The White House on Wednesday defended President Trump’s retweets of videos on Twitter portraying Muslims committing acts of violence.
“The threat is real,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. “The threat needs to be addressed. The threat has to be talked about, and that’s what the president is doing in bringing that up.”
Mr. Trump shared videos Wednesday from Britain First party leader Jayda Fransen, titled: “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” “Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!” and “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!” The religion of those depicted in the videos wasn’t clear, although one of the videos originated during riots in Egypt in 2013.
The president’s move prompted the office of Britain’s prime minister to issue a statement condemning the tweets.
“It is wrong for the president to have done this,” said the office of Prime Minister Theresa May. “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.”
White House spokesman Raj Shah told reporters that the president “has the greatest respect for the British people and for Prime Minister May.”
Arab American Institute Executive Director Maya Berry said Mr. Trump’s retweeting of “inflammatory ant-Muslim bigotry from a white-nationalist group” should be denounced by other Republican leaders.
“As the president’s tweets are official statements of the administration, these xenophobic retweets cannot be ignored,” she said.”It is particularly important for Republican leadership, like Speaker Paul Ryan and [Senate] Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to repudiate and condemn this bigotry.”
Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, predicted that Mr. Trump’s action on social media would spur reprisals against Muslims in the U.S.
“As he attacks our community, we can and will expect others to follow his lead, with sometimes deadly consequences,” she said. “Hate crimes motivated by anti-Muslim bias are at all-time high, and the president’s words and actions further inflame this violence. Mosques have been burned and bombed, children are bullied, homes are vandalized, and people are attacked. Our country deserves better.”
Also among those criticizing the president was former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, who said he had “no idea what would motivate him to do that.”
“To me, it’s bizarre and disturbing, particularly when I think of him doing that in the context of North Korea, where moderation, and temperance and thought I think is critical,” Mr. Clapper said on CNN.
Mr. Shah said the president retweeted the videos because he is focused continually on “safety and security for the American people.”
“We’re talking about extreme vetting policies, ensuring that individuals that come to the United States do not pose either a public safety or terrorism threat,” he said. “And the other measures that we want to take — for example, ending the visa lottery system that allows individuals to come to the United States, and replacing it with a merit-based system. Remember the eight individuals who were killed in New York City last month, the killer, the terrorist came in under the visa lottery system. So the president is going to continue talking about these issues because they’re important for the safety and security of this country.”
Asked if the president thinks Muslims are a threat, Mr. Shah replied, “No, look, the president has addressed these issues with the travel order and he issued earlier this year. … There are plenty of Muslim-majority nations whose citizens can come to the United States without travel restrictions.”