On Saturday, Donald Trump held a rally in Florida where, among other things, he seemed to allude to a non-existent terror attack in Sweden. Trump subsequently admitted that he was referring to a Fox News report, and according to The Guardian, the White House claimed that Trump had actually been referring to "rising crime" in Sweden. People all over Sweden had no idea what Trump was talking about, leading former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt to respond to Trump in a few choice tweets.
“You look at what’s happening in Germany," Trump said at his rally in the context of his larger argument of how he was planning to keep the United States safe. "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,” the president told the crowd.
But no attack had happened "last night in Sweden." Many Swedes took to Twitter to call out the "last night in Sweden" comment, but some arguably carried more weight than other. Bildt, a diplomat who served as the prime minister of Sweden from 1991 to 1994, took a few moments to educate the president. Sharing a Huffington Post article on Twitter, Bildt wrote on Sunday, "Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound."
Bildt didn't stop there. When he realized how many people had shared his tweet, he tweeted statistics about Sweden's actual crime rates, and appeared to advise Trump to stop making up information. Trump, meanwhile, continued to attack Sweden in his tweets, arguing that large scale immigration in Sweden was creating problems.
To top it all off, Bildt shared an article from theWashington Post doing what Trump told people to do during his rally: "look at what's happening ... in Sweden."
As the article demonstrated, Bildt has not been the only person disproving Trump's claims with data and evidence. Felipe Estrada Dörner, a criminology professor at Stockholm University, told the Washington Post that Sweden's average crime rate has actually fallen in recent years.
Dörner and other Swedish crime experts also agreed that an increase in refugee and immigrant populations has not led to an increase in crime. Moreover, according to theWashington Post, Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter concluded that refugees were responsible for only one percent of crime incidents between October 2015 and January 2016. The article did note that "researchers caution, however, that segregation and long-term unemployment of refugees could have a negative effect on crime rates in Sweden in the future."
At a time when people like Kellyanne Conway think "alternative facts" are valid, Bildt illustrated the importance of routine fact-checking by backing up his responses with concrete evidence and analysis.