May criticises Trump for retweets of ‘hateful’ far-right group

US president hits out at UK prime minister after being rebuked for anti-Muslim tweets

Donald Trump was “wrong” to retweet videos produced by the “hateful” Britain First organisation, British prime minister Theresa May has said. Video: Reuters

 

Donald Trump was “wrong” to retweet videos produced by the “hateful” Britain First organisation, British prime minister Theresa May has said.

But Ms May indicated that she is not withdrawing her invitation for the US president to come to the UK on a state visit, despite widespread calls for the trip to be cancelled.

Mr Trump sparked outrage in the UK by retweeting three videos from the far-right group, purportedly showing violent acts by Muslims.

In response to a statement from Downing Street describing his actions as “wrong”, the president issued a late-night tweet directed personally at the prime minister, 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!”

Mr Trump originally addressed the tweet to theresamay, who has just six followers, rather than the prime minister’s account.

In her first personal response to the furore, at a press conference during a visit to Jordan, Ms May said that the UK and US worked closely together in the fight against terrorism.

And she added: “The fact that we work together does not mean that we are afraid to say when we think that the United States have got it wrong and to be very clear with them.

“I am very clear that retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do.”

The posts included unverified videos titled “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” and “Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!”

The Dutch embassy in the US said the perpetrator of the violent act in one of the videos was born and raised in the Netherlands.

Commenting on Mr Trump’s post, Britain First’s deputy leader Jayda Fransen (31) who was convicted last November of religiously aggravated harassment for hurling abuse at a Muslim woman in a hijab, said: “Well said Mr President!”

Earlier on Wednesday, Downing Street made clear the UK Government’s dismay at the way he had publicised the views of a such far-right group.

“Britain First seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives which peddle lies and stoke tensions,” the prime minister’s official spokesman said.

‘Prejudiced rhetoric’

“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.”

Meanwhile, Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi shared a letter he has written to Mr Trump to register his “strong discontent” at the retweets.

Referencing Mr Trump’s planned state visit to the UK, Mr Zahawi said: “You are soon due to visit the United Kingdom. When you are here, I believe you would find enlightening the experience of visiting our beautiful cities like Coventry, Birmingham, Manchester and London.”

He added: “They are so far removed from the stereotypes that the videos of Britain First try to portray.”

UK communities secretary Sajid Javid also condemned Mr Trump for endorsing the views of the far-right group, which he said “hates me and people like me”.

He tweeted: “So POTUS has endorsed the views of a vile, hate-filled racist organisation that hates me and people like me. He is wrong and I refuse to let it go and say nothing.”

UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson described the group as “divisive” and “hateful” but stopped short of criticising the president for sharing the posts.

He said on Twitter: “Britain First is a divisive, hateful group whose views are not in line with our values. UK has a proud history as an open, tolerant society and hate speech has no place here.”

UK foreign office minister Alistair Burt described the retweets as “both alarming and despairing,” saying: “As Minister for the Middle East, proud of our relationships with the Islamic world and those within it, the White House tweets are both alarming and despairing tonight. This is so not where the world needs to go.”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president had been seeking to “promote strong borders and strong national security”. – AP