On Monday, President Trump retweeted a fake image of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer in Middle Eastern garb standing in front of an Iranian flag. The poorly-photoshopped image showed Pelosi wearing hijab and Schumer with a turban on his head. "Democrats 2020," the text on the bottom of the image read.
— داون آندر (@D0wn_Under) January 13, 2020
Mr. Trump retweeted the image from an anonymous account with the alias "D0wn_Under." In the original tweet, "D0wn_Under" wrote: "the corrupted Dems trying their best to come to the Ayatollah's rescue." The same account has tweeted extensively about a conspiracy that Speaker Pelosi is supposedly aiding or working for Iran.
The fake image was just one of the anti-Pelosi messages the president retweeted on Monday, many of them using the same hashtag: #NancyPelosiFakeNews. Bot Sentinel, a site that analyzes the behavior of Twitter accounts, said the hashtag was being widely spread by "inauthentic accounts" such as automated bots and anonymous trolls.
🚨Inauthentic accounts are amplifying #NancyPelosiFakeNews while simultaneously targeting her Twitter account and spreading disinformation about Nancy Pelosi.Source: https://t.co/kyxjbsiX0a pic.twitter.com/q2Uce2NyHI
— Christopher Bouzy (@cbouzy) January 13, 2020
Mr. Trump's retweets appear to be his response to what Pelosi said about Iranian protesters on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday.
"The fact is, there were protesters in the streets before against the regime. After the taking out of Soleimani, there were protesters in the street, joined together, as you know, against us. That wasn't good," Pelosi said, in part. "Taking down this plane is a terrible, terrible tragedy. And they should be held accountable for letting commercial flights go at a time that was so, so dangerous. But there are different reasons why people are in the street."
Mr. Trump retweeted a clip of this interaction between Pelosi and host George Stephanopoulos — a video originally shared by the Republican Party's official RNC Research account.
— 🤖Nariman (@NarimanGharib) January 13, 2020
Elsewhere in that interview, Pelosi sounded anything but sympathetic to Iran. She called Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike, "a terrible person," and stated, "The motivations of Iran are bad. So there's not question about that."
Mr. Trump's series retweets also included a photo of Pelosi with Muslim-American Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
On Monday, he also tweeted that the "Democrats and the Fake News are trying to make terrorist Soleimani into a wonderful guy, only because I did what should have been done for 20 years. Anything I do, whether it's the economy, military, or anything else, will be scorned by the Rafical Left [sic], Do Nothing Democrats!"
The Democrats and the Fake News are trying to make terrorist Soleimani into a wonderful guy, only because I did what should have been done for 20 years. Anything I do, whether it’s the economy, military, or anything else, will be scorned by the Rafical Left, Do Nothing Democrats!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 13, 2020
In another tweet on Monday, Mr. Trump appeared to dispute the fact that Iranians took to the streets to protest America's actions after Soleimani's killing. Now that anti-government demonstrations have erupted in Tehran over the regime's shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet, Mr. Trump wrote: "Wow! The wonderful Iranian protesters refused to step on, or in any way denigrate, our Great American Flag. It was put on the street in order for them to trample it, and they walked around it instead. Big progress!"
The president's tweets then turned to a different topic — his approval rating and impeachment. The photoshopped image of Pelosi and Schumer, however, gained widespread attention online.
Monday On Fox News, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham was asked about the president's controversial retweet. "Why would the president take even the time to retweet something like this?" Grisham was asked.
"I think the president is making clear that the Democrats have been parroting Iranian talking points, and almost taking the side of terrorists and those who were out to kill the Americans," Grisham said. "I think the president was making the point that the Democrats seem to hate him so much that they're willing to be on the side of countries and leadership of countries who want to kill Americans."
Grisham was then asked about a tweet the president posted over the weekend — it was written in Farsi, the official language of Iran, and was the leading Persian tweet, the Fox News host said.
"The president has made so clear that he is with the Iranian people. and the Iranian people have been chanting, you know, that America, they thought was the enemy and that they had been lied to," Grisham said. "There was an American flag put on the ground that people are actually walking around," she added, doubling down on the president's claims that Iranians were not protesting America.
"So, that is because of the this president's leadership. If anything, it's the Democrats who should be on the side of this president and rejoicing that a terrorist was killed, and that these Iranian people have a real opportunity to do good things with their country," Grisham added.
Dan Patterson contributed reporting.