The White House has defended the unverified, Islamophobic videos that Donald Trump shared as driving home an important point – regardless of if they are real or not.
“Whether it’s a real video, the threat is real,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. “His goal is to promote strong border security and strong national security.”
Mr Trump retweeted several videos from far-right extremist group Britain First on Wednesday morning. The videos purported to show violence by Muslims, such as “Muslim migrants beating up a Dutch boy on crutches”. Another claimed to show an “Islamist mob” pushing a teenager off a roof and beating him to death.
The videos have not been independently verified. In a least one incident, local media and police never identified the alleged attacker as Muslim.
Ms Sanders, however, maintained that the videos did not need to be verified, claiming the media was focusing on “the wrong thing”.
“I’m not talking about the nature of the video,” she said. “…The threat is real, what the President is talking about – the need for national security and military spending – those are very real things, there’s nothing fake about that.”
At least one of the videos has been discredited by the site where it was originally published. The footage of a boy on crutches being attacked was posted to Dutch website Dumpert.nl in May of this year. The original video post contained no mention of the alleged attacker’s religion, though some commenters speculated over it. After Mr Trump retweeted the video, Dumpert.nl posted a short article calling it “fake news”.
“Dader was not a Muslim and not an immigrant, but nice try Trumpie,” they wrote.
Another of the videos, which purports to show an “Islamist” mob beating a boy to death, was taken in Egypt in 2013. The victim was a young cleric who was critical of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. He was murdered during clashes between Morsi’s supporters and opponents.
Mr Trump retweeted the videos from Jayda Fransen, Britain First’s deputy leader. Ms Fransen was found guilty last year of verbally harassing a woman dressed in a hijab. She was recently arrested after a speech in Belfast and charged with “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour”.
Britain First leader Paul Golding called the charges “ridiculous” and claimed Ms Fransen was arrested for “no bloody reason”.
Theresa May criticised both Britain First and Mr Trump through a spokesperson.
“Britain First seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives which peddle lies and stoke tensions,” the spokesperson said. “…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.”
Of Mr Trump’s retweets, Downing Street said: “It is wrong for the President to have done this.”
Mr Trump’s previously scheduled state visit will continue as planned.