LONDON—Donald Trump retweeted an apparent snuff video to his 40 million followers Wednesday morning, with footage depicting what looked like a brutal murder carried out by an Islamist mob that had been posted by a far-right British political activist.
The extraordinary act by a sitting president was apparently a tweet too far even for Trump’s staunchest allies, including a prominent editor at InfoWars, who admitted this was “not great optics.”
The clip appears to show radicals—one of whom is carrying what looks like a black ISIS flag—throwing a man from the roof of a building and then beating him as he lay on the ground. The footage was part of a series of videos posted by an Islamophobic street campaigner called Jayda Fransen.
Fransen, the deputy leader of far-right group Britain First, is due to appear in court next month after being charged with “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior” during one of her “anti-terrorism” rallies in Britain this past summer.
Two of Fransen’s other videos—which were also retweeted by the president—were apparently aimed at inciting religious hatred. One was titled “Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!” and the other was “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” According to Dutch media, the teen seen bullying the kid on crutches turned out not to be a Muslim or an immigrant.
Trump has been criticized in the past for posting violent imagery on Twitter but nothing on the scale of this morning’s effort.
The video entitled “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!” apparently shows the moment a young man’s life was ended. The gruesome footage was reportedly filmed in Egypt during violent clashes between rival political groups in 2013.
There can be no doubt about the motivation of Fransen in posting those videos. She is the deputy leader of an ultranationalist party that holds anti-Islam rallies and stages “Christian patrols” through British streets during which she and her followers shout abuse at non-Christians.
After one of these patrols in Luton, during which she was carrying a white cross, she was convicted of religiously aggravated harassment after abusing a woman wearing a headscarf.
Fransen admitted in court that she had told the woman that Muslim men had forced her to cover up to avoid being raped. “Because they cannot control their sexual urges… that’s why they are coming into my country raping women across the continent.”
During the patrol, around 20 members of Britain First handed out newspaper-style pamphlets with the headline: “World War Three has begun—Islam against the world.”
The hate leader was overjoyed to learn that President Trump—who has previously attracted praise from alt-right activists and Neo-Nazis—had shared her posts.
She responded in all caps. “THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, DONALD TRUMP, HAS RETWEETED THREE OF DEPUTY LEADER JAYDA FRANSEN’S TWITTER VIDEOS! DONALD TRUMP HIMSELF HAS RETWEETED THESE VIDEOS AND HAS AROUND 44 MILLION FOLLOWERS! GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP! GOD BLESS AMERICA!”
The husband of Jo Cox, the British politician murdered by a far-right extremist last year, said he was appalled that Trump was elevating a hate-figure like Fransen. Her killer shouted "Britain First" during the deadly attack, which took place during the Brexit campaign.
“Trump has legitimized the far right in his own country, now he’s trying to do it in ours,” Brendan Cox wrote on Twitter. “Spreading hatred has consequences & the President should be ashamed of himself.”
In a rare public rebuke, the British prime minister directly criticized Trump. "It is wrong for the president to have done this," she said.
It is unclear if 45th president of the United States is familiar with Fransen’s convictions or hateful rhetoric, but he has previously praised street campaigners employing similar anti-Islamic language as “very fine people.”
Previous examples of Trump posting violent videos have been limited to “comedy” GIFs of him hitting Hillary Clinton with a golf ball or a video of him outside a wrestling ring body-slamming and then striking CNN.
Some have suggested the uproar over those images was overblown, but even pro-Trump voices were shocked by this morning’s NSFW post.
Former Apprentice candidate Piers Morgan, who has steadfastly defended Trump in the past, was aghast. “Good morning, Mr President @realDonaldTrump - what the hell are you doing retweeting a bunch of unverified videos by Britain First, a bunch of disgustingly racist far-right extremists?” he wrote on Twitter. “Please STOP this madness & undo your retweets.”
Even InfoWars Editor at Large Paul Joseph Watson thought this was too much, although he did pivot to suggesting it may not have been Trump himself who hit the retweet button. “Someone might want to tell whoever is running Trump’s Twitter account this morning that retweeting Britain First is not great optics,” he wrote.