Donald Trump pushed the talking points of the far-right in an explosive interview Thursday with British tabloid newspaper The Sun, claiming immigration is changing the “fabric of Europe” and the continent is losing its "culture.”
The inflammatory comments linking immigration with crime and terrorism were immediately seized on by British extremists, who claimed Trump as one of their own, and drew criticism from London Mayor Sadiq Khan — also targeted by Trump in the interview — for “amplifying messages of hate.”
Speaking on his first official visit to the U.K., Trump described immigration in Europe as “a shame.”
“I think you are losing your culture. Look around. You go through certain areas that didn’t exist ten or 15 years ago,” he said.
“I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was, and I don’t mean that in a positive way.
He singled out London — and specifically Khan, with whom he has had a long-running media feud — for special criticism.
“You have a mayor who has done a terrible job in London,” he said.
“I think he has done a very bad job on terrorism… I think he has done a bad job on crime, if you look, all of the horrible things going on there, with all of the crime that is being brought in.”
“Is Trump an Identitarian?”
Trump’s comments echoed and amplified British far-right talking points about Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor, whom they repeatedly single out for blame over rising crime and last year’s string of terror attacks in the capital.
Generation Identity — a youth-focused pan-European “alt-right” group that is one of the most active organizations on the British far-right — seized on the comments, tweeting a mocked-up image of the “Trump baby” protest balloon floating above a London cityscape marked by supposed crimes and terror attacks: “lorry attack,” “acid attack,” “Tube bombing.”
“Amazing how much crime you can see from up here, just another day in multicultural London,” read the tweet.
In another post, the group highlighted Trump’s comments about preserving Western civilization and asked: “Is Donald Trump an Identitarian?”
British anti-racist group Hope not Hate criticized Trump for amplifying white supremacist views with his comments.
“‘Losing our culture’ are the coded words of white supremacy,” said CEO Nick Lowles. “Far-right groups have a long history of hiding their racism behind talk of ‘culture’ but with Trump, it’s hardly subtle.”
Trump’s record of endorsing Britain’s far-right
It’s not the first time Trump and those around him have shown support for the British far-right and its agenda. In November, Trump caused an outcry when he retweeted three Islamophobic videos posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, an extremist group that was banned from Facebook months later. His eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has also retweeted posts in support of Tommy Robinson, a prominent British anti-Islam activist.
Speaking to VICE News Friday, Khan said he was concerned by Trump’s endorsement and amplification of British far-right groups and their politics of hate.
“What I reflect upon is when you see the retweets he’s done of Britain First, amplifying messages of hate, giving credibility to far-right groups… what troubles people, including me, is the normalization of views that we find abhorrent,” he said.
He said it was also curious that Trump singled him out for criticism over terror attacks in London, rather than the mayors of many other cities that had been affected by terrorism. Trump took shots at Khan in the immediate aftermath of a terror attack in London last year, criticizing the mayor’s statement that there was no reason to be alarmed by an increased police presence in the wake of the attack.
“It’s not for me to say whether President Trump is a racist or Islamophobe — that’s for others to comment on,” he said. “But it’s for him to explain why [he] singled out the mayor of London when there have been terror attacks in Manchester, in Nice, in Brussels, in Berlin, in Paris… All of us are trying to grapple with the evils of terrorism.”
While Trump’s U.K. visit is mobilizing large numbers of people out on the streets to protest, supporters on the far-right are also planning their own demonstrations to welcome him.
A “Make Britain Great Again” rally is planned outside the U.S. Embassy in London Saturday, with scheduled speakers including Milo Yiannopoulos and Raheem Kassam, two British right-wing activists formerly linked to Breitbart. Organizers are planning to join forces with a rally of supporters of Tommy Robinson, including activists from Generation Identity, for a large right-wing march through central London.
Khan said the rival pro- and anti-Trump protests were a sign of London’s strength. “Tomorrow there will be protests in London from the extreme far-right, from pro-Trump supporters,” he said. “We may not agree with their views, but the key thing is in a democracy they should be allowed to express their views.”
Cover image: Donald Trump attends bilateral talks with Prime Minister Theresa May at Chequers on July 13, 2018 in Aylesbury, England. (Jack Taylor - WPA Pool /Getty Images)