President Donald Trump on Wednesday retweeted a series of overtly Islamophobic videos shared by a controversial British far-right activist, drawing swift condemnation.
The videos, posted by Britain First deputy leader Jayda Fransen, claim to show violent crimes committed by Muslims. Britain First is widely known in the U.K. for spreading Islamophobic and racist videos, including many proven to be fake.
Trump’s endorsement of the videos was denounced by the British government, with Downing Street saying the president was “wrong” to retweet videos from a group that “peddles lies” and is “overwhelmingly rejected” by the British public.
Fransen’s first tweet shows a boy beating another boy on crutches. The caption says: “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” Yet the video’s original caption, released with the video in May on a Dutch website, mentioned neither race nor religion. And the 16-year-old pictured in the video was in fact not a migrant but born in the Netherlands, the Dutch embassy in the U.S. confirmed. He and another 16-year-old who shot the video were charged for provoking the fight.
A second video appears to show a man destroying a Virgin Mary statue. An Iranian news site claims the man shown in the video belongs to the al Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra. The site says the video dates to 2013 and was taken in a church in a northwestern Syrian town.
The third video shows a group of men, including one who appears to wear the flag of the self-described Islamic State, throwing another man off a roof. France 24 shared the video in 2013, saying it appears to show a mob of angry men chasing down a teenager in Alexandria, Egypt.
Fransen reacted with delight to Trump’s retweets.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump’s retweets, saying topics raised by the videos are “real threats we have to talk about.”
Asked whether the videos themselves were real, Sanders said simply that “the threats are real ― no matter how you look at it.
“His goal is to promote strong border security and strong national security,” she said of the president.
Trump’s tweets appear to continue a swerve away from reality in recent days, with him questioning the legitimacy of the “Access Hollywood” tape that caught him bragging about sexual assault and reviving his debunked birther lie that former President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.
Advocacy groups lambasted Trump’s Twitter activity.
“These are actions one would expect to see on virulent anti-Muslim hate sites, not on the Twitter feed of the president of the United States,” Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement. “Trump’s posts amount to incitement to violence against American Muslims. His actions should be condemned by all American political and religious leaders, regardless of their party or faith.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, warned that Trump’s spreading of the videos would “embolden bigots.”
Brendan Cox, the husband of slain British parliamentarian Jo Cox, accused Trump of legitimizing the far right in the U.S., and now in the U.K.
Britain First is “damn-near a terrorist organization” that resembles white supremacist groups in the U.S., Southern Poverty Law Center spokeswoman Heidi Beirich told HuffPost.
Britain First’s list of inflammatory actions includes burying a pig on the site of a proposed mosque, and advocating banning Islam in the U.K. following the November 2015 Paris terror attacks. The group describes itself as “a patriotic political party and street movement that opposes and fights the many injustices that are routinely inflicted on the British people.”
“We want our people to come first, before foreigners, asylum seekers or migrants and we are overtly proud of this stance,” the group says in its mission statement. “We want British jobs for British workers and will make sure that our workers come first.”
The group seeks to “restore Christianity as the bedrock and foundation of our national life” and “make Britain a beautiful country once again where you can leave your door unlocked and your children can play in the streets.”
Fransen was arrested earlier this month for a summer speech in Belfast. She and Paul Golding, another Britain First member, were charged in September with causing religiously aggravated harassment for posting videos online during a gang rape trial.