just 56 votes.
The careless tweeting prompted a rare condemnation from UK Prime Minister Theresa May, with her spokesperson saying that “Britain First seeks to divide communities by their use of hateful narratives that peddle lies and stoke tensions. They cause anxiety to law-abiding people. British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right which is the antithesis of the values this country represents, decency, tolerance and respect.”
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn also slammed the retweets, calling them “abhorrent, dangerous and a threat to our country.” Trump’s decision to retweet the controversial videos have in fact prompted protests in the UK calling for the cancellation of Trump’s planned state visit. Labour MPs including David Lammy and Chuka Umunna led the calls for cancellation.
May’s spokesperson clarified that “the invitation for a state visit has been extended and accepted. Further details will be announced in due course.”
The criticism put forth, however, was enough to anger Trump, who immediately spat back. “Theresa @theresamay, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom,” Trump tweeted, adding, “We are doing just fine!”
Unfortunately, in what is now typical social media faux pas for the US President, the account handle Trump tweeted to doesn’t belong to the UK Prime Minister. Trump then deleted and reposted the tweet, using the correct handle: @Theresa_May.
Other leaders have gotten involved in the tiff, with US senator Orrin Hatch of Utah joining in with: “PM @theresa_may is one of the great world leaders, I have incredible love and respect for her and for the way she leads the United Kingdom, especially in the face of turbulence.”
Keith Ellison, the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, slammed the US President for being “racist.”
The widower of a labour party politician who was shot in June 2016 by someone allegedly shouting “Britain First” also condemned the retweets. Brendan Cox, widower of Jo Cox, 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.”
The White House, however, defended the tweets. The principal deputy press secretary, Raj Shah said, “We think that it’s never the wrong time to talk about security and public safety for the American people. Those are the issues he was raising with the tweets this morning.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the videos are proof that Trumps wants to "promote strong borders and strong national security." "Whether it's a real video, the threat is real, and that is what the president is talking about," Sanders told reporters.
International media has made much of the controversy. The Guardian notes: “The feud marks a new, unexpected twist in the “special relationship” that has benefited from personal chemistry between leaders such as Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. There had been hopes that May and Trump - whose mother was British - would achieve a similar rapport. She was the first foreign leader to visit after he took office: they were photographed holding hands at the White House and she invited him on a state visit to the UK. But that has yet to take place after a series of controversies and warnings that protesters will take to the streets to show he is not welcome.”