Plenty of people around the world were puzzled by President Trump’s reference during a Saturday rally in Florida to an incident in Sweden that happened Friday — including the Swedish government.
The Swedish Embassy in Washington reached out early Sunday to the State Department to find out what Trump meant, since neither the Swedish Foreign Ministry nor the Scandinavian country's national police were aware of a terror-related attack, the Dagens Nyheter newspaper reported.
It now appears that Trump's comments about Sweden were inspired by a Fox News segment on random violence in that country allegedly committed by refugees, not by anything that actually happened on Friday.
The president on Saturday was "referring to a report he had seen the previous night," White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said, and "he was talking about rising crime and recent incidents in general, and not referring to a specific incident."
Late Sunday afternoon, the president tweeted, "My statement as to what's happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.
My statement as to what's happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2017
On Saturday in Melbourne, Fla., Trump's comments at a campaign-style rally seemed to indicate that something terrible had taken place the night before in Sweden. "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 are having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what's happening Brussels, you look at what's happening all over the world."
Although both Germany and Belgium have had terror attacks in the past year, Catarina Axelsson, a spokesperson for the Swedish Foreign Ministry, said Sunday that the government wasn’t aware of any recent terror-related incidents.
Erik Wirkensjö, press secretary for Deputy Prime Minister Margot Wallstrom, told Dagens Nyheter that he did not know what Trump could be referencing. And nothing had happened Friday to cause Sweden’s Security Police to upgrade its terror levels, spokesman Karl Melin said.
In fact, the last terror-linked attack on Swedish record was a December 2010 suicide bombing in Stockholm, the Associated Press reported Sunday. In that attack, an Iraqi-born Swede who identified with al-Qaeda detonated two devices, killing only himself.
There was indeed a recent attack in Sweden, on Jan. 5, but it targeted immigrants and was largely under-reported, according to The Independent newspaper. Three suspected neo-Nazis were later arrested for the homemade bomb attack on the Gothenburg Asylum Centre that seriously injured one person, the newspaper said. The Independent reported Sunday that the suspects were members of the racist Nordic Resistance Movement, which opposes non-white immigration to Sweden.
Twitter was aflame over the weekend with hundreds of baffled and derisive tweets, (#swedenincident and #lastnightinSweden ), dozens of IKEA and Abba jokes, finger-pointing at The Muppet Show's Swedish chef and passing references to Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway’s now-debunked Bowling Green massacre.
Several things did happen Friday in Sweden, according to The Aftonbladet tabloid: A man sustained severe burns after he inexplicably set himself on fire, another person died at a hospital after a workplace accident, there was an avalanche warning, and police chased a drunken driver through Stockholm. None was tied to terrorism.
Contributing: David Jackson