AMMAN – The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Theresa May told US President Donald Trump on Thursday that retweeting inflammatory anti-Muslim content shared by a far-right British organization was the wrong thing to do, but she underlined the enduring importance of the special relationship between the two countries.
Theresa May, a conservative, was forced to respond to Donald Trump after his Twitter page shared three videos from Britain First, an ultra-nationalist fringe organization in the United Kingdom that promotes direct action against Muslim communities.
“Retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do,” May told reporters, prompting a round of applause from the press conference in the Jordanian capital Amman, where she was on an official visit.
May was dragged further into the spat when Trump rebutted criticism from her spokesman by directing a tweet at the British PM telling her not to focus her attention on him, but rather deal with the problem of “Radical Islamic Terrorism” in the UK.
But when pressed whether Trump’s reaction was respectable behavior from an ally, May insisted that an enduring special relationship between the UK and the US was in the interest of both nations.
The Republican president’s incendiary re-tweets prompted UK members of Parliament to hold an urgent debate at the House of Commons, the lower chamber.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd fielded questions from lawmakers, Conservatives and opposition alike, but a common theme arose in repeated requests for Trump’s state visit, scheduled for 2018, to be canceled.
Sticking to the party line, Rudd repeated: “An invitation has been extended and accepted, but no arrangements have yet been made,” although she joined in the cross-party condemnation of the tweets.
The social media storm created by Trump has provoked widespread condemnation in the UK, with criticism coming from London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, the British ambassador to the US and Brian Cox, the widower of the MP Jo Cox who in 2016 was murdered by a man allegedly shouting “Britain First.”
Britain First was founded in 2011 by former members of the British National Party who were connected, among other things, to the Ulster Defence Association, a paramilitary Protestant group in Northern Ireland linked to around 260 killings.
One of the Britain First tweets that Trump shared was proven to be fake news, as though the caption claimed it depicted a Muslim migrant beating up a Dutch boy, it was proven to in fact show a fight between two Dutch teenagers.
The tweets came from Britain First’s deputy leader Jayda Fransen, who in 2016 was convicted of religiously aggravated harassment after she harassed a Muslim mother for wearing the hijab and in 2017 was arrested three times for continued religious harassment and threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior.