In a tweet on February 19, President Donald Trump has sought to explain why he referred to a security incident in Sweden on February 17 which did not actually happen.
Addressing a rally on February 18, President Trump had said, “look at what’s happening last night in Sweden”, as he listed parts of Europe hit by terrorist attacks.
With no such incident reported in Sweden on February 17, Sweden asked the US administration for an explanation.
President Trump tweeted on February 19 that he had been referring to a TV report.
Donald Trump said it had been broadcast on Fox News but did not say when. He may have been referring to a Fox News program on that night, which looked at refugees and crime in Sweden.
Despite his words “happening last night in Sweden”, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said separately that President Trump had been talking about rising crime and recent incidents in general, not referring to a specific issue.
Former Swedish PM Carl Bildt was among those who mocked Donald Trump’s comment, suggesting that he had “been smoking”.
Social media users ridiculed President Trump, joking about imaginary situations involving Swedish institutions like Abba and IKEA.
The mocking hashtag #lastnightinSweden was soon trending on Twitter.
Many made reference to the “Bowling Green massacre”, a a non-existent attack that was cited by one of Donald Trump’s key advisers, Kellyanne Conway, earlier this month.
On February 19, Donald Trump tweeted: “My statement as to what’s happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.”
The Fox News report looked at gun violence and rape in Sweden since it opened its doors to large numbers of asylum-seekers in 2013.
Fox News is known to be among Donald Trump’s favorite cable TV channels.
He said at a big rally in Florida: “You look at what’s happening in Germany, you 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. You look at what’s happening in Brussels, you look at what’s happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice, take a look at Paris.”
No terrorist incidents were reported in Sweden on February 17.
Sweden, with a population of about 9.5 million people, has taken in nearly 200,000 refugees and migrants in recent years – more per capita than any other European country.
It saw a sharp increase in asylum seekers in 2015, with more than 160,000 people arriving. With the influx, tensions also rose with some isolated attacks on immigrants, as well as pro- and anti-migrant demonstrations.
The killing of a 22-year-old woman in January 2016 by an asylum seeker based at the center where she worked put further pressure on the government to reassess its approach to refugees.
There was a drop in numbers in 2016 after the country introduced new border checks incurring longer processing times, as well as financial incentives for migrants who voluntarily returned to their country of origin.
No terrorist attacks have been recorded in Sweden since the country’s open-door policy on migration began in 2013.
However, Sweden is believed to have the highest number of ISIS fighters per capita in Europe. About 140 of the 300 who went to Syria and Iraq have since returned, leaving the authorities to grapple with how best to reintegrate them into society.