November 30, 2017
TSC IntelBrief: White House Tweets Promote a U.K. Hate Group
On June 16, 2016, British Member of Parliament Jo Cox was murdered by a far-right extremist yelling ‘This is for Britain’ and ‘Britain First.’ Coming one week before the Brexit vote, when anti-immigrant propaganda in the U.K. was cresting, the killing was widely considered a political assassination. An investigation showed the killer was obsessed with white supremacy and had searched online for information on the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis in the days prior to the attack.
On November 29, President Donald Trump retweeted three blatantly racist, anti-Muslim videos. The videos had been posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, a notorious racist and ultranationalist hate group. Fransen reacted by tweeting, ‘GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP!’ Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, responded to the President with a tweet that read in part, ‘Thank God for Trump! That’s why we love him!’ Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, defended Trump's retweets, telling reporters, ‘I think his goal is to promote strong borders and strong national security.’
In sharp contrast, the office of British Prime Minister Theresa May said, 'It is wrong for the president to have done this ... Britain First seeks to divide communities by their use of hateful narratives that peddle lies and stoke tensions.’ Meanwhile, Jo Cox’s husband Brendan tweeted that ‘spreading hatred has consequences & the President should be ashamed of himself.’
Even by recent standards of political propriety, the White House retweeting of scurrilous videos posted by a hate group is extraordinarily dangerous; by retweeting the videos, the ideology driving such hateful propaganda has now been openly supported by the President of the United States. Since the start of his Presidential campaign, Trump has:
• called for a ‘complete and total shutdown’ of Muslims entering the U.S. while as a candidate, and as President, tried to enact a ‘Muslim ban’
• responded to a protest led by white supremacist sympathizers in Charlottesville, Virginia by saying there were ‘some very fine people on both sides’ after an anti-Nazi protestor was murdered
• refused to denounce the support of racist groups and leaders including David Duke, both during the campaign and after.
Given that record, retweeting openly anti-Muslim videos posted by an ultra-nationalist activist, convicted last year of religiously aggravated harassment, and now facing charges for the same crime, may be another indication of the President’s views on tolerance and diversity, at least where Muslims are concerned.
There are real world consequences to supporting this type of hate, as seen in the murder of Jo Cox and the rise in racially and motivated hate crimes, as shown in the latest statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The spectacle of the President of the United States openly supporting hate speech and its underlying ideology can provide both motivation and encouragement for hate groups, and for unaffiliated people who trend towards violence. It also raises concerns regarding due protection under the law and other constitutional rights and protections, especially for minorities. U.S. politicians who stay silent on this issue may recall their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution, which mandates equal justice under the law.
It is also important to note that while some may brush off this latest outrage as a handful of tweets, the U.S. Department of Justice has argued in court that the President’s tweets are official White House communications and statements. President Trump frequently targets and disparages elements of the press that disagree with him. That, along with his targeting people by their religion, ethnicity, and national origin should be unacceptable in a society that wishes to remain open and free.
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