Donald Trump has shared a doctored image that shows Democrat leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi in Muslim dress in front of the Iranian flag, an illustration that has appeared on a 4chan message board and was circulated on Twitter by extremist right-wing accounts.
The president shared the image by retweeting a post from user @D0wn_Under, who wrote: "The corrupted Dems trying their best to come to the Ayatollah's rescue. #NancyPelosiFakeNews"
— داون آندر (@D0wn_Under)January 13, 2020
The image — which reads "Democrats 2020" under the altered portraits of the house speaker and senate minority leader, who have led the charge to impeach the president from their respective legislative branches — was posted to the president's timeline amid two dozen posts and retweets attacking Democratic criticism of the administration's attacks on Iran.
Last week, the House passed a resolution that aimed to curb the president's war-making powers as the White House threatened additional sanctions against Iran, following its attacks on US bases in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.
The president and White House officials announced sanctions to cut off "billions" to the country, including eight of its senior officials, in an attempt to "deny the regime the resources to conduct its destructive foreign policy", according to Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state.
His announcement followed unclear messaging from the administration over the allegedly "imminent" threat that General Soleimani posed to the US; Mr Pompeo said the US had "specific information" that included attacks on US embassies, though Democrat and Republican members of Congress were outraged with what they saw as a lack of clear intelligence and explanation they received in briefings a week after General Soleimani's death.
Millions of Iranians filled the streets of Tehran following his death. After Iran's admission that it shot down a Ukrainian passenger plan, killing all 167 people on board, protesters in Iran also have raged against the country's government.
On Sunday, Ms Pelosi appeared on ABC's This Week, where she explained to host George Stephanopoulos there are "different reasons" why protesters are demonstrating In Iran.
Republicans appeared to intentionally misrepresent the house speaker's statement and launched another round of attacks against her by claiming had "dismissed" the "protests in Iran against Iran's regime".
The account that shared the doctored image also shared dozens of anti-Iranian messages alongside pro-Trump posts.
Mr Trump — who accelerated the "birther" conspiracy against former president Barack Obama, and was accused of stoking anti-Muslim sentiment — posted messages on Twitter in Farsi to warn Iran's government against killing protesters, and to call on human rights groups to monitor the protests.
On Monday, he claimed on Twitter that "fake news" and its "Democrat partners" are attempting to undermine whether the threat posed by General Soleimani was "imminent".
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham defended the president's retweet of the doctored image and said Democrats are "taking the side of terrorists and those who were out to kill Americans", appearing to conflate the Iranian flag and Islam with terrorism while willfully misinterpreting Ms Pelosi's statements.
She told Fox News: "I think the president was making the point that the Democrats seem to hate him so much that they're willing to be on the side of countries and the leadership of countries who want to kill Americans".