In Depth

How Donald Trump’s feud with Sadiq Khan began

US president attacks London mayor over spate of fatal attacks in the capital

Donald Trump has branded London Mayor Sadiq Khan a “national disgrace” after five violent attacks were launched in the British capital in less than 24 hours over the weekend.

Three people were injured and three died, bringing the total number of homicides in London to 56 this year.

Retweeting a post by right-wing commentator Katie Hopkins on Sunday, the US president said Labour’s Khan “is a disaster - will only get worse!” and claimed he was “destroying the City of London [sic]”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was “absolutely awful” that Trump was using the tragedies to attack the mayor, while others noted that the per capita murder rate is twice as high in Trump’s home city of New York.

The BBC points out that “Trump’s tweets follow a long-running feud with Khan”.

So how did it begin?

“Trump’s hostility to Khan dates from 2015 when they were both fighting election campaigns and Khan criticised Trump’s presidential campaign pledge to ban Muslims from the US as ‘outrageous’,” says The Guardian.

In May 2016, Khan, himself a Muslim, described Trump’s views as “ignorant” and Trump retaliated by challenging him to an IQ test.

The spat continued the following year in the wake of the London Bridge attack. Khan appeared on television the morning after the vehicle-ramming and stabbing by radical Islamist terrorists that left eight people dead, saying: “We will never let them win, nor cower in fear. Londoners will see an increased police presence today and over the course of the next few days. There’s no reason to be alarmed.”

Trump, who had by then become US president, berated his comments in a tweet: 

Khan’s spokesperson told the press that the mayor had “more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet that deliberately takes out of context his remarks”.

The president branded this a “pathetic excuse”, prompting Khan to call on the British government to cancel a proposed state visit by Trump, which had been due to take place that year.

“I don’t think we should roll out the red carpet to the president of the USA in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for,” he said on Channel 4 News.

The visit was postponed until 2018 and scaled back from a full state visit, which only took place a few weeks ago.

For both visits in 2018 and 2019, Khan’s office “gave permission for anti-Trump protesters to fly a protest blimp of Trump as a crying baby in a nappy”, notes the Guardian.

Moments before Air Force One landed in England for Trump’s state visit earlier this month, Trump was reigniting the feud once again, calling the mayor a “stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London”. He said he reminded him of the Democrat Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio, “who has also done a terrible job – only half his height”.

A spokesman for Khan said the “childish insults should be beneath the president of the United States”.

But Vox says “it’s very much in the mayor’s political interest to keep this feud alive”.

It explains: “For a politician like Khan, who has built his political identity around a deep opposition to discrimination and the need for resilience in the face of terrorism, this long-running feud only makes him look better.”

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