British Politicians Criticize Trump For Muslim Retweet
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Politicians in the United Kingdom continue to condemn the behavior of President Trump. Today, Prime Minister Theresa May criticized the president for retweeting anti-Muslim videos circulated earlier by a U.K. ultra-nationalist group. May noted that the United States and the United Kingdom enjoy a close relationship but that she felt compelled to speak out. The prime minister spoke at a news conference while traveling in Jordan.
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PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: The fact that we work together does not mean that we're afraid to say when we think the United States have got it wrong and to be very clear with them. And I'm very clear that retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do.
GREENE: All right. A number of lawmakers were so angered by Trump's behavior that they've demanded May cancel a visit by the U.S. president. May, though, insists that a visit is going to go ahead. Let's turn now to NPR's Frank Langfitt in London. Hey, Frank.
FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning, David.
GREENE: Could we just start from the beginning? Remind us about these videos.
LANGFITT: Sure. So let's go through them. One shows a mob throwing a man off a tower. A second one shows a man smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary. And a third is a Dutch youth apparently beating another on crutches. We should say that all of these were purported to involve Muslims, but the first two are unverified. And the third one, the Dutch one, was debunked.
Now, these were earlier circulated, as you mentioned, by Britain First. And it's important to remember that the official who actually put these out from Britain First was convicted here last year of religious harassment of a Muslim woman on the street. So you can understand why it might be pretty controversial here in Britain.
GREENE: Yeah. OK. So this group, British First (ph), known for doing things like that, trying to make Muslims look bad in these videos. Why has this struck such a nerve in the U.K.?
LANGFITT: Well, I think that a lot of people here were appalled that the president would retreat - retweet content from a group like this. And Stephen Doughty - he's a legislator with the Labour Party - he was on the floor of the House of Commons this morning. And here's what he said about it.
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STEPHEN DOUGHTY: This is the president of the United States sharing with millions inflammatory and divisive content deliberately posted to sow hatred and division by, as the home secretary says, a convicted criminal who is facing further charges who represents a vile fascist organization seeking to spread hatred and violence in person and online. By sharing it, he is either a racist, incompetent or unthinking - or all three.
GREENE: Wow. That is much stronger - talking about President Trump than Theresa May was.
LANGFITT: No. And there are other politicians here who are also being really, really tough on the president like I haven't heard before.
GREENE: Wow. Do we know how President Trump even came across these videos?
LANGFITT: No. That's a really good question, David. A lot of people are asking this question on Twitter today. I've been asked about it. We're not sure. We think the president, you know, he only follows 45 people on Twitter, and Britain First is not among those folks. But Ann Coulter, conservative commentator, she retweeted one of these videos yesterday. We're not certain of the timing, but it's possible he might have seen one of the videos there. Still, it's an open question.
GREENE: And how has Trump responded to all this?
LANGFITT: Well, you know, he doesn't take these things lightly. And last night - yesterday, I guess it was - May issued a written statement criticizing Trump. And he fired back around midnight on Twitter saying, Theresa May, don't focus on me. Focus on the destructive radical Islamic terrorism that's taking place within the United Kingdom. We're doing just fine. So that was his response to an ally.
GREENE: And briefly, I mean, is the relationship here between the U.K. and the U.S. at risk?
LANGFITT: No, I don't think it is. But this is one more tension between the United Kingdom and the people of the United Kingdom, who many - most of whom don't feel they share the values with the president of the United States.
GREENE: NPR's Frank Langfitt reporting from London. Frank, thanks.
LANGFITT: Happy to do it, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.