President Donald Trump drew heated backlash on Monday after he retweeted an image doctored to show House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wearing Muslim garb in front of the Iranian flag.
The outrage only intensified when White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham delivered a stunning defense of the president’s Islamophobic retweet later that day in which she accused Democrats of “almost taking the side of terrorists.”
The tweet, sent Monday morning by Twitter user @D0wn_Under before Trump shared it with his nearly 71 million followers hours later, featured the manipulated image along with the caption: “The corrupted Dems trying their best to come to the Ayatollah’s rescue.”
Pelosi, Schumer and other Democrats, as well as some Republicans, have criticized Trump for authorizing the Jan. 3 drone assassination of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani without first consulting Congress or having specific evidence to show the Iranians planned an imminent attack against Americans.
The retweet faced immediate scrutiny on Twitter, including from Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, who bashed Trump for elevating “such repulsive anti-Muslim bigotry.”
“When #hate & division are on the rise, this is the opposite of what we need from the President,” Greenblatt wrote. “An apology is in order ASAP.”
Asked about the tweet and subsequent fallout during an appearance on Fox News, Grisham doubled down on Trump’s dangerous claims.
“I think the president is making clear that the Democrats have been parroting Iranian talking points and almost taking the side of terrorists and those who were out to kill the Americans,” Grisham told host Harris Faulkner.
She continued: “I think the president was making the point that the Democrats seem to hate him so much that they’re willing to be on the side of countries and leadership of countries who want to kill Americans.”
Faulkner, failing to push back on Grisham’s suggestion that Democrats are terrorist sympathizers, responded that Trump’s recent tweet in Farsi in support of Iranian protesters was reportedly the “leading Persian tweet in Twitter’s history.”
“So followed by this retweet, you can understand why people are concerned,” she told Grisham, who went on to praise Trump’s leadership on Iran policy.
“If anything, it’s the Democrats who should be on the side of this president and rejoicing that a terrorist was killed,” she said.
Grisham, already facing criticism this week for her claim that reporters who want regular press briefings are simply looking for “a moment” rather than information, echoed comments made by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) last week.
Collins, during an interview with Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, had accused Democrats critical of Trump’s military action in Iran of being “in love with terrorists.”
He apologized for his remarks on Twitter later following backlash.
It was not immediately clear who @D0wn_Under is and whether the user has any connection to Trump or the White House. The account has not been verified by Twitter and the user’s profile picture appears to be a headshot of Italian professional motorcycle racer Valentino Rossi.
Neither Grisham nor Twitter user @D0wn_Under immediately responded to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Grisham’s abhorrent defense of Trump’s retweet follows her eyebrow-raising response to a letter written by several former White House officials urging the Trump administration to hold regular press briefings. Grisham shrugged off the letter as “groupthink” and said reporters who want more press briefings are seeking “a moment” rather than information.