May blasts Trump for retweeting videos posted by the deputy leader of Britain First – including footage claiming to be ‘a Muslim man destroying a statue of Virgin Mary’ – but his invite for a State Visit STILL stands
- Donald Trump has retweeted three anti-Muslim videos posted by far-right group
- Videos posted by Britain First’s Jayda Fransen show ‘Muslims’ committing crimes
- Labour MPs say Mr Trump is ‘not welcome here’ and call for invite’s withdrawal
- Jo Cox MP was shot and stabbed last year by a man who shouted ‘Britain First!’
US President Donald Trump was ‘wrong’ to share anti-Muslim videos posted by a far-right UK group, Downing Street said today.
Furious MPs insisted Mr Trump was ‘not welcome here’ following the Twitter posts but No 10 said his invite to come to Britain on a state visit still stands.
The storm over the posts – first shared by Britain First’s deputy leader – deepened as the widow of murdered MP Jo Cox accused him of ‘spreading hatred’.
The furious backlash came after the 71-year-old President retweeted content posted by Britain First’s Jayda Fransen.
Labour politician Mrs Cox was stabbed and shot outside her constituency office in Birstall, West Yorkshire, in June 2016 by a man who shouted ‘Britain First’.
The first video retweeted by Mr Trump was claimed to show a ‘Muslim migrant’ beating up a Dutch boy on crutches.
But Dutch media this afternoon said the video was ‘fake news’. The video features a born and raised Dutch man and no reports have detailed the suspect’s religion.
Mr Trump also retweeted a video of a Muslim man ‘destroy(ing) a statue of Virgin Mary’, and another where Ms Fransen wrote: ‘Islamist mob pushed teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!’ The provenance of the footage is unknown.
The row casts fresh doubt on the prospects for Mr Trump’s state visit, which has been repeatedly pushed back since Prime Minister Theresa May extended the invite in January.
Speaker John Bercow has already made clear he would block the President from getting the honour of addressing both Houses of Parliament if he does come.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Britain First sought to divide communities through its use of ‘hateful narratives which peddle lies and stoke tensions’.
‘It is wrong for the president to have done this,’ the spokesman said.
Despite the slapdown, Mrs May’s spokesman made clear that the controversial invitation for the president to make a state visit to the UK, made when Theresa May met Mr Trump in Washington in January, still stood.
‘The invitation for a state visit has been extended and accepted. Further details will be announced in due course,’ the spokesman said.
The spokesman said that Britain First ’cause anxiety to law-abiding people’, adding that: ‘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.’
There have been claims Mr Trump has been dragging his heels on agreeing a date because he does not want to face protests – after more than 1.8million people signed a petition demanding the visit be cancelled.
Mrs May did not take PMQs in the Commons today because she is on a trip to the Middle East, but Downing Street said it would respond later.
Brendan Cox, the husband of Mrs Cox, who was killed during the EU referendum campaign last year, said: ‘Trump has legitimised the far right in his own country, now he’s trying to do it in ours.
‘Spreading hatred has consequences and the President should be ashamed of himself.’
Labour MP Mary Creagh posted: ‘Jo Cox’s killer shouted ‘Britain First’. (Trump) retweeting this hate criminal demeans his office. He is not welcome here.’
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who was embroiled in a spat with Mr Trump last year over his call for a travel ban on mainly-Muslim countries, said: ‘Britain First is a vile, hate-fuelled organisation whose views should be condemned, not amplified.’
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also urged Mrs May to take a tough stance against the President.
‘I hope our Government will condemn far-right retweets by Donald Trump. They are abhorrent, dangerous and a threat to our society,’ he said.
Labour MP Chuka Umunna told Sky News: ‘I don’t think the president of the United States, a president who has not only promoted bigotry, misogyny and racism in his own country, I don’t think he is welcome here.
‘I think the invite that has been made to him to come to our country in early 2018 should be withdrawn.
‘What we see here is the president retweeting and promoting the propaganda of a far right racist bigoted group members of which have been arrested and convicted for promoting hatred in this country.
‘I am absolutely astounded that a man – any person – in his position holding the office that he does should be promoting the propaganda of a far right British group.’
A tweet from Fransen’s account, which is verified by Twitter, appeared to celebrate the retweets by Mr Trump.
It said: ‘THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, DONALD TRUMP, HAS RETWEETED THREE OF DEPUTY LEADER JAYDA FRANSEN’S TWITTER VIDEOS! DONALD TRUMP HIMSELF HAS RETWEETED THESE VIDEOS AND HAS AROUND 44 MILLION FOLLOWERS! GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP! GOD BLESS AMERICA!’
Britain First leader Paul Golding said: ‘We’ve never spoken to him (Trump) before. But the fact he’s shared his alarm at Jayda’s arrest means we’re going to reach out to him. Jayda is recording a video message directly to him later.
‘We’re looking forward to all the new followers and support we’ll get from Trump’s publicity.’
Last year, Ms Fransen was found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment after accosting a Muslim woman.
The charge stemmed from a January 2016 incident in which Fransen, wearing a political uniform and during a so-called ‘Christian patrol,’ accosted a Muslim woman named Sumayyah Sharpe in Luton, England.
Ms Fransen admitted that she told Sharpe, who was wearing hijab, that Muslim men force women to cover up to avoid rape ‘because they cannot control their sexual urges.’
‘That’s why they are coming into my country raping women across the continent,’ Fransen told Sharpe, according to the Independent. Ms Sharpe was in front of her four children at the time.
Ms Fransen, and Britain First leader Paul Golding, 35, also of Penge, are due to appear at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court today for a pre-trial review over allegations of religiously aggravated abuse in Canterbury and Ramsgate, Kent.
A trial is scheduled for January 29, the Crown Prosecution Service said.
She will also appear in court in Northern Ireland in December charged with using threatening and abusive language in connection with a speech she made at an anti-terrorism demonstration in Belfast on August 6.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd did not immediately respond in the House of Commons when Labour MPs Stephen Doughty and Yvette Cooper raised Mr Trump’s retweets as a point of order.
Mr Doughty said the videos were ‘highly inflammatory’ and Ms Cooper said the president had given Fransen a ‘huge platform’ as one MP shouted ‘Disgraceful’ and others said ‘Go on, stand up’ at Ms Rudd.
Brexit minister Lord Callanan said Mr Trump may have not been aware of the ‘appalling’ nature of Britain First, but said the incident showed the president should be ‘more careful’ in his tweeting.
The Conservative peer told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: ‘Britain First is an appalling organisation and there is no excusing the things they stand for.
‘I can only assume that he has made a mistake and that he did not realise who Britain First were. Most people in the UK don’t know who Britain First are.
‘I’m not excusing it. He clearly needs to be more careful what he tweets to 44 million followers. This is manna from heaven for them.
‘We are doing exactly what they want in publicising them and giving coverage to their awful views, and Trump has helped them in that.’
Britain First previously denied any involvement in the attack on Mrs Cox, and there is no suggestion that Mair was influenced by or in any way involved with the group.