Hopefully Sweden’s New Deputy Prime Minister Won’t Call 9/11 an ‘Accident’ on Live TV
Sweden's cabinet reshuffle came after a series of incredibly awkward missteps.
It’s always awkward when members of a government are publicly forced to resign.
But it’s especially awkward when two top ministers have to resign, one after another, because one of them called the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States an “accident” — and the other is accused of having extremist links himself.
That’s what just happened in Sweden, where Prime Minister Stefan Lofven named replacements Wednesday for Asa Romson and Mehmet Kaplan, who both left their posts in the past month.
It all started when photos emerged of Kaplan, who served as minister of housing, dining with ultranationalist Turks, including one who had previously urged other Turks to kill Armenians. Kaplan was born in Turkey but moved to Sweden when he was eight.
The photos sparked a deluge of skepticism toward Kaplan, who then faced criticism for his ties to some Islamic organizations believed to be linked to extremists in Turkey. Local media also released footage of him comparing Israeli treatment of Palestinians to Nazi treatment of Jews, comments that Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom called “terrible.”
Kaplan turned in his resignation, which stated that he opposes “all forms of extremism, whether nationalistic, religious or in any other form” on April 18, and Lofven accepted it.
The next morning, Romson, Kaplan’s former colleague in the Green Party, appeared on a breakfast news program on Swedish television and defended Kaplan’s role in protecting the Swedish Muslim community “in tough situations like the September 11th accidents.” Viewers did not overlook her use of the word “accidents” to describe a series of orchestrated al Qaeda terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in the United States in 2001.
She later walked back her remarks, which came just after Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump mistakenly called the attacks “7-11” — a convenience store chain. But it was, like in Kaplan’s case, just the latest in a series of missteps that ultimately prompted Romson’s resignation. Last year, she called the European migrant crisis the “new Auschwitz” — a comment that critics said trivialized the treatment of Jews at the Nazi concentration camp.
Mehmet’s resignation was particularly inconvenient because it comes amid a housing crisis in the country. Sweden will need to build more than 700,000 new homes in the next nine years to deal with an influx in the country’s population, which grew in part by the arrival of hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers in the past few years. Peter Eriksson, a member of the European Parliament, was named to replace him Monday. Isabella Lovin, minister for international development cooperation, will replace Romson as deputy prime minister.
Photo credit: JESSICA GOW/AFP/Getty Images