Brendan Cox knows, better than most, that “hatred has consequences”.
The husband of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox has issued a searing criticism of Donald Trump for sharing Islamophobic videos on Twitter, saying the president should be “ashamed”.
Earlier this week, Trump retweeted three videos from the Twitter account of Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of far-right group Britain First, who was recently charged with religiously aggravated harassment. The videos claimed to show Muslims committing violent acts, although the credibility of at least one of the clips has already been undermined.
The man who killed Jo Cox, Thomas Mair, is a neo-Nazi who shouted “Britain first” as he stabbed her to death in June 2016. Mair is not thought to have been a paid-up member of the organisation Britain First, but he certainly subscribed to the group’s racist, Islamophobic, xenophobic, anti-immigration rhetoric.
In the wake of Trump’s controversial retweets, Brendan Cox said that the president should consider the repercussions of sharing Islamophobic content.
“Trump has legitimised the far right in his own country, now he’s trying to do it in ours. Spreading hatred has consequences and the president should be ashamed of himself,” Cox wrote on Twitter.
In an op-ed for The Guardian, Cox said: “When the president of the United States promotes the deputy leader of a far-right organisation, it makes it easier for others to follow her example – and perhaps go further.”
He later added on Twitter: “Thank you to everyone who has sent their support today, especially to all the Americans – including Republicans – who have reached out to say Trump doesn’t represent the views and values of your great country.”
Prime Minister Theresa May also issued a statement through her spokesperson condemning President Trump’s remarks.
“Britain First seeks to divide communities by their use of hateful narratives that peddle lies and stoke tensions. They cause anxiety to law-abiding people.
“British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right which is the antithesis of the values this country represents: decency, tolerance and respect.”
May’s statement prompted Trump to lash out at the PM in another tweet.
“Theresa@theresamay, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom,” he wrote on Wednesday evening. “We are doing just fine!”
The president initially used the wrong handle for Theresa May in his tweet, accidentally tagging a woman called Theresa Scrivener instead of the British prime minister. Shortly afterwards, he deleted his first tweet and reposted it with the correct handle (@Theresa_May).
In response to Trump’s assertion that May should focus on her own country, Cox wrote: “You have a mass shooting every single day in your country, your murder rate is many times that of the UK, your healthcare system is a disgrace, [and] you can’t pass anything through a Congress that you control.
“I would focus on that.”
Cox also retweeted a tweet by Conservative MP Savid Javid, the communities and local government secretary.
Javid, who comes from a British Pakistani Muslim family, wrote: “So POTUS has endorsed the views of a vile, hate-filled racist organisation that hates me and people like me. He is wrong and I refuse to let it go and say nothing.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, another prominent Muslim politician in the UK who has frequently clashed with Trump via social media, also issued a statement condemning the president’s actions and demanding that he apologise.
Khan said that May should retract the UK’s invitation of a state visit for Trump, a view shared by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
“As the Mayor of this great diverse city, I have previously called on Theresa May to cancel her ill-judged offer of a state visit to President Trump,” Khan wrote. “After this latest incident, it is increasingly clear that any official visit at all from President Trump to Britain would not be welcomed.”
Corbyn described the retweets as “abhorrent, dangerous and a threat to our society”.
Jayda Fransen, the Britain First deputy whose tweets launched the controversy, has welcomed the attention from the US president. She was recently charged with using threatening or abusive language at a far-right rally in Belfast this summer, and has also been charged – alongside Britain First leader Paul Golding – with causing religiously aggravated harassment in September.
Britain First is estimated to have just 1,000 followers in the UK, and has had no success in elections. At a by-election in Kent in 2014, the organisation finished below the Monster Raving Loony Party; Fransen, the party’s nominated candidate, received just 56 votes.
In the wake of Trump’s tweets, people in the UK began posting tweets using the hashtag #WhyBritsDontWantTrump.
Images: Rex Features