Jayda Fransen is the deputy leader of the far-right nationalist party Britain First. In 2016, a British court convicted her of harassment after she yelled abuse at a woman wearing a hijab. One year later, she faces new charges of inciting religious hatred after allegedly distributing racist leaflets and posting hateful videos during a rape trial. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump retweeted three of her Twitter posts promoting anti-Muslim videos.
Trump's tweets are often absurd and demeaning - both to the targets of his abuse and to those who must ritually respond to the latest instance of unpresidential conduct. The president is skilled at using his Twitter account to sow confusion and anger. But we cannot ignore that some behavior is simply beyond the pale. The office of British Prime Minister Theresa May said it best: "It is wrong for the president to have done this."
Trump tweeted out three videos posted by Fransen: "Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!" "Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!" "Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!" The tweets would have been reprehensible in any case. But Hansen's posts were misleading. The assailant in the first video is not a migrant: Dutch authorities say he was "born and raised in the Netherlands." And the last video shows the death of a teenager in Alexandria, Egypt, during unrest following the 2013 coup against then-President Mohamed Morsi.
As far as the White House is concerned, the truth of Trump's tweets appears to be beside the point. Whether or not the videos are genuine, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared, "The threat is real, and that's what the president is talking about, the need for national security."
Sanders is correct that Trump's tweets have drawn attention to a pressing national problem. Yet the threat in question is posed not by an imagined Muslim menace but by far-right and anti-Muslim ideology. FBI data shows that hate crimes against Muslims have risen sharply for the past two years in a row, reaching their highest level since the 9/11 aftermath. And Trump's promotion of vicious propaganda risks encouraging further violence and emboldening those who seek to drum up hate. That includes figures such as former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who crowed over Trump's refusal to condemn far-right violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and wrote in response to the president's Wednesday tweets, "Thank God for Trump!"
Decrying Britain First, May's office stated: "British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far-right, which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents: decency, tolerance, and respect." Those values should guide the behavior of the American president as well. They require an apology from Trump and a denunciation of Duke, Fransen and other figures of hate emboldened by his actions.
— The Washington Post