Former CIA Director Leon Panetta on Trump’s anti-Muslim retweets: “The President of the United States is playing with fire. He may not know it, but he’s playing with fire… This is a dangerous game to play, and the President, frankly, ought to know better” https://t.co/c8MI8aANj1 pic.twitter.com/GAisT3vfxJ— CNN (@CNN) November 30, 2017
Former CIA Director Leon Panetta sharply criticized President Trump on Thursday, accusing him of "playing with fire" after the president retweeted three anti-Muslim videos from the ultranationalist group Britain First.
Panetta said on CNN's "The Situation Room" that the Trump administration needs to put in place checks in the White House to ensure Trump's tweets don't "jeopardize lives" after he retweeted videos posted by anti-Muslim activist Jayda Fransen, who has in the past been convicted of a hate crime.
"I think the president of the United States is playing with fire," Panetta said.
"This is a dangerous game to play, and the president, frankly, ought to know better," said Panetta, who also served as secretary of Defense under President Obama from 2011 to 2013.
Panetta's remarks come after the White House argued that whether the content of the videos is accurate was irrelevant, saying instead that the overall danger of radical Islamic terrorism is real.
"I'm not talking about the nature of the video,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. “I think you're focusing on the wrong thing. The threat is real, and that is what the president is talking about."
“Those are very real things. There is nothing fake about that,” she added.
The tweets were also condemned by a spokesperson for British Prime Minister Theresa May, who is currently touring the Middle East.
"British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right, which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents — decency, tolerance and respect,” May’s office said in a statement. “It is wrong for the president to have done this."