President Trump isn’t backing off his remarks about Sweden’s refugee troubles, accusing the news media Monday of being the ones who got the story wrong.
A cryptic statement about Sweden during a Saturday speech made the president a target for scorn and ridicule, but Mr. Trump has insisted that Sweden is a prime example of the dangers posed by an open-door refugee policy.
“Give the public a break — The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!” tweeted Mr. Trump.
It was the second time he took to Twitter to defend his remark about Sweden during the campaign-style rally in Melbourne, Florida, including the Scandinavian country in a list of European nations that he said suffered after welcoming large numbers of refugees from the Middle East.
He used Sweden’s experience to justify his extreme vetting policy that temporarily halted visitors to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries that also are hotbeds for terrorism. Federal courts have blocked the program, but the administration is expected to issue orders that will restart it.
“We’ve got to keep our country safe,” Mr. Trump said at the rally. “You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.”
After Mr. Trump was mocked on Twitter and in the news media for referring to a nonexistent terrorist attack in Sweden, the White House explained that the president was referring to crimes by resettled refugees and a Fox News report on the subject “last night.”
Mr. Trump confirmed it on Twitter: “My statement as to what’s happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden,” he tweeted.
On Friday, Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” examined a documentary about a spike in rape and violence in Sweden and suggested that the Swedish government covers up the problem to protect its refugee program.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom welcomed the clarification but also lamented the spread of inaccurate information.
“The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Sweden’s embassies work continuously to disseminate an accurate and fair image of Sweden. Unfortunately, we are seeing a general upward trend in inaccurate information,” she said in a statement.
Sweden has welcomed more refugees per capita in recent years than any other European country. The number of asylum seekers arriving in Sweden grew since 2000 from an average of about 16,000 annually to more than 160,000 in 2015.
The influx in 2015, many of them refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, accounted for 1 percent of the country’s population.
The crime rate has decreased since 2005, according to the Swedish Crime Survey.
However, official statistics also show that foreign-born residents account for the lion’s share of crime in Sweden, including assault, robbery, rape and murder.
Mr. Carlson, whose report inspired Mr. Trump’s comments, said the president should be more precise in choosing his words. But he said the president nevertheless made a valid argument.
“It seems like we may be missing the point of the story, which is there has been a massive social cost associated with the refugee policies and immigration policies of Western Europe,” he said on the network’s “Fox & Friends” program.
“No one has tried harder to integrate refugees and immigrants than Sweden. There is a deep reservoir of decency in that country. They have really, really tried. But it has caused massive, massive turmoil,” he said.
The turmoil was evident last month in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, where thousands of people demonstrated in front to City Hall after 16-year-old Ahmed Obeid was killed by an unidentified gunman, an increasingly common occurrence in a neighborhood dominated by Middle Eastern refugees.
“Unlike many previous incidents in Malmo, police do not believe his death is linked to gang violence, causing many to fear a rising tide of violence,” reported The Local, an English-language newspaper in Sweden.