To really understand the President’s retweets this morning of three unverified, anti-Muslim videos posted by the U.K. group Britain First, you’ve got to swing over to British Twitter, where they’re more familiar with the far-right fringe group. “Stunt-loving anti-Muslim far-right social media troll group increasingly ignored even in the UK,” the Buzzfeed UK reporter Jim Waterson tweeted. “Trump retweeting them is roughly akin to Theresa May retweeting videos posted by David Duke,” said BBC reporter Anthony Zurcher.
Trump’s venturing into the the racist corners of the Internet for his retweets isn’t exactly new — which isn’t cause to wave them away, Princeton presidential historian Julian Zelizer told me.
“At some point we have to stop saying, ‘Look at what he’s done,’ and say, ‘This is what he does,’” Zelizer said. “These are the kind of tweets he enjoys putting out there. And they’re dangerous. He brings this stuff into the center of power.”
“The closest we’ve seen in contemporary history to anything like this was George Wallace, who ran for president in 1968 and famously used this kind of rhetoric,” Zelizer said. “But he was a third party candidate. And he didn’t win.” Trump’s public rhetoric on race, religion and immigration, he said, is almost better suited to presidents of the 19th and early 20th centuries — and amplified through social media.
“These [tweets] fall squarely within that historical record of shame,” said Jacob Bender, the director of the Philly chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).