WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump publicly upbraided British Prime Minister and ostensible ally Theresa May late Wednesday, rebutting her criticism of anti-Muslim propaganda in a diplomatic row between the two leaders.
Plunging headlong into a high-profile spat with one of America’s closest international partners, Trump suggested May focus on defending the United Kingdom rather than criticizing him.
“@theresa_may, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!” he tweeted, after an earlier tweet with the same message used the wrong Twitter handle for May.
Trump had drawn fierce condemnation at home and abroad earlier in the day for retweeting three incendiary anti-Muslim videos posted by the deputy head of a British far-right group who has been convicted of a hate crime.
May said through a spokesperson that Trump was “wrong” to promote the “hateful narratives” of the group, British First.
Trump’s interventions in British politics have strained the so-called “special relationship.”
He has infuriated British authorities with his tweets on terrorism in Britain, including highly publicized run-ins with London’s Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan.
Khan on Wednesday described Britain First as “a vile, hate-fuelled organisation whose views should be condemned, not amplified.”
Before Trump’s latest missive, the White House had scrambled to limit the fallout, saying that even if the anti-Muslim videos were misleading, the president was pointing out a real problem.
“The threat is real, and that’s what the president is talking about,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.
– ‘Never the wrong time’ –
Deputy spokesman Raj Shah also defended Trump’s actions: “It’s never the wrong time to talk about the security and safety of the American people. Those are the issues he was raising in his tweets this morning.”
One of the videos falsely claims to show a Muslim beating up a Dutch boy on crutches.
The Dutch embassy in Washington took the unusual step of publicly criticizing a sitting US president on Twitter.