President Trump created a fair amount of confusion last week when he seemed to suggest at a rally in Florida that Sweden had just fallen victim to refugee-related violence.
While running through a list of countries that have taken in a large number of refugees in recent years, and had later been targeted with terrorist attacks, Trump said, “You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?”
The only problem: Nothing of note happened in Sweden that night.
A number of media outlets pounced on the statement, eager to draw attention and mockery to Trump’s apparent gaffe. Before clarification could be sought on Trump’s meaning, ThinkProgress ran the headline “Trump invents fake attack on Sweden” and Esquire went with “Our President Cited a Terrorist Attack In Sweden That Didn’t Happen”. Many other news organizations followed suit.
As it turns out, the president was referring to a segment he had watched on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show that night, where filmmaker Ami Horowitz claimed that refugees in Sweden were to blame for a crime wave inside the country.
It was a sloppy statement by Trump, delivered in the wrong context, but he never specifically claimed that there had been a terrorist attack in Sweden. He certainly should have been clearer in his meaning (and is partially responsible for the misunderstanding), but this wasn’t one of those numerous cases in which he had simply made up an event. Those in the media who presented their own interpretation as the president’s concrete meaning were negligent.
Ironically, violence did erupt in Sweden two days later when riots broke out in Rinkeby, a Stockholm suburb. The neighborhood, prominently made up of immigrants, was marred with burning cars and vandalized businesses. Police were attacked with rocks and a reporter was beaten.
A number of Trump fans (including some in the media) offered the incident as proof that Trump was indeed right in the perceived meaning of his original statement. This reasoning is a bit hard to follow since it undercuts Trump’s later clarification, while also suggesting that he is capable of time travel.
Popular liberal commentator Robert Reich has another strange take. He believes that Trump actually caused the riots.
Commenting on the Washington Post’s report of the violence, Reich tweeted, “Trump’s lies have consequences. 48 hrs after his comments on Sweden, riots broke out in an immigrant community.”
Yes, you read that right. Apparently, Trump’s confusing reference about refugees in Sweden (which Reich considers a “lie”) was so incendiary that it drove otherwise peaceful individuals to collective violence.
I guess, now that a Republican is in the White House, we’re no longer blaming YouTube videos for this sort of thing.
One has to wonder if Reich even bothered to read the Washington Post column he cited. If so, he might have noticed this paragraph:
“The neighborhood, Rinkeby, was the scene of riots in 2010 and 2013, too. And in most ways, what happened Monday night was reminiscent of those earlier bouts of anger. Swedish police apparently made an arrest on drug charges at about 8 p.m. near the Rinkeby station. For reasons not yet disclosed by the police, word of the arrest prompted youths to gather.”
Now, perhaps I’m jumping the gun in my criticism of Reich. It’s possible that I have misinterpreted his words in the same that some in the media did with Trump. Could it be that Reich is coming at this story from a not-so-obvious angle? Maybe there’s more to this that meets the eye.
Maybe President Trump personally coordinated the Swedish arrest from halfway around the world…or planted drugs on the person who was arrested…or even sold them the drugs! Maybe he did the same thing back in 2010 and 2013, and that’s what he’s lying about! Could it be? Gasp.
Perhaps Mr. Reich could elaborate on what he knows, that the rest of us don’t. Otherwise, this might be a good opportunity for him to take a moment and ponder whether or not it’s left-wing lunacy like this that helped hand Trump the election back in November.
That, at least, sounds like a plausible interpretation.
Editor’s note (2/22/2017): Reich just deleted the tweet described in this column, without explanation.