White House: Trump’s Sweden remark was about ‘rising crime’

White House: Trump’s Sweden remark was about ‘rising crime’

President says apparent (and false) terror claim at rally was made after watching Fox News story on immigrants in Scandinavian country

US President Donald Trump addresses a rally at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida.  (AFP/ NICHOLAS KAMM)
US President Donald Trump addresses a rally at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. (AFP/ NICHOLAS KAMM)

The White House said Sunday that US President Donald Trump’s suggestion that Sweden suffered a terror-related incident on Friday was made “in general” in reference to “rising crime and recent incidents.”

Trump tweeted Sunday that he made the comment “in reference to a story that was broadcast on Fox News” on immigrants in the Scandinavian country. A segment of a documentary by filmmaker and activist Ami Horowitz on a supposed spike in crime in Sweden due to migrants was aired by the news network on Friday.

Speaking at a rally in Florida on Saturday, Trump suggested that a terror-related incident occurred the night before.

“Here’s the bottom line we have to keep our country safe,” he said, before addressing events in Europe. “When you look at what’s happening in Germany, when you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden — Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers, they’re having problems like they never thought possible.”

Trump then went on to cite major terror attacks that actually took place elsewhere in Europe, including Paris and Brussels in recent years.

Swedish officials contacted the US State Department on Sunday to seek clarification on the remark, as Swedes and others have been ridiculing Trump on social media over the made-up incident, the latest in a series of apparently fabricated terror attacks cited by the US administration.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Catarina Axelsson said the Swedish Embassy in Washington contacted the State Department on Sunday and was waiting for an answer.

“We have now contacted the American (State Department) to understand and receive clarity,” Axelsson said.

She added that the government wasn’t aware of any “terror-linked major incidents.”

Sweden’s Security Police said it had no reason to change the terror threat level.

“Nothing has occurred which would cause us to raise that level,” agency spokesman Karl Melin said.

Trump’s comment prompted a barrage of social media reaction on Sunday, with hundreds of tweets, and a local newspaper published a list of events that happened on Friday that appeared to have no connections to any terror-like activity.

Former Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt tweeted , “Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound.”

Bildt told Swedish Radio after his initial confounded tweet Sunday that he sees danger in how Trump relates to facts.

“If we are in a situation where there is tension in the world, we stand between war and peace,” he said. “If we then have a president who spreads lots of false rumors, it can be truly dangerous.”

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom tweeted the words “as necessary,” and a link to an Oxford English Dictionary entry about “post-truth” being picked the word of the year.

Addressing Trump in an article on Sunday, the Swedish Aftonbladet tabloid wrote, “This happened in Sweden Friday night, Mr President,” and then listed in English some events that included a man being treated for severe burns, an avalanche warning and police chasing a drunken driver.

One Twitter user said, “After the terrible events #lastnightinSweden, IKEA have sold out of this” and posted a mock Ikea instruction manual on how to build a “Border Wall.”

Sweden, which has a long reputation for welcoming refugees and migrants, had a record 163,000 asylum applications in 2015. The country has since cut back on the number it annually accepts.

Its most recent attack linked to extremism happened in the capital, Stockholm, in December 2010. An Iraqi-born Swede detonated two explosive devices, including one that killed him, but no one else.

At the rally, Trump told his followers to look at what was happening in Germany, where a truck attack at a Berlin Christmas market killed 12 people. He also mentioned Paris, Brussels and Nice, in apparent reference to the terror attacks there.

The president didn’t specify what was supposed to have happened in Sweden, simply saying “Sweden, who would believe this, Sweden.”

Over the past few weeks, Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway has also referred to a “Bowling Green Massacre” that never occurred, and she was caught up in a public feud with CNN.

She later tweeted that she meant to say “Bowling Green terrorists” — referring to two Iraqi men who were indicted in 2011 for trying to send money and weapons to Al-Qaeda, and using improvised explosive devices against US soldiers in Iraq.

And White House spokesman Sean Spicer made three separate references in one week to an attack in Atlanta.

He later said he meant to say Orlando, the Florida city, where last year an American of Afghan origin gunned down 49 people at a gay nightclub last year.

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