President Trump tweets most mornings, but Wednesday was different. In addition to doling out the usual kind of fare about CNN, the stock market, and North Korea, the president, or whoever was tweeting on his behalf, also decided to retweet three videos from an account belonging to a leader of a far-right ultranationalist British political group “Britain First.” The unverified videos purport to show Muslims committing acts of violence, from beating up a boy on crutches to destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary. One depicts a mob pushing someone off a roof.
While it’s unclear where or when these videos were made, or even if they’re real, the offensive content wasn’t what made the tweets unusual for the president (as my colleague Peter Beinart noted, Trump has associated with anti-Muslim voices, and made many of their same arguments, long before he ascended to the presidency). Neither was the dubious and seemingly obscure nature of the accounts they came from (in fact, just this week the president tweeted his thanks to an account known for promoting conspiracy theories). Yet one thing they did do was lift up a formerly obscure group in another country.
“THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, DONALD TRUMP, HAS RETWEETED THREE OF DEPUTY LEADER JAYDA FRANSEN'S TWITTER VIDEOS,” read one of the tweets by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First. Another tweet, this time addressing Trump directly, thanked the president for retweeting her posts before noting that she is “facing prison for criticizing Islam,” in an apparent reference to her conviction last year after she was found guilty of verbally abusing a Muslim woman wearing a hijab.