(LONDON) — British Prime Minister Theresa May once again condemned President Donald Trump’s retweeting of the inflammatory, unverified, anti-Muslim videos shared by extreme right-wing group Britain First.
“Britain First is a hateful organization,” May told reporters today in Amman, Jordan. “It seeks to sow division and hate and mistrust in our communities. It stands in opposition to our fundamental values we hold as a country.
“British Muslims are peaceful law-abiding citizens who have themselves been victims of acts of terrorism by the far right.”
The U.K. is committed to fighting “the threat of terrorism and threat of extremism from whatever source it comes,” May added.
But she emphasized that the U.S. relationship remains strong. “Let me be clear about the relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States. This is a long-term special relationship that we have. It’s an enduring relationship that is there because it is in both our national interests for that relationship to be there.”
“But,” she added, “the fact that we work together does not mean that we’re afraid to say when we think that the United States has got it wrong. … And I’m very clear that retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do.”
The press corps in the room applauded.
When asked about a future Trump state visit to the U.K., she said, “an invitation has been extended and accepted. We have yet to set a date.”
And as the questions kept coming, she told reporters, “I have absolute confidence that members of my Cabinet will not be retweeting material from Britain First.”
The prime minister’s comments follow a fiery session in the House of Commons this morning when an “urgent-question” session was called to discuss Trump’s retweets.
Trump retweeted early Wednesday morning three videos shared by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First. Fransen has been convicted in the U.K. of “religiously aggravated harassment” and faces additional charges for a speech she gave in Belfast.
Known for spreading anti-Muslim propaganda in the U.K., and posting Islamophobic videos, the small, fringe group holds protests and “Christian patrols” through London neighborhoods. The three videos Trump retweeted weren’t posted sequentially, meaning the president likely scrolled through Fransen’s timeline to pick them out specifically.
He tweeted all three without verifying the content and without providing any commentary or context.
When asked about the videos Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders immediately defended the president, saying: “Whether it’s a real video the threat is real and that is what the president is talking about, that’s what the president is focused on, is dealing with those real threats and those are real no matter how you’re looking at it.”
Across the pond, the backlash was swift. May released a short statement Wednesday saying, “it was wrong for the president to do this.”
But Trump doubled down hours later, chastising his closest ally publicly.
He said, “don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom.”
He initially used the wrong Twitter handle for the British prime minister, and later deleted the tweet and corrected it. For several minutes, someone by the name of Theresa Scrivener, with six followers and nine tweets, was unwillingly thrust into the spotlight.
The prime minister’s office struck back this morning. “The prime minister’s record, both as prime Minister and home secretary, points to her … [focus on terrorism],” her spokesman told ABC News.
He added: “It is clear that over her time as home secretary and as prime minister and in the wake of the tragic events over the summer the prime minister is fully focused on dealing with extremism,” referring to the string of terror attacks in the U.K. earlier this year.
But many British politicians immediately called for May to rescind her state visit invitation to Trump. London Mayor Sadiq Khan released a statement saying, “President Trump yesterday used Twitter to promote a vile, extremist group that exists solely to sow division and hatred in our country.”
“I have previously called on Theresa May to cancel her ill-judged offer of a state visit to President Trump. After his latest incident, it is increasingly clear that any official visit at all from President Trump to Britain would not be welcomed.”
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid echoed Khan, saying Trump’s tweets “endorsed the views of a vile, hate-filled racist organization.”
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tweeted that Britain First had “no place” in British society.
And one Conservative Party member of Parliament, Peter Bone, even lobbied for May to ask Trump to delete his Twitter account. “One of the advantages of having such a special relationship with the United States,” he said, “is when a friend tells you you’ve done something dreadfully wrong, you tend to listen.
“Wouldn’t the world be a better place if the Prime Minister could persuade the President of the United States to delete his Twitter account?”
U.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd replied to Bone, saying, “We all listen more carefully, perhaps, to criticism from our friends than from people who we don’t have a relationship with. … It’s interesting to note my honorable friend’s advice regarding Twitter accounts. I’m sure many of us might share his view.”
Rudd also echoed May’s statement, saying this morning, “President Donald Trump was wrong to retweet videos posted by the far-right group Britain First.”
She called the tweets “full of hate” and “wholly unwelcome” but continued to remind the Parliament of the special relationship with the United States.
Labour Party member of Parliament David Lammy weighed in to say Trump is “promoting a fascist, racist, extremist hate group,” a view held by the majority of those who took the floor today.
Naz Shah, also a Labour Party member of Parliament, added: “No modern American president has promoted inflammatory content of this sort from an extremist organization. Not only has the commander-in-tweet done this, he has defended it, publicly chastising the British prime minister for her comments.”
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