By EILEEN SULLIVAN and MAGGIE HABERMAN
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump shared videos supposedly portraying Muslims committing acts of violence on Twitter on Wednesday morning, images that are likely to fuel anti-Islam sentiments popular among the president’s political base in the United States.
The White House did not immediately respond to questions about the videos. Trump also took a shot at CNN and praised his administration for a strong stock market in other Twitter posts Wednesday morning.
Trump retweeted the video posts from an ultranationalist British party leader, Jayda Fransen, who has previously been charged in the United Kingdom with “religious aggravated harassment,” according to news reports. The videos were titled: “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” “Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!” and “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!”
It is unusual to see a U.S. president push out this type of content on such a powerful social media platform. But the videos are consistent with how Trump has approached Islam, particularly during the campaign, when he said, “Islam hates us” during the 2016 presidential campaign and called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims coming to the United States.
It was unclear Wednesday morning whether the perpetrators in the videos were Muslim, as Fransen suggested. Trump is not among Fransen’s Twitter followers. But the president does follow a conservative commentator, Ann Coulter, who on Tuesday retweeted the video purporting to show a Muslim migrant beating a Dutch boy.
Fransen is the deputy of the far-right party Britain First, which was co-founded by a man who later supported Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign and was part of the efforts to spread anti-Clinton news on social media.
British politicians were quick to condemn Trump’s tacit endorsement of the videos.
“Trump sharing Britain First. Let that sink in,” David Lammy, a member of Parliament for the Labour Party, wrote on Twitter. “The President of the United States is promoting a fascist, racist, extremist hate group whose leaders have been arrested and convicted. He is no ally or friend of ours.”
This reaction is exactly what James R. Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, said he feared when he saw the president’s Twitter posts.
“It has all kinds of ripple effects, both in terms of perhaps inciting or encouraging anti-Muslim violence, and as well causes, I think, our friends and allies around the world to wonder about the judgment of the president of the United States,” Clapper told CNN on Wednesday.
Fransen is accused of using “threatening, abusing or insulting words or behavior” in speeches and leaflets at events this fall in England.
Fransen thanked Trump for promoting her message in a Twitter post Wednesday.
The official Twitter account of Britain First also wrote to its more than 24,000 followers Wednesday morning about Trump’s posts.
“Donald Trump has just retweeted Britain First’s deputy leader Jayda Fransen THREE times,” the group wrote.
Britain First is a far-right nationalist group that promotes anti-immigrant sentiments and uses hateful rhetoric about Islam, according to the British anti-racism watchdog Hope Not Hate.
One of Britain First’s co-founders, James Dowson, has been linked to websites that appeared during the 2016 presidential campaign and spread pro-Trump hoaxes and the same sort of virulent anti-Muslim videos that Trump shared Wednesday. Dowson left the group in 2014, according to Hope Not Hate. But he is still involved in far right causes.
Britain First calls itself a “patriotic” political party but has been criticized by human rights groups as being a far-right extremist group that engages in activities calculated to bait Muslims.
Several British politicians criticized Trump’s tweets Wednesday.
Chuka Umunna, a Labour Party member of Parliament, wrote on Twitter that an invitation for Trump to come to Britain for a state visit should be immediately withdrawn. “The US President is normalising hatred. If we don’t call this out, we are going down a very dangerous road. His invite should be withdrawn,” he wrote.