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Editorials Globe editorial: With racist tweets, Donald Trump shows his true colours

This page argued yesterday that Donald Trump's proven ability to stoke outrage may be the only real power he has left. After a year in office, and with nothing to show in the way of legislative accomplishments, he is becoming increasingly reliant on provocative tweets to distract from his subpar presidency. The effect is beginning to wear off, though, as people become fatigued by the relentless repetition of his simplistic paeans to his own greatness and his tiresome attacks on the media ("not including Fox"), NFL players who kneel and political opponents who don't.

We failed to appreciate, however, just how desperate the man is and how low he is prepared to go. As a consequence, we didn't anticipate that Mr. Trump would, on Tuesday, throw the weight of his massive Twitter account behind a notorious racist organization in Britain.

Nor did it occur to us that he would be so callous as to harm the British government, one of his country's oldest allies, by boosting the fortunes of a hate-mongering cabal that had largely been marginalized since its suspected link to the murderer of a British MP last year, but which now has new life thanks to Mr. Trump's endorsement.

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British Prime Minister Theresa May took the extraordinary step of condemning the President on Tuesday after he shared three videos posted by Britain First, a violent, extreme-right group that trades in virulent racism targeting the U.K.'s Muslim population.

"It's wrong for the President to have done this," said a spokesman for Ms. May – at about the same time that the deputy leader of Britain First, a woman named Jayda Fransen who was convicted of "religiously aggravated harassment" in 2016, was thanking Mr. Trump for the legitimacy his tweets had bestowed on her organization. She also found the courage to appeal to him directly, in an online video, for more support.

The wounds caused by Britain First are still painfully felt in Britain, a fact Mr. Trump is either ignorant of or cruelly indifferent to.

When a deranged man shot, stabbed and killed Jo Cox, a British MP, in 2016, he repeatedly yelled "Britain first!" Police later said he had links to a neo-Nazi group.

That was enough for many to distance themselves from Britain First. The group struggled on, mostly tweeting videos that it claimed were evidence of Muslims committing violent acts of religious hatred.

It was three such amateur videos that Mr. Trump retweeted without comment on Tuesday. Two have already been exposed as not being what Britain First claimed they were.

One video entitled "Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!" shows a young man in a park beating up a hobbled boy of roughly the same age. Dutch authorities said Tuesday that religion had nothing to do with the incident, that the attacker was not a migrant but was born in the Netherlands, and that he had been arrested, charged and had served his sentence. The video looks more than anything like high-school bullying of the same kind that routinely occurs in the U.S.

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Another video was entitled "Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!" It shows a mob throwing a person off a water tower onto the roof below, then beating him. ISIS fighters are known to have thrown gay men off roofs in Iraq, and one man in the video is seen carrying the Islamic State banner.

But the event occurred in 2013 in Alexandria, Egypt, during riots that followed the ouster of president Mohammed Morsi. By most accounts, three teenaged boys got caught up in the violence and were mistaken for opponents of the attackers, who were clearly extremist thugs. Two of the boys were killed, and one was seriously injured. The video of the attack caused outrage in Alexandria. The assailants were arrested, and at least one was sentenced to death.

The third video shows a man smashing a plaster statue of the Virgin Mary to the ground. There is no information about when or why the incident took place or who was involved.

When confronted with the fact that at least two of the videos are bogus, a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump told reporters, "I think you're focusing on the wrong thing. The threat is real, and that's what the President is talking about, is the need for national security, the need for military spending. And those are very real things. There's nothing fake about that."

That is exactly the justification that any fascist group like Britain First would make: that objective truth can be sacrificed in the name of ethnic nationalism. The sole point of the videos is to create fear and suspicion of a religion – the same fear and suspicion that Mr. Trump has often used to justify his numerous attempts to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.

Mr. Trump will no doubt continue to insist he isn't a racist, but the evidence to back that claim has been chipped away to almost nothing.

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His decision to spread the hatred of a violent anti-Islamic organization, and to share it with his 44 million Twitter followers, makes it extremely difficult to maintain a reasonable doubt about the serious accusation that he is racist, that he is actively courting the support of racists by speaking their language, and that his and their beliefs inform his policies.

Mr. Trump should remove those tweets and apologize for posting them. He won't do that, of course, and no one should expect him to – now that he has finally revealed his true colours.

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