UPDATED 9.21am: British government says Trump was wrong to share tweets
British officials reacted with outrage Wednesday to tweets by President Trump featuring anti-Muslim videos promoted by an Islamophobic far-right group in Britain.
Trump shared three tweets from one of the leaders of Britain First, an anti-immigrant group based in the U.K. The re-tweets, which have since been deleted, featured videos titled “Muslim migrants beat up Dutch boy on crutches,” “Muslim destroys statue of Virgin Mary,” and “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death.”
It is rare for British authorities to publicly condemn the U.S., but the U.K. government said that Trump should not have shared the tweets. In a statement given to the Guardian it said: “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. It is wrong for the president to have done this.”
The content of the videos has not been verified. According to the BBC, Britain’s Press Association has found that the video purporting to show a boy thrown off a roof being was taken in Egypt in 2013. The video showing a Virgin Mary statue being destroyed was posted on YouTube four years ago, but without any context. And the video featuring a Dutch boy being attacked was posted on a Dutch website earlier this year; two men were charged in connection with the beating, but none of the reporting of the incident mentioned the religion of the alleged assailants.
Several high-profile British politicians were aghast at Trump’s apparent endorsement of Britain First, which many in the country consider to be a hate group.
“Britain First is a vile, hate-fueled organization whose views should be condemned, not amplified,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan said.
The original tweets with the videos were issued by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First. Fransen, who has faced accusations of abusive behavior and is currently on bail facing charges of religious harassment charges, celebrated Trump’s apparent support in a tweet to her 57,000 followers.
Chuka Umunna, a lawmaker with the opposition Labour Party, was one of several politicians who demanded that the British government withdraw its invitation to Trump to visit the country.
“The US President is normalising hatred. If we don’t call this out, we are going down a very dangerous road. His invite should be withdrawn,” Umunna tweeted.
Umunna told Sky News that rescinding the invitation “should not be seen as any kind of smear or slur against the people of the United States, because many of them – I’d say the overwhelming majority – object to the things that he promotes, insofar as hatred is concerned, as much as we do.”
Fellow Labour lawmaker David Lammy tweeted: “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. @realDonaldTrump you are not welcome in my country and my city.”
And Brendan Cox, widower of Jo Cox, the lawmaker who was killed last year by a far-right extremist, 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.”
Britain First was created by former members of the nativist British National Party and campaigns for a huge reduction in immigration. Its leader, Paul Golding, has previously been jailed after breaking an order that forbade him from entering a mosque.