When President Trump picks up his copy of the New York Times on Tuesday morning, he’ll see something he likes for a change: a photo of himself smiling and shaking hands with his new national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, a pick that has been widely praised.
Below the image, though, Trump will see a story that has continued to dog him for the last three days: the fallout over the president’s suggestion during his campaign-style rally in Florida on Saturday that a terror attack had occurred in Sweden the night before.
“You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden,” Trump told his supporters on Saturday night. “Sweden, who would believe this?”
No one, it seems.
Trump’s remarks drew an immediate backlash, with mystified Swedes, like former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, wondering what Trump had been “smoking.”
My statement as to what's happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2017
On Sunday, Trump explained on Twitter that on Friday night he had been watching a Fox News segment with a documentary filmmaker who claims the Swedish government is covering up a violent crisis stemming from the country’s acceptance of Muslim immigrants. Swedish officials called the report false.
At a news conference Monday, Sweden’s current prime minister, Stefan Lofven, said, “We must all take responsibility for using facts correctly and for verifying anything we spread.”
“TV Blares, Trump Repeats And Sweden Gasps,” reads the headline on Tuesday’s front page of the Times.
“Just like that, without white papers, intelligence reports, an interagency meeting or, presumably, the advice of his secretary of state,” the Times noted, “the president started a dispute with a longtime American friend that resented his characterization and called it false.”
“We are used to seeing the president of the U.S. as one of the most well-informed persons in the world, also well aware of the importance of what he says,” Bildt told the newspaper. “And then, suddenly, we see him engaging in misinformation and slander against a truly friendly country, obviously relying on sources of a quality that at best could be described as dubious.”
Trump asked people to "look at what’s happening … in Sweden." Here’s what’s happening there. https://t.co/LxhE34Fu1D
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) February 20, 2017
— @sweden / Max (@sweden) February 20, 2017
The country’s official Twitter account, which is operated by a different resident or Swedish citizen every week, has spent the last two days debunking Trump’s claims about crime.
On Monday, a defiant Trump blasted the media for critical reports on his comments.
“Give the public a break,” he tweeted. “The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!”
Give the public a break – The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2017
Meanwhile, a pair of American late night hosts had a field day with Trump’s gaffe on Monday night.
Stephen Colbert used his “Late Show” monologue on CBS with a star-studded montage honoring the victims of the nonexistent terror attack in Sweden. Their message: “Never Fjorget.”
“Just because this attack didn’t happen, folks, doesn’t mean we don’t stand in solidarity with all the people who did not suffer,” Colbert explained.
While Sweden has taken in tens of thousands of refugees, he noted, Sweden’s crime rates there have actually fallen since 2005.
“In fact, experts say 90 percent of Swedish crime actually occurs in ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,’” Colbert deadpanned.
On NBC’s “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” the host devoted part of his 10-minute “A Closer Look” segment to the fiasco.
“So Trump literally saw something on Fox News and confused it for reality,” Meyers said. “Next thing you know, he’s gonna lament the terrible treatment of people with moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis.”
The former “Saturday Night Live” star then pointed to a live CNN report from Stockholm citing the widespread mockery of Trump’s comments in Sweden itself.
“That’s how bad things have gotten under Trump; we’re getting roasted by Swedes now,” Meyers added. “The Swedish Chef is like, ‘Dude, even I don’t understand a word you’re saying.’”
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