Donald Trump came perilously close to apologizing for his Islamophobia Thursday but instead offered a caricature of regret.
Speaking in Davos to Good Morning Britain host — and former Celebrity Apprentice winner — Piers Morgan, the president said he “would apologize” for retweeting unverified Islamophobic posts from a leader of a racist British party, but doesn’t actually apologize.
In video from the interview released Friday, Trump addressed his controversial November retweets of three anti-Muslim videos posted by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First and a notorious Islamophobe guilty of hate crimes against Muslims.
Trump did apologize, Morgan announced in a preview tweet:
However, footage later released by ITV shows Trump offering the far more conditional “would.”
“I don't want to cause any difficulty for your country,” Trump said. “Here’s what’s fair: If you’re telling me they’re [Britain First] horrible, racist people I would certainly apologize, if you’d like me to do that. I know nothing about them.”
Morgan called this a “significant climbdown.”
Reacting to Trump’s retweets at the time, Fransen posted: “God bless you Trump, God Bless America, OCS.” OCS stands for “Onward Christian Soldiers.”
Morgan said the tweets prompted anger in Britain because they came from a “bunch of racists, fascists.”
“Of course I didn’t know that,” replied Trump.
“I did it because I am a big believer in fighting radical Islamic terror,” Trump continued. “This was a depiction of radical Islamic terror.”
When Morgan pointed out that the videos were unverified, Trump brushed it of: “Well, they are, but I didn’t do it. I did a retweet. It was a big story where you are but it was not a big story where I am.”
Despite widespread condemnation — including a rebuke from the Prime Minister Theresa May — Trump refused to withdraw the retweets, sparking a row between the two leaders:
Twitter subsequently suspended Fransen’s account for violating the policy prohibiting affiliation with “organizations that use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes.”
Any residual anger between Trump and May appeared to evaporate Thursday, the pair holding a meeting in Switzerland to reinforce their “special relationship.”
Cover image: A screengrab from Piers Morgan's interview with Donald Trump for ITV's Good Morning Britain.