LONDON — There are unwritten rules of etiquette or even, arguably, of common human decency expected in moments of crisis: Say, for example, when a terror attack against innocent civilians is in full swing. Among those rules, surely, would be one having to do with not insulting the mayor of the very city under attack.
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United States President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., clearly didn’t get the memo.
The former reality TV personality turned Trump Organization trustee tweeted out an insult to London Mayor Sadiq Khan, while Wednesday's terror attack on Parliament was still underway and people were lying on Westminster Bridge, dying. Four people were killed, including the attacker, and some 40 were wounded, many of them still in the hospital. On Thursday dozens of arrests were being made across the country.
“You have to be kidding me?!” the young Trump — like his father an avid fan of social media — tweeted out Wednesday afternoon, as details of the attack became clear. “Terror attacks are part of living in big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan.”
The seemingly out-of-nowhere swipe turns out to be connected to an article from last September in the British newspaper The Independent. In an interview, Khan was quoted reacting to a bombing in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, saying that terrorism preparedness, including providing sufficient support to the police, was “part and parcel of living in a great global city.”
Trump’s mischaracterization of the popular London mayor’s remarks and the questionable timing of his twitter musings did not sit well with many Brits. “You dug this up specifically to garner twitter traffic when people are dying/ injured. How does this help? SAD [(c)Your Dad],” tweeted one.
“Learn to read the article not just the headline you tangerine goblin spawn,” raged another.
Wes Streeting, a member of Parliament from the Labour Party, accused Trump of capitalizing on the attack in London and called him “a disgrace.”
Others wondered if Trump’s tweet was hinting at anything more sinister, in that Khan, London’s first ethnic-minority mayor, is also the first Muslim to head the capital of a major Western country.
Not long after his first tweet on the London attack, Trump Jr. re-tweeted a post that claimed — without any evidence — “Al Jazeera Viewers Seem To React With Joy Over London Terror Attack.”
Khan himself declined to rise to the bait. “I’m not going to respond to a tweet from Donald Trump Jr. I’ve been doing far more important things over the past 24 hours,” he told CNN news. He added that: “Terrorists hate the fact” that cities like London, New York and Paris have “diverse communities living together peacefully.”
Most reactions here on social media focused on Trump’s staggering insensitivity and congratulated Khan for his steadfast leadership. But others re-tweeted Trump Jr.’s tweet — while some, apparently misunderstanding that it was taken out of context, misquoted, and was also seven months old, demanded that the major explain himself, and heaped more insults on him.
“Guess Muslims should just get used to being persecuted if we should just get used to Islamic terrorist attacks,” suggested one Londoner, on twitter. “Sadiq Khan = obama-light - only credential before becoming mayor of London is dad was a bus driver!!,” tweeted another. “Good ole Sadiq Khan probably was behind the attacks,” suggested a third.
Over 19,000 users liked Trump’s tweet, and 14,000 re-tweeted it.
There were also criticisms of another sort leveled at the mayor Wednesday. This, because while Scotland Yard confirmed four deaths shortly before 6 P.M., Khan’s office waited until 7:30 before issuing a full statement. “The silence of @SadiqKhan is deafening. No comment Mr Mayor!” tweeted one irate Londoner.
Trump Jr., contacted by the New York Times, declined to either apologize or explain himself. It’s the same stance he has taken in the past when called to task for other controversial tweets. Several months ago, for example, he compared Syrian refugees to poisoned candies. On another day, he shared a white supremacist meme.
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, in the unusual position of getting to pose as the more diplomatic man in the room, sidestepped the mini brouhaha and offered condolences to British Prime Minister Theresa May, commending her — on twitter, of course — for being “strong and doing very well.”