POLITICS

Trump's Anti-Muslim Tweets Could Endanger Embassies: Report

The president was trying to “elevate the conversation” about terrorism, according to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

30/11/2017 23:58 SAST

The State Department warned the White House that President Donald Trump’s decision to retweet a series of anti-Muslim videos earlier this week could pose a threat to U.S. embassies, CNN reported on Thursday.

Officials reportedly worried that the videos, which purport to depict Muslims committing acts of violence, could spark violent protests at U.S. embassies in the Middle East, which were already on high security alert.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert would not confirm the CNN report, but said “the safety and security” of Americans abroad is the department’s “top concern.”

“The State Department has continuous conversations with the White House and National Security Council about anything that could affect any American’s safety and security abroad,” Nauert said during a press briefing on Thursday.

The possibility that the president’s tweets sparked fears for the safety of U.S. diplomats abroad is alarming, but also ironic. Following the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, Trump repeatedly blamed 2016 Democratic presidential nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for endangering U.S. diplomats.

Trump has repeatedly promoted a debunked conspiracy theory that Clinton knew in advance that Islamic militants were targeting government facilities in Benghazi, but had refused to bolster security for the U.S. nationals working there. The September 2012 attack killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

A representative for the White House did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. A State Department official declined to comment.

Politicians and religious leaders swiftly condemned Trump on Wednesday after he retweeted three overtly Islamophobic videos posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, a racist, far-right British political organization.

British Prime Minister Theresa May responded that it was “wrong” for Trump to have shared the videos on his Twitter account, while British lawmaker Chuka Umunna called for withdrawing Trump’s invitation to visit the U.K. next year.

“Somebody in his position, doing what he has done and said, not only in his own country but now getting involved in the debate here ― he is normalizing hatred,” Umunna said.

Trump’s retweets also add tension to an already strained relationship between the president and Muslim communities domestically. He’s repeatedly promoted Islamophobic viewpoints and urged stricter immigration policies against predominantly Muslim countries.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump’s decision to share the anti-Muslim videos during a press briefing on Thursday.

“I think the president feels that bringing up important issues of our time like extreme violence and terrorism are important to do,” Sanders said. “And I think he’s going to continue to do that in a number of venues, whether it’s through speeches or Twitter or other social media platforms.”

She continued: “I think what he’s done is elevate the conversation to talk about a real issue and threat.”