Just weeks after Kellyanne Conway brought up the infamous Bowling Green massacre (the one that didn’t happen, remember?), President Donald Trump referenced an equally confusing "incident" in Sweden. On Saturday afternoon, during a rally in Florida, Trump mentioned the peaceful nation, saying, "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." And as many across the globe scrambled to recall what had happened in Sweden, it soon donned on them that nothing had happened — Trump had mentioned an attack no one had heard of. On Sunday, following a wave of backlash across social media, Trump tried to clarify Sweden remarks, appearing relatively subdued.
With his executive order banning immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries suspended by a federal appeals court, Trump is expected to sign a new, tighter ban to accomplish what he believes will "keep our country safe." With that in mind, perhaps it could be argued that Trump was erroneously or mistakenly conjuring up confusing talking points in order to build support for his upcoming order. However, following his comments — as so many took to social media to point out that he had either misled Americans or misunderstood that such events in Sweden did not occur — Trump characteristically took to Twitter to defend his statements, albeit in a more measured tone.
"My statement as to what's happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden," Trump tweeted.
Trump's remarks were initially criticized by officials in Sweden as well, with the Swedish Embassy tweeting, "Unclear to us what President Trump was referring to, have asked US officials for explanation." CNN speculated that perhaps Trump had been watching Fox News before his speech, explaining:
Others on Twitter have speculated that Trump, who is a well-chronicled consumer of television news, might have been watching a segment on Fox News host Tucker Carlson's show Friday night. Carlson interviewed Ami Horowitz, a filmmaker who has tried to tie Sweden's taking in of asylum seekers to increased violent crimes in the country.
Trump's statements have also upset some in the international community, many of whom are insulted that he would use supposed violence in another country to justify his own orders at all.
White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders spoke to reporters on Sunday, addressing the president's remarks and stating that "he was talking about rising crime and recent incidents in general, and not referring to a specific incident."
While it has been alleged that some recent instances of crime in Sweden have been committed by immigrants, there is no clear evidence to support those claims, nor has there been any proof that the people committing those crimes were Muslim. Trump's words on the matter are a little concerning, as there are many who will take his words at face value, even if they may not turn out to be true.
Of course, while it's not really that much of a shock that Trump gets most of his information from Fox News, it is still also cause for worry, as a well-informed president is pretty vital for a functioning democracy. For now, it seems that well-informed citizens will have to do the dirty work themselves.