President Trump just came as close as he maybe ever has to admitting a mistake and apologizing for his actions — and yet still somehow managed to fall short of an actual apology.
Here’s what’s going on: Back in November, Trump sparked outrage in both the US and Britain when he retweeted three anti-Muslim propaganda videos posted by the leader of a fringe far-right British political party called Britain First, a group known for its extreme anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant views.
British leaders — including Prime Minister Theresa May — immediately condemned Trump for retweeting propaganda from a group many Britons consider racist. Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, tweeted that “Britain First is a vile, hate-fuelled organisation whose views should be condemned, not amplified” and called on May to “cancel her ill-judged offer of a state visit to President Trump.”
May said in a statement that it was “wrong for the president to have done this,” but she didn’t rescind her offer for Trump to visit. Trump ultimately ended up canceling the trip anyway, but denied it had anything to do with the tweet brouhaha.
So in a Friday interview with ITV’s “Good Morning Britain” television show, host Piers Morgan asked Trump about the retweets and described the group behind the videos as “basically a bunch of racists [and] fascists.”
“Of course I didn’t know that. I know nothing about them, and I know nothing about them today other than I read a little bit,” Trump told Morgan. “I don’t know who they are. I know nothing about them.”
He offered only this as a conciliatory gesture: “If you are telling me they’re horrible people, horrible, racist people, I would certainly apologize if you’d like me to do that,” Trump said. “As I say often, I am the least racist person that anybody is going to meet.”
Trump went on to explain that he’d merely retweeted the videos because he is “a big believer in fighting radical Islamic terror.”
“They had a couple of depictions of radical Islamic terror,” Trump said. “This was a depiction of radical Islamic terror.”
That’s the real problem with Trump’s comments: He said he’d be willing to apologize for retweeting something from a racist group (though he didn’t end up actually saying he was sorry) — but he still seems to think the videos themselves were worth sharing.
The videos were unverified — and in one case totally fake — anti-Muslim propaganda
It’s worth taking a close look at the short videos Trump retweeted, all of which depict violence supposedly carried out by Muslims. One claimed to show a Muslim man destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary; another professed to have captured a “Muslim migrant” beating up a “Dutch boy on crutches,” and a third seemed to show Muslim men pushing a boy off a building.
As Sarah Wildman and Jen Kirby explained when Trump first retweeted the videos back in November:
First, at least one of the videos was fake; reports quickly emerged showing that the perpetrator in the video about the Dutch boy is apparently neither Muslim nor a migrant. The video of teens being pushed from a rooftop is apparently three and a half years old and took place in Egypt, during a spasm of violence following the ouster of then-Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. At least one of the perpetrators was executed for the crime. The third video’s source remains unverified.
In his interview with Trump, Morgan said that the videos were unverified and that at least one of them was “not what it seemed.”
Trump responded, “They are, but this was — I didn’t do it. I didn’t go out and — I did a retweet.”
So, to recap: Trump is maybe sorry for retweeting content from a racist anti-Muslim political party — but he’s not sorry for what he actually shared: their unverified and in at least one case demonstrably fake videos depicting Muslims as brutal and violent. Even though he just seemingly said he knew the videos were unverified and possibly fake.
That’s the literal definition of prejudice: having preconceived opinions about groups of people that aren’t based on real evidence or knowledge. The fact that the videos were sketchy or fake doesn’t really matter to Trump — because they show what he already believes to be true.