White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that President Trump’s retweeting of three inflammatory anti-Muslim videos had served to “elevate the conversation” about the issues of “extreme violence and terrorism.”
Sanders’s comments at a White House briefing marked the second day of defense from aides of Trump’s decision Wednesday to share Twitter postings of a far-right British activist — an action that British Prime Minister Theresa May rebuked again Thursday.
Sanders said she did not think Trump knew who the activist was who originally posted the videos: Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, which bills itself as a political party but has been widely condemned as an extremist group that targets mosques and Muslims.
Asked by a reporter whether Trump understood that his retweets could lead to violence against Muslims and that he had “elevated” a fringe group, Sanders did not answer directly.
“I think what he’s done is elevate the conversation to talk about a real issue and a real threat,” she said.” That’s extreme violence and extreme terrorism, something that we know to be very real and something the president feels strongly about talking about and bringing up.”
The three videos Trump shared were provocatively titled “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!”, “Muslim destroys a statue of Virgin Mary!” and “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!”
The videos provided no context, and the Netherlands Embassy said Wednesday that the one about a “Muslim migrant” actually featured a perpetrator born and raised in the Netherlands.
Asked at the briefing if the president has an obligation to ensure the accuracy of the material his disseminates on Twitter, Sanders said the president “feels that bringing up important issues of our time” is important.
“That’s what he was doing in that process, and I think he’s going to continue to do that in a number of venues, whether it’s through speeches, whether it’s through Twitter or other social media platforms,” Sanders said.