WH: Trump Retweeted Anti-Muslim Videos To ‘Elevate The Conversation’

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci/AP

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday defended President Donald Trump’s retweeting of anti-Muslim propaganda from a British ultranationalist hate group, saying that Trump reposted the videos to “elevate the conversation” about terrorism and “extreme violence.”

Asked if the President felt an obligation to ensure that videos he shared on Twitter were accurate — one of the ultranationalist videos purporting to show a “Muslim migrant” beating a Dutch boy was incorrect in that assertion — Sanders didn’t answer directly.

“I think the President feels that bringing up important issues of our time like extreme violence and terrorism [is] important to do,” she said. “That was what he was doing in that process, and I think he’s going to continue to do that in a number of venues whether it’s through speeches, whether it’s through Twitter or other social media platforms.”

Trump has said nothing of the sort with regard to the tweets. He simply reposted the snuff material, actions which have been widely denounced.

“Does he understand, though, that sharing those videos might incite violence against Muslims and does he understand that he has elevated a British political group that many people outside of Britain didn’t even know about until he tweeted it?” the reporter asked, pressing Sanders.

“Look, I think what he’s done is elevate the conversation to talk about a real issue and a real threat, and that’s extreme violence and extreme terrorism,” Sanders replied, “something that we know to be very real and something the President feels strongly about talking about and bringing up, making sure it’s an issue every single day, that we’re looking at the best ways to protect Americans.”

The press secretary later said that she did not believe Trump knew who Jayda Fransen was. Fransen, who posted the videos Trump retweeted, is deputy leader of Britain First, the ultranationalist hate group. She was found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment in early November in a British court for verbally abusing a Muslim woman on the street in front of her children. Fransen called the ruling “Islamic appeasement.”

“But, again, I think he knew what the issues are, and that is that we have a real threat of extreme violence and terrorism, not just in this country but across the globe, particularly in Europe,” Sanders said.

“I’m not sure every single video the President has viewed,” Sanders added later, asked if it was normal for Trump to view Britain First’s videos.

On Wednesday, Sanders said Trump had posted the videos because “the threat is real,” and to discuss “the need for national security, the need for military spending.”

The White House did not respond to TPM’s requests to clarify who Sanders was referring to as a threat.

The videos tweeted by Trump purported to show a Muslim migrant beating up a Dutch boy — though the Dutch embassy said the perpetrator was not a migrant — a Muslim man destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary, and an “Islamist mob” pushing a teenage boy off of a roof and beating him to death, though the latter videos have not been verified as such.

Trump’s actions were widely denounced, to the point that some speculated his Twitter account had been hacked. It had not, according to the White House, which has stood behind Trump’s actions.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK