White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that President Trump did not know that Jayda Fransen was a leader of the ultranationalist group Britain First when he shared her anti-Muslim videos on Twitter.
Trump has been under fire for sharing the unverified videos that purport to show Muslims engaged in acts of violence, which were shared by Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First who faces charges of incitement in her homeland.
On Thursday, Sanders was asked if Trump knew who Fransen was before he shared the controversial videos.
“No, I don’t believe so but I think he knew what the issues are,” Sanders said. “That is that we have a real threat of extreme violence and terrorism, not just in this country but across the globe, particularly in Europe. That was the point he was making. I don't have much to add beyond that.”
Sanders also said she was uncertain of how the president had come across the material.
“I’m not sure every single video the president has viewed,” she said.
Trump’s tweets sparked fury across the Atlantic, with British Prime Minister Theresa May condemning the president and the mayor of London saying he should not be allowed an official visit next year.
Trump fired back, telling May to stay focused on the threat of terror in her own country.
The White House has defended the tweets, saying that even if the content is fake, the point is to draw attention to the underlying issue of radical Islamic extremism.
“The president feels that bringing up important issues of our time like extreme violence and terrorism are important things to do,” Sanders said. “That is what he did in that process and he will continue to do that in a number of venues, whether it's through speeches or Twitter or other social media platforms.”
Sanders said Trump had “elevated” the conversation around terrorism.
“The president feels strongly about talking about and bringing up as an issue every day,” Sanders said. “We're looking the best ways to protect Americans.”