WASHINGTON: The White House on Monday defended President Trump retweeting an image that showed two Democratic leaders edited into Muslim clothing with a backdrop of an Iranian flag after it prompted allegations of Islamophobia.
Trump on Monday morning shared the image from Twitter user @D0wn_Under, who tweeted it with the caption “The corrupted Dems trying their best to come to the Ayatollah’s rescue.”
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, asked on Fox News why Trump would take the time to retweet the image, said the president did so to accuse Democrats of siding with terrorists.
“I think the president is making clear that the Democrats are, 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,” she added.
Activists and former government officials took to Twitter to condemn the tweet as anti-Muslim.
“The President of the United States is engaging in hate speech against an entire religion,” tweeted Dana Shell Smith, a former ambassador to Qatar during the Obama administration. “And because he is President, it is in our name. It is on all of us – especially our elected officials- to demand that it stop.”
Jasmine El-Gamal, another former Obama administration official, called the tweet “deeply damaging” to Muslims in the United States.
“The picture highlights a deeply disturbing truth, which is that this President thinks that a good way to insult someone is by painting them as Muslim or as sympathetic to a Muslim country,” she tweeted.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a statement that the tweet was “childish, undignified and offensive.”
Sleeping Giants, a liberal activist organization, called on Twitter to remove the tweet for violating the platform’s conduct policy.
The tweet comes as tensions continue to boil on Capitol Hill over the Trump administration’s decision to target and kill top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
The president last week claimed the top Iranian official was planning to attack four U.S. embassies, but lawmakers have said the briefing they received on the matter did not include such a threat.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in an interview with CBS on Sunday that he did not see intelligence that showed four embassies would be targeted, but that he believed that was a possible scenario.
Democrats have been critical of the chain of events that led to Soleimani’s death, citing concerns over presidential war powers and instability in the region. But lawmakers in the party have not praised or mourned Soleimani as Trump and the White House have claimed they have.
Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) apologized last week after saying during a Fox News interview that Democrats seemed to be “in love with terrorists.”