WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump retweeted Wednesday morning three inflammatory videos from a British far-right account rife with anti-Muslim content.
The videos, posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, a far-right and ultra-nationalist political group, depict purported Muslims assaulting people and, in one video, smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Trump, who has previously warned that immigration from Muslim-majority nations threatens European and US security, frequently retweets other messages whose political views he finds favorable. But he has seldom shared messages as offensive and explosive as he did on Wednesday, and the retweets were immediately met with outrage in the United Kingdom and resulted in a rare rebuke from the British government toward its American ally.
Fransen reacted jubilantly online, touting that the videos had been shared with Trump’s nearly 44 million followers. “GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP!” she wrote in all caps.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended Trump’s retweets, telling reporters that he shared them to start a conversation about border security and immigration.
“I think his goal is to promote strong borders and strong national security,” Sanders told a small group of reporters after appearing on Fox News.
Sanders also downplayed questions about whether the videos were authentic, because “the threat is real.”
“That is what the President is talking about, that is what the President is focused on, is dealing with those real threats, and those are real no matter how you look at it,” she said.
One of the videos purports to show a young “Muslim migrant” attacking a boy on crutches. The Dutch attorney general’s office, which handled the case, said the incident occurred in May and the suspect was born and raised in the Netherlands. A spokesperson would not comment on the suspect’s religion, saying it was against their policy to share such information.
Sanders said she didn’t know how Trump came across the videos, but conservative commentator Ann Coulter, who is one of the 45 accounts Trump follows, had retweeted Tuesday one of the clips shared by Fransen.
Fransen was found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment in November 2016 after abusing a Muslim woman wearing a hijab while she was with her four children. She was fined by the court and ordered to pay costs.
In a separate development, Fransen was also charged over using “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior” during a speech she made in Belfast in Northern Ireland. She is set to appear at Belfast Magistrates Court on December 14.
On Wednesday Gov. Malloy sounded off on Trump’s retweets.
"To disparage a billion people based on their religious and the differences you have with it is unAmerican. Lets be very clear. Its unAmerican. We can’t, and to lump everybody who is of one religion and make equivalencies across the board is unAmerican," said Malloy.
Malloy added, "You know what, there are good Christians and bad Christians. There were Christians in Virginia this year burning crosses. Somehow our President found a moral equivalency with respect to those individuals and the individuals who would protest the burning of a cross, which is a sign of racism," said Malloy.
Malloy said Trump's retweets today were of disturbing things.
"There are disturbing things happening in our country everyday. To feed into a religious fear, to offend our allies, to offend our fellow citizens of this country is about as low as a sitting President in modern times can get," said Malloy.
Outrage in UK
Trump's retweets were leading several major British news websites Wednesday morning, and officials condemned him on Twitter. A spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Theresa May said Trump was "wrong" to share the videos, adding that "Britain First seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives which peddle lies and stoke tensions."
"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," added the spokesperson, who also said Trump's upcoming 2018 state visit for now remains on.
A senior member of May's Conservative government, Communities secretary Sajid Javid also tweeted about the issue, writing: "So POTUS has endorsed the views of a vile, hate-filled racist organisation that hates me and people like me. He is wrong and I refuse to let it go and say nothing."
The Muslim Council of Britain slammed Trump in a statement, saying the retweets were "the clearest endorsement yet from the US President of the far-right and their vile anti-Muslim propaganda. The US-based Council on American-Islamic Relations similarly condemned Trump's retweets, saying he is "clearly telling members of his base that they should hate Islam and Muslims."
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the UK opposition Labour Party, called the retweets "abhorrent, dangerous and a threat to our society." Labour lawmaker David Lammy told the President he was "not welcome in my country and my city."