Donald Trump's rebuke to British Prime Minister Theresa May after she criticized him for retweeting anti-Islam videos has prompted condemnation in the UK. London's Mayor has called for Trump's state visit to be canceled.
British Prime Minister Theresa May took time out of her trip to the Middle East on Thursday to respond to the US president's sudden interest in the British fringe far-right group Britain First. In Jordan after visiting Iraq and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, May issued her first comments on Trump sharing Britain First tweets that didn't go through a spokesperson.
"The fact that we work together does not mean that we're afraid to say when we think the United States has got it wrong, and be very clear with them," May told reporters in Amman. "And I'm very clear that retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do."
May added, however, that ties with Washington were "enduring."
Trump on Wednesday shared a string of videos from the deputy leader of Britain First Jayda Fransen, already convicted of a hate crime and soon to stand trial again.
After Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said Trump's decision to retweet the videos was "wrong," the US president said May should focus instead on "radical Islamic terrorism" in the UK.
May's spokesman responded by saying that the prime minister was focused on tackling extremism.
"The overwhelming majority of Muslims in this country are law-abiding people who abhor extremism in all its forms. The prime minister has been clear ... that where Islamist extremism does exist it should be tackled head on," he told reporters.
Ripples in the Washington
The UK's ambassador to the US formally conveyed the government's concerns to the White House, reported British newspaper The Guardian.
The issue came up again at the White House press briefing, where press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters she didn't believe Trump knew who Jayda Fransen was when he retweeted her anti-Muslim videos.
When asked if the president realized that sharing the content could potentially incite violence against Muslims, Sanders said Trump was merely seeking to "elevate the conversation to talk about a real issue and a real threat."
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said in parliament on Thursday that "British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right."
"I hope the prime minister's comments will have some impact on the president," she said.
Pressure to call off, downgrade or delay state visit
London's Muslim Mayor Sadiq Khan, himself a repeated target of Trump's on Twitter, called on May to cancel his pending state visit to Britain. Khan said Trump's tweets promoted "a vile, extremist group" and that his official visit "would not be welcomed."
Labour Party lawmaker Kevin Brennan said in Parliament that Queen Elizabeth II, who would host the state visit, has a good number of excuses to delay the trip with the upcoming birth of her next great-grandchild and the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May.
"Don't those facts alone justify the government announcing a postponement of the state visit by the president of the United States for at least, say, three years?" he asked.
Delaying or downgrading the state visit had long been under discussion in the UK, and no firm date has been set despite Trump receiving his invite immediately after his election.
Britain's Secretary for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid, one of the more prominent Muslims in the Conservative party, was among the more outspoken critics of Trump's actions.
"So POTUS has endorsed the views of a vile, hate-filled racist organization that hates me and people like me. He is wrong and I refuse to let it go and say nothing," he wrote.
Brendan Cox, the husband of Labour Party lawmaker Jo Cox who was murdered last year by a far-right extremist, also weighed in.
"Spreading hatred has consequences and the President should be ashamed of himself," Cox wrote on Twitter. He later noted that the US had a few outstanding issues of its own, including healthcare and gun control. "I would focus on that," he said.
The three videos that Trump retweeted were first posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy head of Britain First, who has been convicted of a hate crime.
rs/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)