Before arriving in London on Monday, President Donald Trump fired off a tweet mocking the city’s Mayor Sadiq Khan as a “stone cold loser” who reminded him “very much of our very dumb and incompetent Mayor of NYC,” kicking off what was meant to be a polite visit by once again inserting himself into British politics in a violation of diplomatic norms.
It was only the latest incident for Trump, who over the weekend appeared to be on a British newsmaking tear. On Friday, he endorsed the conservative former London Mayor Boris Johnson to succeed Prime Minister Theresa May, who is stepping down Friday. And on Sunday, Trump denied (“Made up by the Fake News Media,” he tweeted) ever calling Meghan Markle “nasty,” even though the British tabloid the Sun released an audio recording of the president saying, “I didn’t know she was nasty” in response to criticism from the Duchess of Sussex. (Markle called Trump “misogynistic” and “divisive” during the 2016 campaign, before she married Prince Harry.) In recent interviews with British newspapers, Trump also criticized May and her approach to Brexit and suggested Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage should lead the country’s negotiations with the E.U.
Trump’s attack on Khan came in response to the London mayor’s opinion piece in the Observer on Sunday. In it, Khan protested Trump’s state visit and compared him to other right-wing leaders across the world, insisting Trump used the language of the “fascists of the 20th century.” Khan called it “un-British to be rolling out the red carpet” for “a president whose divisive behaviour flies in the face of the ideals America was founded upon—equality, liberty and religious freedom.”
The president responded with a tweet early Monday that included a dig at Khan’s height:
.@SadiqKhan, who by all accounts has done a terrible job as Mayor of London, has been foolishly “nasty” to the visiting President of the United States, by far the most important ally of the United Kingdom. He is a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me… Kahn reminds me very much of our very dumb and incompetent Mayor of NYC, de Blasio, who has also done a terrible job - only half his height. In any event, I look forward to being a great friend to the United Kingdom, and am looking very much forward to my visit. Landing now!
Trump’s trip was designed as an unremarkable and polite one—his itinerary includes “lunch with Queen Elizabeth, tea with heir Prince Charles, a banquet at Buckingham Palace and a tour of Westminster Abbey”—but he is expected to be met by thousands of protesters in London, led by groups with names like Stand Up to Trump and Together Against Trump.
Khan has been a semifrequent critic of Trump, beginning when Trump, as a candidate, proposed a ban on all Muslims entering the U.S. Once Khan, a Muslim and the son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver, won the election, Trump said Khan’s election was a “good thing” and suggested the new London mayor would be exempted from the proposed travel ban. Khan then called Trump’s views on Muslims “ignorant,” and Trump responded by promising he would “remember” the mayor’s “very nasty statements” and challenged Khan to an IQ test.
A year later, another tweet by Trump confirmed Khan as one of the president’s permanent targets when Trump misrepresented a statement Khan made to Londoners after terror attacks in the city. Khan had told the public not to be alarmed by increased police presence. “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’ ” Trump tweeted. Khan brushed off the attack, but two days later, he called on the U.K. government to cancel Trump’s upcoming state visit to the country, citing his “policies [that] go against everything we stand for.”