Taking off his glasses and affecting a somber tone, Stephen Colbert encouraged his viewers to “never fjorget” the people who didn’t die in a Swedish terrorist attack that never happened.
Then a video montage flashed images of the Swedes who were not lost: Swedish Fish, Ikea, the pop group Abba — even the Muppet known as the Swedish Chef.
Colbert went on the air with new material on Presidents’ Day, and the “Late Show” host had some low-hanging fruit to work with.
At a Florida rally on Saturday, President Trump mentioned several countries that had been attacked by terrorists after taking in refugees.
“We’ve got to keep our country safe,” he said. “You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?”
The answer, according to Colbert: “No one would believe that … but maybe someone who skips their intelligence briefings.”
Trump later said his statements were in response to something he’d seen on Fox News.
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
In addition to being simply inaccurate, Saturday’s statements about Sweden were the third time Trump or people in his administration had tried to make a policy point by talking about an attack by foreign terrorists that didn’t, in fact, happen.
“Tragically, Sweden is the third not-a-terrorist attack that has not shocked the world in the last month,” Colbert said. “First, there wasn’t the Bowling Green massacre, then no one was lost in Atlanta. And now, it’s not Sweden’s turn. When will it begin?!”
Earlier this month, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway defended Trump’s travel ban with bogus claims of a Bowling Green massacre.
“Most people don’t know that, because it didn’t get covered,” Conway told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.
But there has never been a terrorist attack in Bowling Green, Ky.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer invoked the Atlanta foreign terrorist attacks in defending the ban. Later, he clarified, saying he meant Orlando.
Colbert was hardly the only one who took a swing at Trump after Saturday’s statement.
Seth Meyers hammered the president on “Late Night.”
And former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt — who has written about Trump’s presidency in a serious, if apocalyptic tone — wondered “What has he been smoking?”
Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound. https://t.co/XWgw8Fz7tj
— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) February 19, 2017
Bildt later offered an enthusiastic endorsement of Colbert’s Trump take.
Sweden has seen recent immigration-related tension, just not the issues Trump spoke of.
Police in Sweden say that Monday night, a riot broke out in a predominantly immigrant suburb after police arrested a suspect on drug charges, according to The Washington Post’s Max Bearak.
During the arrest, people started throwing stones at police, and the situation escalated.
Later, unidentified people set cars on fires and looted shops. In total, police were investigating a case of vandalism and aggravated thefts, three incidents of violent rioting and three assaults, including one against a police officer.