Rob Burgess

As you read this, there are 1,352 days until the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election. Jan. 20, the day President Donald Trump was sworn in, Donald J. Trump for President filed a Federal Elections Commission Form 99.

“While this does not constitute a formal announcement of my candidacy for the 2020 election, because I have reached the legal threshold for filing FEC Form 2, please accept this letter as my Form 2 for the 2020 election in order to ensure compliance with the Federal Election Campaign Act,” Trump wrote.

And so, less than a month after Trump’s inauguration, he held a campaign rally (against whom?) Saturday in Melbourne, Florida, where he addressed thousands of supporters.

“Here’s the bottom line,” he said. “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening. 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. Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.”

It turns out the reason no one thought it was possible was because it didn’t happen. There was nothing “happening last night in Sweden.” The rest of the world demanded clarification.

“My statement as to what’s happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden,” Trump tweeted Sunday.

Sounds familiar. As I wrote in my Feb. 8 column, “Administration’s alternative history,” counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway mentioned a fake “Bowling Green massacre” in no less than three interviews. And, as I wrote in my Feb. 15 column, “More alternative history,” press secretary Sean Spicer (also falsely) repeatedly pointed to Atlanta as a city attacked by Islamist terrorists.

“The president may be referring to a segment aired Friday night on the Fox News Channel show ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ that reported Sweden had accepted more than 160,000 asylum-seekers last year but that only 500 of the migrants had found jobs in Sweden,” reported The Associated Press’ Matti Huuhtanen on Sunday. “Reacting to Trump’s original remarks, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Catarina Axelsson said that the government wasn’t aware of any ‘terror-linked major incidents.’ Sweden’s Security Police said it had no reason to change the terror threat level.”

In a statement Monday, Margot Wallström, Sweden’s foreign minister, continued to be wary.

“It is good that we received clarification yesterday of what President Trump meant when he mentioned Sweden in a speech,” it read. “We maintain continuous diplomatic contacts with U.S. representatives, and in these contacts we keep them informed of the situation in Sweden in various areas. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Sweden’s embassies work continuously to disseminate an accurate and fair image of Sweden. Unfortunately, we are seeing a general upward trend in inaccurate information.”

Even the subjects of the film that formed the basis for the Fox News piece are speaking out.

“Two Swedish police officers interviewed in a news report referenced by Trump about crime and immigration say their quotes were taken out of context. The controversial segment from a film by filmmaker Ami Horowitz,” reported The Local Sweden on Monday. “[The officers] have sharply criticized how they were portrayed and how their quotes were used in the interview. ‘I don’t understand why we are part of the segment. The interview was about something completely different to what Fox News and Horowitz were talking about,’ one of the police officers, Anders Göranzon, told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper on Monday. ... He said neither he nor his colleague Jacob Ekström recognized the image painted of Sweden in the report.”

The question now is: Why does this administration seem insistent on finding terror where it does not exist? And what happens when there is an actual attack? How do we rely on them for accurate information? It looks like we’ll have at least four years of constant campaigning to find out.

Rob Burgess, Tribune city editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577 and via email at



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