British, Dutch censure Trump for reckless racist re-tweets

Donald Trump's retweeting of a series of racist messages by the leader of the right-wing extremist Britain First party has prompted outrage, though perhaps little surprise, around the world.

On Wednesday morning the US President retweeted three posts from the Twitter feed of Jayda Fransen, who took over as acting leader of Britain First when the incumbent was jailed for religious hate crimes last December.

Fransen herself was convicted of religiously aggravated harassment last November and is facing further charges in Northern Ireland.

One of the posts retweeted by Trump showed video purporting to be of an atrocity by Islamic extremists, a second the destruction of a statue of the Virgin Mary, and the third an attack on a Dutch teenager on crutches, allegedly by Muslim immigrants. The third video has been discredited by Dutch observers.

On Wednesday evening local time, the Dutch embassy in the US responded via a tweet saying: "@realDonaldTrump Facts do matter. The perpetrator of the violent act in this video was born and raised in the Netherlands. He received and completed his sentence under Dutch law."

Trump's spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, declared that the facts did not matter, and that even if the description of the video being disseminated by right-wing extremists and Trump was false "the threat is real".

By then the videos had already caused a diplomatic incident.

Earlier in the day the spokesman for the British Prime Minister Theresa May released a statement, saying, "Britain First seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives which peddle lies and stoke tensions. They cause anxiety to law-abiding people.

"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.

"It is wrong for the president to have done this."

Trump responded via Twitter to May, saying, "Theresa May, don't focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!"

The exchange attracted even more attention because Trump addressed the wrong Twitter user, via tagging, on his first attempt.

Fransen, responded enthusiastically, writing on Twitter in all caps: "the President of the United States, Donald Trump, has retweeted three of deputy leader Jayda Fransen's Twitter videos! Donald Trump himself has retweeted these videos and has around 44 million followers! God bless you Trump! God bless America!"

Even some of Trump's most enthusiastic supporters criticised his behaviour. Paul Joseph Watson of the right-wing conspiracy website InfoWars wrote that it was "bad optics" while the prominent English News Corp columnist Piers Morgan tweeted, "Good morning, Mr President @realDonaldTrump - what the hell are you doing retweeting a bunch of unverified videos by Britain First, a bunch of disgustingly racist far-right extremists? Please STOP this madness & undo your retweets."

Similarly some of Trump's congressional colleagues voiced opposition, including staunch Republican critics like Senator John McCain. But Congressional Republicans remain focussed on delivering what would be Trump's first legislative victory with the passage of a major tax bill.

Trump made Twitter a key tool of his campaign, and since becoming president he has successfully resisted attempts by senior aides to have him give up use of the micro-blogging application. Many in the White House had hoped that he would stop using Twitter after John Kelly was appointed White House chief of staff in July with a brief to bring order to the administration, but not even the retired Marine Corps general has been able to have Trump surrender his Twitter feed.

After Trump's Twitter-frenzy the Washington-insider news website Politico quoted two unnamed White House aides as voicing concern that that Twitter, " allowed the president to continue accessing fringe websites and viewing racist videos simply by scanning his 'mentions'."

Politico noted that Trump's racist tweets on Wednesday were sent before 7am, when his aides normally have their first chance to consult with him about the day's news and events.

This story British, Dutch censure Trump for reckless racist re-tweets first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.