U.K.'s May Insists Trump's Planned Visit Still a Go Amid Outrage Over His Attacks of London Mayor

Trump is wrong in what he said about Sadiq Khan, May says, but invitation still stands ■ Khan: Trump's policies stand against everything we stand for

British Prime Minister Theresa May gestures during a general election rally at the Odsal Stadium in Bradford, West Yorkshire, on June 5, 2017.
Oli Scarff / AFP

Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday said U.S. President Donald Trump's planned visit to Britain should go ahead despite a growing row over Trump's online criticism of the London mayor's response to Saturday's terrorist attack in the city.

"The relationship with America is our deepest and most important defense and security relationship," May told The Sun.

"Having said that, I think Donald Trump is wrong in what he said about [Mayor] Sadiq Khan, in relation to the attack on London Bridge."

Trump has lambasted Khan on Twitter, accusing him of making a "pathetic excuse", for saying Londoners should not be alarmed by the sight of additional police on the streets of the British capital after Saturday's attack that killed seven people. 

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also said he saw no reason to cancel Trump's state visit.

"The invitation has been issued and accepted and I see no reason to change that, but as far as what Sadiq Khan has said about the reassurances he's offered the people of London, I think he was entirely right to speak in the way he did," Johnson said in a BBC radio interview when asked whether Trump's state visit should be cancelled. 

No date has been set for the visit, which was agreed during May's visit to Washington in January and viewed as a sign of her desire to maintain good ties with Britain's traditional close ally as Trump began his presidency. 

"I don't wish to enter into a row between those two individuals," Johnson said of Trump and Khan, adding they are "probably perfectly able to stick up for themselves." 

May has said Khan is doing a good job, echoing public sentiment across London. 

Trump and Khan, the son of Pakistani immigrants and the first Muslim elected as London's mayor, have been at odds since Khan denounced as "ignorant" Trump's campaign pledge to impose a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States. Since taking office on Jan. 20, Trump has ordered temporary travel restrictions on people from several Muslim-majority countries, although the ban is currently held up by federal courts. 

Asked during a TV interview on Monday evening if he would like Trump's visit to be called off, Khan, a member of Britain's opposition Labour party, said his position remained the same. 

"I don't think we should roll out the red carpet to the president of the USA in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for," Khan told Channel 4 News. 

Tim Farron, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, called on May on Monday to cancel the state visit, saying Trump was insulting Britain's values "at a time of introspection and mourning." 

'Steady, determined' 

Deputy White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters on Monday that she did not think it was correct to characterize Trump's tweets as "picking a fight" with Khan. 

Asked if Trump was attacking the mayor because he is Muslim, Sanders replied: "Not at all. And I think to suggest something like that is utterly ridiculous." 

Trump's oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., defended his father. 

"Every time he puts something out there he gets criticized by the media. All day, every day," Trump Jr., who had his own Twitter altercations with Khan, said in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" broadcast on Tuesday. 

"And guess what, he's been proven right about it, every time. We keep saying, 'It's going to be great' and 'Hold fast,' 'We're going to keep calm and carry on.' Maybe we have to keep calm and actually do something," he said. He was referring to a World War Two-era slogan of resilience, to "keep calm and carry on", that Britons have echoed following the London attack. 

British author J.K. Rowling said on Tuesday that if a state visit did go ahead, Trump's tweets related to the attack should be enlarged and shown wherever he goes. 

"I'd rather he didn't come, but if he does, I'd like his vile Tweets juxtaposed against whatever he's been coaxed to read off an autocue," Rowling, celebrated for her Harry Potter books and a frequent critic of Trump, wrote on Twitter.