Morning Joe just cannot get over Trump’s retweets of three anti-Muslim videos last week. Last Friday, with no evidence, the liberal morning show’s panelists promoted the idea that Trump’s retweets were part of a top secret, sinister plot to incite potentially murderous violence against Muslims in America. This Monday, co-host Joe Scarborough tried a new angle, repeatedly insisting that Britain First, the group whose leader Trump retweeted, is a terrorist organization that “assassinates members of parliament” in the United Kingdom. Simply put, Scarborough’s claim was completely false.
Although Scarborough appeared to be twisting the facts of an actual murder of a British politician committed by a neo-Nazi, he did not cite any specific examples to back up his claim. During the same segment, Scarborough whined about White House national security advisor H. R. McMaster gradually “assimilating” into a “Trump White House which is defined by lies.”
All of this started off as a reaction to a brief snippet taken from a recent interview that Fox News’s Chris Wallace conducted with McMaster:
WALLACE: General, why did President Trump send out those videos?
GEN. MCMASTER: Well, President Trump is the best judge of why he did that. But, I know it was his intention to highlight the importance of creating safe and secure environments for our citizens, to make sure that we have the right laws in place, enforcement mechanisms in place, to ensure that at this critical time when ISIS is being defeated in the Middle East, that there isn't a return of, of terrorists and extremists who can pose a risk to American people or, or to our allies and partners.
Co-host Mika Brzezinski reacted with disgust to McMaster’s comments:
Oh, god. That is President Trump's national security adviser H. R. McMaster when asked about the President's retweets of several anti-Muslim posts made by a far right group overseas. That’s of course echoes [sic] Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders's explanation last week that despite the direct and blunt content of the tweets, she said they should not be the focus. Before we get to our next guest [disgusted sigh]. I mean, that's our national security adviser. He's just not gonna say what needs to be said. He’s not.
So, so, like the entire nation -- Britain can speak out articulately about this, but no Republicans can, and nobody in our foreign policy community on the foreign policy team can say the truth about how dangerous this is? How this doesn’t represent America?
After trying to cut in a couple of times while his fiancé was talking, Scarborough finally got his own response to McMaster out:
SCARBOROUGH: These are neo-fascist videos, um, which has, has -- by a group that actually assassinated a member of parliament. And so, there’s-.
BRZEZINSKI: [interrupting] I heard great things about H. R. McMaster.
SCARBOROUGH: So there's a reason why, uh, both members of the Labour Party and Tories and even people like, um, um -- well, even people with good relationships with Donald Trump said this was an abomination and it had to be taken care of. But here, you have H. R. McMaster, who people are saying is assimilating into this Trump White House which is defined by lies, uh, false,-
BRZEZINSKI: [interrupting] Is he afraid of President Trump?
SCARBOROUGH: -falsehoods, um, -- this is a man who wrote “Dereliction of Duty,” who actually said the lesson of the tragedy of Vietnam was that you didn't have people speaking up to the commander-in-chief, speaking up to generals, speaking up to people in power. And H. R. McMaster just went on TV and basically tried to explain away a neo-fascist, a neo-Nazi video by a group that assassinates members of parliament.
The only murder of a British parliamentarian that appears to fit Joe’s description is the June, 2016 shooting and stabbing of MP Jo Cox. As was widely reported by U.K. media at the time, Cox’s attacker killed her while yelling several nationalist slogans and phrases, one of which was either “Britain first” or “put Britain first.” Five months after the attack, the BBC put together the evidence of the attacker’s motivations:
When detectives searched Mair's home, they found it as methodically organised as his attack - but also a library of extreme nationalist and racist material.
An ornamental Nazi eagle had pride of place on top of a bookshelf packed with far-right literature.
In drawers, there were books about the SS and pamphlets about white supremacy.
He had a vast collection of literature from the National Alliance, an American neo-Nazi group.
As far back as 1984, Mair was buying neo-Nazi publications, and he had letters published in a racist South African magazine.
The Southern Poverty Law Centre, an American anti-fascist organisation, has published records showing Mair ordered books on improvised munitions and explosives from the neo-Nazi National Alliance's publishing imprint. Those orders were placed days after David Copeland had attempted to spark a "race war" in a series of bombings across London.
But the mystery of Mair is he appears to have simply got on with forming and reinforcing his views with no contact to any of the known extremist organisations in the UK.
There is no evidence of him having been identified at rallies or marches down the years.
He was not prominent on social media.
He was immersed in his books.
The BBC not only made no mention of Britain First, but they clearly (and correctly) indicated that there was no evidence of any connection between Cox’s killer and the group. This conclusion was also shared by Business Insider:
Jo Cox, Brendan's wife, was murdered in June 2016 by far-right extremist Thomas Mair. During the attack he shouted "Britain first!," though it has never been established whether that was a specific endorsement of the group, or a vague nationalist slogan.
Even left-leaning outlets like The Intercept, The Independent, and Slate, which have criticized Britain First’s incendiary rhetoric and confrontational street protest tactics, shied away from spreading misinformation that Britain First was directly linked to or responsible for the attack.
So where did Scarborough’s sloppy misinformation come from? Possibly, he got it from his own show.
While the panel was discussing Britain First on its November 30th broadcast, President of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass asserted in an off-hand comment that: “This is a group that assassinated an MP, a member of parliament.”
Nobody corrected Haass, so it is possible that Scarborough took the claim at face value.
Regardless, if Scarborough and his liberal friends want to continue complaining about the President being a terrible, no-good liar, perhaps they should refrain from spreading easily identifiable fake news?