For the second time in a week, Sweden once again finds itself in a trans-Atlantic wave of puzzlement, after a prominent Fox News programme featured a “Swedish defense and national security advisor”, in relation to US President Donald Trump’s #LastNightInSweden gaffe, who no one had ever heard of.
Fox News host and controversial peddler of alternative facts, Bill O’Reilly, interviewed “Swedish Defense and National Security Adviser” Nils Bildt on Thursday, in an effort to back up the claims made about Sweden’s immigration in a Fox segment that is thought to have inspired Trump’s #lastnightinSweden comments.
Bildt dutifully echoed the claims made by Trump, claiming Swedish authorities were failing to socially integrate refugees, leading to a problem with “socially deviant activity” and “hotspots of crime”.
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He linked immigration to social problems in Sweden, lamented what he described as Swedish liberal close-mindedness about the downsides of welcoming newcomers and said: “We are unable in Sweden to socially integrate these people,” arguing that politicians lacked a systematic plan to do so.
In an awkward turn of events, both the Swedish defence and foreign ministry have denied having any knowledge of who Bildt is.
Bildt is a founding member of a corporate geopolitical strategy and security consulting business with offices in Washington, Brussels and Tokyo, according its website.
His bio speaks to expertise on defense and national security issues, saying his experience includes serving as a naval officer, working for a Japanese official and writing books on issues ranging from investment and political climates to security issues in working in hostile environments.
But security experts in Sweden said he wasn’t a familiar figure in their ranks in that country.
It has emerged that Bildt, himself an immigrant in the US, was arrested in June 2014 for assault and battery against a law enforcement officer, obstruction of justice and public inebriation after threatening an official. He was charged under the name Tolling, which he later changed to Bildt.
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Sweden’s government also said he holds no official position with them. On TV, the billionaire claimed the Scandinavian country recently experienced a terror attack, a claim which later turned out to be false.
Donald Trump later tweeted to say his statement was based on a news report on Fox News, who continued the debate around the Scandinavian country by hosting Mr Bildt.
The Swede described his homeland negatively, backing up Mr Trump’s own portrayal of the country.
But Marie Pisäter, of the Swedish Defense Ministry, said no one by the name Nils Bildt was employed by them.
“We have no spokesman by that name,” she said.
And the Foreign Office was similarly stumped, with a spokesman telling the newspaper Dagens Nyhether (DN): “We do not know who he is.”
It emerged Bildt -- who spoke about crime in Sweden -- is in fact a convict himself. Documents from Arlington General District Court in Virginia, show Bildt -- under his former surname -- was sentenced to a year behind bars, of which 11 months were suspended, in November 2014. He was also fined $111 (£89), which is recorded as paid.
Bildt, who is said to have emigrated to the US in 1994, denied all knowledge of the convictions to DN.