Sweden reacts to US President's suggestion that something terrible had taken place in the country
Disbelief, anger and humor greet Donald Trump's reference to "what's happening last night in Sweden"
“Has someone stolen our meatballs?”
That was the panic-inducing question that hit Djamel Zeghachov when US President Donald Trump told the world about a terrible incident he says happened on Friday night in Sweden.
“We’ve got to keep our country safe,” Trump said at a rally in Florida on Saturday. “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.”
Residents of the Scandinavian country remain puzzled about exactly what he meant.
“We were like, what’s happened right now? Has somebody stolen our meatballs?” Zeghachov, a driver in Stockholm, told CNN. “People were laughing about it.”
The President clarified his remarks Sunday, posting on Twitter that his statement “was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.”
The tweet confirmed assumptions of many that Trump’s remarks stemmed from Tucker Carlson’s show Friday night, in which the host interviewed Ami Horowitz, a filmmaker who has tried to tie Sweden’s taking in of asylum seekers to increased violent crimes in the country.
Early Monday, Trump commented again, tweeting: “Give the public a break - The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!”
But this is not the first time Trump’s administration has made a misplaced reference to a terrorist attack or incident.
Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway inaccurately referred to a “Bowling Green massacre” that never took place, and White House press secretary Sean Spicer referred to a terrorist attack in Atlanta, later clarifying that he meant to refer to Orlando.
On Sunday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters the President was “talking about rising crime and recent incidents in general and not referring to a specific incident.” She said he did not mean to say “last night.”
In a statement released Monday, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom welcomed Trump’s clarification, but added: “The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Sweden’s embassies work continuously to disseminate an accurate and fair image of Sweden. Unfortunately, we are seeing a general upward trend in inaccurate information.”
Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister, tweeted of his disbelief at US President’s original comment.
“Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking?” Bildt tweeted. “Questions abound.”
Those questions have been finding their way around social media all weekend.
Sweden, which allows citizens to run its national Twitter account, has been inundated with messages and support from abroad.
Max Karlsson, a 22-year-old paralegal, who took over the account Monday, said the entire saga had been like “an episode of Seinfeld.”
“The general feeling about Trump’s statement was a huge collective ‘What did he just say?’ Karlsson told CNN.
“My personal reaction was that I was not looking forward to the aftermath, with meta discussions about Sweden’s state instead of a continued focus on a President which keeps delivering uncertain and untrue statements.
“The reaction to the tweets has been overall supportive, with a lot of American users saying: ‘Hey, it’s not just you, we have no idea what he’s talking about either.’
“Some users have sought to provoke with far-right memes and quotes about me being a ‘snowflake communist,’ but those just end up in the ‘block’ or ‘mute’ pile.”