World

Sweden responds to Trump's comments with confusion, criticism

After President Trump seemed to suggest a terrorist attack had taken place in Sweden, many Swedes have criticized the president and highlighted the importance of clear, factual information. 

While speaking at his 'Make America Great Again' rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Fla., Saturday, President Trump referred to a non-existent incident 'last night in Sweden.'
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
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Swedes were surprised to hear President Trump suggest on Saturday that a major terror attack had just taken place in their country.

"We've got to keep our country safe. You look at what's happening in Germany, you look at what's happening last night in Sweden," Mr. Trump said, speaking about his travel ban and what he sees as poor refugee policies in Europe, at a campaign-style rally in Florida. "Sweden, who would believe this?"

Not Swedes, who knew that no terror-related incidents or violent crimes involving refugees or immigrants took place in their country Friday night.

After many took to social media to question what incident the president was referring to, and to make several jokes about fake incidents, the president explained the remarks Sunday afternoon on Twitter.

“My statement as to what's happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden,” he wrote.

That evening’s segment had included an interview with a conservative documentary filmmaker who has focused on violent crime.

Prior to the explanation, many believed that Trump might be referring to a fictional or falsely reported attack, as his counselor Kellyanne Conway did when she spoke of the non-existent "Bowling Green massacre."

The confusing remarks could also put him at odds with foreign leaders.

Former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted in response, "Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound."

While Sweden has not experienced any major attacks in recent years, it has become a major destination for refugees and immigrants, particularly children traveling alone. In 2015, the country received 35,369 asylum applications from unaccompanied minors, more than half of such applications across the continent.

That influx of immigrants and refugees has brought change to the mostly homogenous culture, raising complex issues for the nation. Women wearing hijabs and headscarves have been targeted in attacks, and Sweden has grappled with ways to respond to such cultural clashes.

But Swedes were quick to show the world that they wouldn’t let false or ambiguous statements slide. Many posted questions about the comments, while others made jokes that quickly became widely circulated with the hashtag #lastnightinSweden.

And some, such as a librarian who was running the a national Twitter account @Sweden, focused on the facts. Each week, a different citizen is given the opportunity to operate the account.

Much like librarians across the US, she felt compelled to provide accurate, reliable information during the time of uncertainty.

"I was just myself and told the truth," she told BBC Radio 4's Today on Monday. "I am a school librarian as a profession, so I just went out and checked all the main newspapers in Sweden and radio channels, and I just concluded it was not true."