As It Happens

'Astonishing and appalling': British MP condemns Trump's anti-Muslim retweets

British Labour MP Stephen Doughty has harsh words for U.S. President Donald Trump's retweets of a far-right group in the U.K. and is even calling for Trump's planned state visit the England to be cancelled.
U.S. President Donald Trump retweeted a series of inflammatory videos Wednesday purporting to show violence being committed by Muslims. (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)
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Story transcript

U.S. President Donald Trump's latest Twitter activity has turned into a cross-Atlantic maelstrom.

The president on Wednesday retweeted anti-Muslim videos that were originally posted by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the far-right U.K. political party Britain First. She was charged and convicted last year of religious aggravated harassment against a Muslim woman.

It sparked strong reaction from British politicians. Labour MP Stephen Doughty called a point of order in the British parliament Wednesday to address the issue.

I think he's racist or incompetent or both.- British MP Stephen Doughty on Donald Trump

"This isn't just a regular Donald Trump Twitter storm," Doughty told As It Happens host Carol Off shortly after making his statement in Parliament.

"This is him sharing content from a well-known far-right extremist group in the U.K., from the account of an individual who has in fact been convicted for religious harassment and is also awaiting a further court date having been charged with further serious offenses."

The group's tweets read: "VIDEO: Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!" and "VIDEO: Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!" and "VIDEO: Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!"

Trump retweeted several anti-Muslim videos originally shared by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of a far-right group in the U.K. (Twitter)

The origins of the videos could not immediately be determined, but according to a report by Buzzfeed, the assailant in the video "Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches" was neither Muslim nor a refugee. They also reported that the video of the teenager being pushed off a roof took place in Egypt in 2013.

White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump's retweets. Asked if the president had a responsibility to verify the content, Sanders said: "Whether it's a real video, the threat is real and that is what the president is talking about."

Other MPs, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, have also condemned Trump's retweets and urged Prime Minister Theresa May to cancel a planned upcoming state visit of Trump to London.

"Trump has legitimised the far right in his own country, now he's trying to do it in ours," tweeted Brendan Cox, whose wife, MP Jo Cox, was murdered in 2016 by a far-right extremist. "Spreading hatred has consequences & the President should be ashamed of himself."

Jo Cox's killer reportedly shouted "Britain first!" during the attack.

The office of British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement, quote, "It is wrong for the president to have done this." 

"I think Donald Trump, as president of the United States to be retweeting this content, without knowing either its veracity or what the context of this organization is, is, quite frankly, astonishing and appalling," said Doughty.

British Labour MP Stephen Doughty has harsh words for U.S. President Donald Trump's retweets of a far-right group in the U.K. (Submitted by Stephen Doughty)

"When the president of the United States, who, personally, I think he's racist or incompetent or both, shares that kind of inflammation, whether it came through Ann Coulter [who also retweeted the videos] or whoever else, it doesn't really matter. The fact is that he's sharing that with millions of people globally and is appearing to give his endorsement of it."

Doughty also raised concerns about Twitter's role in allowing Fransen and other far-right political groups to post inflammatory and inaccurate content to be seen by potentially millions of people around the world — especially if someone like Trump, with a follower count in the tens of millions, retweets it.

Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the far-right organization Britain First, marches in central London in April. (Daniel Leal Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)

"The fact is that Twitter is allowing this woman to have an account, even though she's a convicted criminal facing further criminal proceedings," he said. "And they've even given her one of those blue verified ticks, which I'm sure your listeners will know, kind of implies that somebody is a legitimate source of information.

"I've been in contact with Twitter as well, today, to ask how on earth they can be allowing her to continue spreading this sort of hateful and inflammatory information."

As It Happens reached out to Twitter for a response to the story, but the company declined to comment.

- with files from AP