LONDON — Swedes reacted with confusion, anger, and ridicule Sunday to a vague remark by President Trump that suggested that something terrible had occurred in their country.
During a campaign-style rally Saturday in Florida, Trump issued a sharp if discursive attack on refugee policies in Europe, ticking off a list of places that have been hit by terrorists.
“You look at what’s happening,” he told his supporters. “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. Sweden, who would believe this?”
But nothing particularly nefarious happened in Sweden on Friday — or Saturday, for that matter — and Swedes were left baffled.
“Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound,” Carl Bildt, a former prime minister and foreign minister, wrote on Twitter.
The Swedish embassy in Washington has asked the State Department to clarify Trump’s remarks.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted that his statement was in reference to a story broadcast on Fox News concerning immigrants and Sweden. He may have been referring to a report that said Sweden had accepted more than 160,000 asylum-seekers last year but only 500 had found jobs.
Trump did not state, per se, that a terrorist attack had occurred in Sweden.
But the context of his remarks — he mentioned Sweden right after he chastised Germany, a destination for refugees and asylum seekers fleeing war and deprivation — suggested that he thought it might have.
“Sweden,” he said. “They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening in Brussels. You look at what’s happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice. Take a look at Paris.’’
“We’ve allowed thousands and thousands of people into our country, and there was no way to vet those people,’’ he added. “There was no documentation. There was no nothing. So we’re going to keep our country safe.”
Contrary to Trump’s allegations, nearly all the men involved in terrorist assaults in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, in Brussels on March 22 last year, and in Nice, France, on July 14, were citizens of France or Belgium.
As the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet noted, Twitter users were quick to ridicule Trump’s remark, with joking references to the Swedish Chef, the “Muppets” character; Swedish meatballs; and Ikea, the furniture company.
In a Fox News interview by Tucker Carlson, filmmaker Ami Horowitz asserted that migrants in Sweden have been associated with a crime wave.
“They often times try to cover up some of these crimes,” he said, arguing that those who try to tell the truth about the situation are shouted down as racists and xenophobes. “Sweden had its first terrorist Islamic attack not that long ago, so they’re now getting a taste of what we’ve been seeing across Europe already,” he said.
It was not clear what Horowitz was referring to. In 2010, a suicide bomber struck central Stockholm, injuring two people. The bomber, Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, 28, was an Iraqi-born Swede who had developed an affinity for Al Qaeda. But that attack occurred long before the current wave of migrants fleeing war and deprivation.