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Opinion Trump retweeted Pelosi in Muslim garb. The White House made it worse.

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After President Trump retweeted a doctored image of Democratic leaders dressed in Islamic garb, the White House offered a curious justification: Trump retweeted that image to send the message that Democrats are on the side of terrorists.

This was apparently intended as a defense.

Which would appear to mean the White House’s official message is now that depictions of Democrats in Muslim garb denote Democratic support for terrorists.

This blog will not reproduce the disgusting tweet that Trump retweeted. It shows House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) in an image photoshopped to depict them wearing Islamic head coverings. They are standing in front of the Iranian flag. The message in the tweet accuses Democrats of “trying their best to come to the Ayatollah’s rescue.”

In response to the ensuing blowback, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham defended Trump’s actions on Fox News. Watch:

“I think the president is making clear that the Democrats have been parroting Iranian talking points and almost taking the side of terrorists and those who were out to kill the Americans,” Grisham said.

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It’s important to note that this came right after Grisham was asked a question about an Islamic tweeter’s lament that Trump’s tweet discriminated against Muslims. The Fox anchor read aloud from a tweet asking why Trump was wielding the “dress” and “religious beliefs” of millions of Muslim Americans as a “slur.”

Grisham’s response was to openly say that Trump was doing this for the express purpose of illustrating Democrats’ sympathy with terrorists.

It’s true that the tweet in question also included the Iranian flag and a direct reference to the ayatollah. But part of the criticism here is over the use of general imagery of Islamic head coverings to symbolize alleged Democratic support for terrorists.

Over the past two weeks, the Trump administration has floated no fewer than four different explanations for the strike on Iranian Major Gen. Qasem Soleimani. (Video: The Washington Post)

In response, nowhere in the interview did Grisham send a broader message to Muslims that Trump didn’t intend to equate Muslim garb with terrorism. If anything, she actively reinforced that equating of the two. And her message sounded pre-scripted to do just this.

By the way, the larger message that Trump is trying to send here is utter, steaming nonsense. The Republican Party is broadly attacking Pelosi right now over her Sunday interview on ABC News, in which she was asked about Iranian protests in the wake of the news that an Iranian missile brought down a commercial airliner.

Pelosi’s response was convoluted, but she condemned the Iranian government for allowing commercial flights at the time and said she would “love to see the aspirations of the people of Iran realized,” while quite properly worrying aloud about “escalating” the situation. Republicans have absurdly turned this into siding with the Iranian regime against protesters.

There was a time when Republican lawmakers felt obliged to condemn such naked expressions of anti-Muslim bigotry as the one we just saw in Trump’s amplification of that despicable tweet. Remember back in 2015, when Paul D. Ryan — then the House Speaker — gave a widely praised speech condemning candidate Trump’s proposed Muslim ban? Ryan stood up for all the Muslims serving in our armed forces and said the “vast, vast, vast, vast majority” of Muslims are “peaceful” and that many are our “allies” against radical terrorism.

Let’s see how many such condemnations we hear now. We’ll probably hear as many as we did when Trump tweeted out a video that wrenched Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) comments out of context to portray her as trivializing 9/11, or when Trump retweeted the lie that Omar partied on the anniversary of the attacks.

Read more:

Greg Sargent: Trump’s unhinged rally rant underscores case for reining him in

The Post’s View: The House’s resolution should be just the start of Congress reasserting its war powers

Brian Klaas: Trump’s off-the-cuff foreign policy benefits an enemy and undercuts an ally

Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent: New Iran revelations suggest Trump’s deceptions were deeper than we thought

Alexandra Petri: Millions of Americans devastated to learn they were ardent fans of Soleimani this whole time