Donald Trump tries to walk back claim Obama founded ISIS
WASHINGTON – Donald Trump on Friday attempted to walk back the widely criticized false claim he repeatedly made over the last two days that President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were “co-founders” of ISIS — saying he was being sarcastic.
Trump tweeted Friday morning that the media was missing his sarcasm.
“Ratings challenged @CNN reports so seriously that I call President Obama (and Clinton) “the founder” of ISIS, & MVP. THEY DON’T GET SARCASM?” Trump wrote.
The tweet was the first move by Trump to moderate his comments, which he had repeated multiple times since he featured them in a speech Wednesday night and which came under fire from the Clinton campaign and many Democrats. Media outlets also pointed out in their coverage that Trump’s claim was false.
The candidate will give a speech Monday focusing on defeating “radical Islamic terrorism,” according to a Trump campaign official.
Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “New Day” on Friday that his boss would have to speak for himself on the issue of Obama and ISIS, but decried the media for over-analyzing Trump’s words.
“Only Mr. Trump can answer and will answer for his tweet and statement,” Cohen said. “The mainstream media wants to pick on every single word. Again, I think Mr. Trump will answer this question better than anybody else, and I think it should be left for him to answer.”
Cuomo stressed that Trump has open invitation to appear on CNN and explain.
Rep. Seth Moulton, a Clinton endorser and Democrat from Massachusetts as well as an Iraq War veteran, said the incident was evidence that Trump is “reckless and unfit to be our commander in chief.”
“Donald Trump has shown that he lies every single day and then the next day he just tries to claim it was sarcasm,” Moulton told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on “New Day” on Friday. “What happens when he presses the nuclear button and then the next day says, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I was just being sarcastic’? It’s ridiculous.”
Trump supporter Newt Gingrich on Friday said that the GOP nominee has failed to understand the importance of being precise.
“One of the things that’s frustrating about his candidacy is the imprecise language,” Gingrich said on “Fox and Friends.” “He sometimes uses three words when he needs 10.”
Gingrich said if Trump had said Obama and Clinton’s policies had created the opening for ISIS, he’d be defensible.
“When you instead compress them into ‘Obama created ISIS,’ I know what Trump has in his mind, but that’s not what people hear,” Gingrich said. “He has got to learn to use language that has been thought through and that is clear to everybody, and to stick to that language.”
The former House speaker also said he believes Trump is relying on old habits that won him a primary, without understanding that the situation changes in the general election.
“It was a style that none of his Republican opponents could cope with,” Gingrich said. “But I don’t think he yet appreciates, when you’re one of the few candidates for president, particularly when you’re the conservative … you’ve got to understand that the news media is going to attack you every chance they get, and it’s your job to not give them a chance.”
For the last two days, Trump had been insisting Obama was a founder of ISIS.
In an interview Trump did with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Thursday morning, in which Hewitt attempted multiple times to get Trump to say he was being metaphorical or hyperbolic, Trump repeatedly refused — and insisted he really meant Obama was a founder of ISIS.
Hewitt prodded Trump, suggesting the GOP nominee meant that Obama “created the vacuum, he lost the peace,” and was not to be taken literally. But Trump objected.
“No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton,” Trump said.
Hewitt tried again, saying: “But he’s not sympathetic to them. He hates them. He’s trying to kill them.”
“I don’t care,” Trump replied. “He was the founder. His, the way he got out of Iraq was that that was the founding of ISIS, okay?”
Trump first made the comments about Obama founding ISIS in a Wednesday speech, referring to president by including his middle name, “Barack Hussein Obama.”
“In fact, in many respects, you know they honor president Obama. ISIS is honoring President Obama. He is the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder of ISIS, OK? He’s the founder. He founded ISIS.”
After his interview with Hewitt, Trump also repeated the comments at campaign events on Thursday.
Clinton responded to Trump’s comments on Thursday by tweeting back, trying to turn the remarks against him.
“No, Barack Obama is not the founder of ISIS,” she wrote. “Anyone willing to sink so low, so often should never be allowed to serve as our Commander-in-Chief.”
By Tal Kopan, CNN
CNN’s Jim Acosta contributed to this report