The White House defended President Donald Trump’s retweets of anti-Muslim videos Wednesday morning by downplaying the inflammatory content posted by a fringe, far-right group in Britain.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told a group of reporters that the president’s goal was not to promote the anti-Muslim message attached to the videos.
“I think his goal is to promote strong borders and strong national security, and I think that is again something that is no secret to anyone that that’s a big focus of this president and a big focus of this administration,” she told reporters outside the White House.
Question on President Trump's retweets this morning: Does it matter if it's a fake video?
Sarah Sanders: "I'm not talking about the nature of the video. I think you're focusing on the wrong thing. The threat is real, and that's what the President is talking about." pic.twitter.com/Nh2YyuLD01
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 29, 2017
The videos, which appeared to show violence carried out by Muslims, were originally posted on Twitter by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, a far-right group that’s known for its anti-Muslim stance.
The videos were posted were the headlines “Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!”, “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!”, and “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” After the president retweeted the videos, Fransen posted on Twitter: “DONALD TRUMP HIMSELF HAS RETWEETED THESE VIDEOS AND HAS AROUND 44 MILLION FOLLOWERS! GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP! GOD BLESS AMERICA!”
Sanders said she wasn’t sure how the president located the videos. Media outlets worked to verify the origins of the videos this morning, finding that two of them were released in 2013. One shows a man pushing a 9-year-old boy off a roof, days after Egypt’s military ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, who was the country’s first freely elected president. Those connected with the incident in the video were later sentenced to death.
The second video shows a man breaking a blue and white statue of the Virgin Mary. The man is believed to be a supporter of Nusra Front, an al-Qaida offshoot in Syria.
The third video shows two teens fighting. However, according to Buzzfeed, a Dutch website published a debunking of the video, saying there were no migrants in the video. The site described Trump’s retweets as “fake news.”
Trump has not shied from anti-Muslim commentary. During his presidential campaign, he said on CNN, “I think Islam hates us.”
While in office, Trump has often promised supporters to stop “radical Islamic terrorism” and has pursued a travel ban for majority-Muslim countries. The president has said “this is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe.” But several federal judges, citing in part the president’s tweets, have disagreed, ruling against some versions of the ban.