A Divisive Voice Once Again Has Trump’s Ear

WASHINGTON — As President Trump doubles down on a re-election approach of stoking fear of immigrants, he is once again elevating a voice of validation — and many say racism — that he discovered during his last presidential campaign.

That voice is Katie Hopkins, a far-right British commentator who has made denunciations of migrants and Muslims — and defenses of Mr. Trump — a staple of her public discourse. British headlines have routinely labeled Ms. Hopkins a “racist” and a “bigot” for her views about immigrants.

On Saturday morning, Mr. Trump invoked Ms. Hopkins shortly before a mass shooting that killed 22 in El Paso, where the suspect wrote an anti-immigrant manifesto that echoed Mr. Trump’s inflammatory language about migrants.

The president, at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., shared a tweet from Ms. Hopkins condemning London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, over the city’s crime rate. Mr. Trump has feuded with Mr. Khan since 2016, when Mr. Khan criticized his remarks about Islam.

“The nipple-height Mayor of Londonistan has NEVER been so unpopular,” Ms. Hopkins tweeted. “He has MINUS approval ratings because we are stab-city. London deserves better. Get Khan Out.”

The president also retweeted a post by Ms. Hopkins that blamed the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, for crimes committed by immigrants.

On Monday, facing public pressure to address the racism behind the El Paso shooting, Mr. Trump spoke critically of white supremacism, in remarks drafted primarily by an adviser, Stephen Miller. But it is often Mr. Trump’s Twitter feed that carries his authentic voice.

Mr. Trump has a history of promoting inflammatory far-right voices, including white nationalists, conspiracy theorists and critics of Islam. Still, the president’s embrace of Ms. Hopkins, amid a flurry of other news stories, has received little attention, something that has concerned some advocates of immigration reform.

“There is no debate on what sort of person Katie Hopkins is,” said Todd Schulte, the president of the group FWD.us. “The president should have stopped using his platform to spread her ideology long ago. He has not; that tells people all they need to know.”

Ms. Hopkins, a former Sun and Daily Mail columnist who appeared on the British version of “The Apprentice,” has become well known in Britain for her provocative views.

In a 2017 tweet after a suicide bombing killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, Ms. Hopkins wrote that “we need a final solution” to the terrorism problem. She later deleted it.

Sowing fear of Muslims — and calling out other politicians for not using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” — was a bedrock of Mr. Trump’s run to the presidency in 2016. In an interview that March, he told the CNN anchor Anderson Cooper that “Islam hates us.” The previous year, he would not rule out a mandatory registry of Muslims in the United States in an interview with Yahoo News and, after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., called for a ban on Muslims entering the country.

Ms. Hopkins’s tweets and commentary were first a source of affirmation for Mr. Trump in campaign.

“Thank you to respected columnist Katie Hopkins,” Mr. Trump tweeted in 2015, “for her powerful writing on the U.K.’s Muslim problems.” In another tweet, he said, “The politicians of the U.K. should watch Katie Hopkins,” adding, “Many people in the U.K. agree with me!”

Mr. Trump has praised Twitter as a way to speak directly with his supporters, and in turn the platform has become a way for some of his most controversial supporters to reach him directly.

But Mr. Trump had stayed away from Ms. Hopkins’s Twitter feed since he became president. This summer, though, she caught Mr. Trump’s eye again as he attacked Mr. Khan during his state visit to Britain.

And last month, Mr. Trump retweeted Ms. Hopkins’s post suggesting that “send her back” — a chant by Trump supporters directed at one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress — could be a new campaign slogan. “Send her back is the new lock her up,” she wrote.

Managing Mr. Trump’s Twitter habits is sometimes a group effort, done in conjunction with his longtime adviser, Dan Scavino. But on weekends, while alone, Mr. Trump tends to scroll through the replies to his tweets, and will often pick up what he has seen there, a former administration official said.

He is particularly receptive to tweets that reinforce his own views, the official said, as well as posts by people who have blue checks next to their names, designating them as verified by Twitter.

A White House spokesman did not answer a question about how Mr. Trump had found Ms. Hopkins’s tweets.

In an interview, Ms. Hopkins said she had never spoken with Mr. Trump, but she declined to answer whether any of his advisers had ever reached out to her. Still, she described Mr. Trump as a kindred spirit who was being treated unfairly for speaking out about immigration.

“I think it’s not a surprise that Trump would retweet my tweets,” Ms. Hopkins said, adding that she saw Britain and the United States as similar in terms of urban elites speaking with louder voices than others.

“I guess that’s why President Trump and I have ended up with a similar message,” she said. She praised Mr. Trump’s efforts to impose a travel ban on a half-dozen mostly Muslim countries early in his term.

“I think the travel ban was at least a way of saying we need to take back control,” she said.

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