Donald Trump sparked no small number of raised eyebrows – along with a flurry of sarcastic comments – when he suggested something ominous had happened “last night in Sweden”.
After Mr Trump made the remarks at a rally in Florida, everyone from Sweden’s former prime minister, weighed in to point out that nothing had averse had happened. “What has he been smoking?” pondered Carl Bildt.
“We’ve got to keep our country safe,” Mr Trump had told his supporters.
“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.”
Some smart observers suggested Mr Trump may, not for the first time, been referring to something he had watched on Fox News. Business Times pointed to a segment on anchor Tucker Carlson’s show on Friday night, which included a clip from a new film by Ami Horowitz claiming to document alleged violence committed by refugees in Sweden.
On Sunday evening, perhaps aware of the confusion and mockery sparked by his comments, Mr Trump indeed confirmed that Fox News had been the inspiration for his comments.
“My statement as to what’s happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on Fox News concerning immigrants & Sweden,” he said.
News of Mr Horowitz’s documentary made headlines last year when he told conservative outlets such as Breitbart News, that there were Muslim “no-go zones” in Europe.
“Over the last two years, they’ve taken in over 350,000 Syrian refugees,” he said. “The reason why I went there was to investigate why Sweden has become the rape capital of Europe. Rape was not unknown, but relatively minor. There were few incidents of rape, let’s say about ten years ago. And rape has absolutely skyrocketed in Europe.”
The New York Times said that Swedish officials had said that their statistics did not justify the kind of assertions made by Mr Horowitz, and that the country had a high number of sexual assault reports, relative to other European countries, because more victims come forward, not because there was more violence.
Henrik Selin, political scientist and deputy director of the Swedish Institute, a state agency dedicated to promoting Sweden globally, told the newspaper he had completed a study focusing on negative news reports about Sweden’s intake of refugees.
He said there were many exaggerations and distortions, including reports falsely claiming that Sharia law was predominant in parts of the country.
“Some of the stories were very popular to spread in social media by people who have the same kind of agenda – countries should not receive so many refugees,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sweden’s Aftonbladet newspaper said the film was full of errors.
“At the end of the film, Mr Horowitz says that ‘it was not long ago that the first Islamist terrorist attack occurred in the country’.”
It added: “He likely means Taimour Abdulwahab’s suicide bombing in central Stockholm. It occurred on 11 December 2010. Thus, for over six years ago.
“But it is not the only remarkable error in the interview with Horowitz. The conversation is full of sweeping claims, exaggerations – and clear errors.”