Donald Trump on Wednesday night appeared to blame President Barack Obama for the global terror threat, erroneously accusing him of creating ISIS and saying the group “honors” him.
“In many respects, you know, they honor President Obama,” Trump said at a rally in Florida. “He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder. He founded ISIS.”
Trump continued: “I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton.”
The Republican presidential nominee’s latest incendiary remark came amid a firestorm of criticism for comments he made Tuesday in which he suggested “Second Amendment people” could stop Hillary Clinton from nominating judges.
At that event in North Carolina, Trump said Clinton should get an MVP trophy from the terror group.
“If they gave a trophy for most valuable player, the winner of the trophy for ISIS would probably have to be Hillary Clinton,” he said.
During the Republican primary season, Trump repeatedly criticized the Obama administration’s anti-terror strategy. He appeared to suggest that the president was sympathetic to terrorists after an ISIS-inspired gunman massacred 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June.
Trump doubled down Thursday morning on his claim that the president is an ally to terrorists. In an interview with supporter and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, he was asked to clarify those remarks.
“Last night you said that the president was the founder of ISIS,” Hewitt said. “I know what you meant, you meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace.”
“No, I meant that he’s the founder of ISIS,” Trump said.
In a similar interview with CNBC on Thursday morning, Trump said Obama was “absolutely” the founder of ISIS.
“The way he removed our troops,” Trump said, apparently referencing the Obama administration’s decision to withdraw U.S. military personnel from Iraq by 2011. “I, you — we shouldn’t have gone in. I was against the war in Iraq.”
The White House did not respond Thursday to Trump’s latest controversy.
In a statement, a spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s campaign dismissed Trump’s claim is “another example” of the GOP nominee “trash-talking the United States.”
“It goes without saying that this is a false claim from a presidential candidate with an aversion to the truth and an unprecedented lack of knowledge,” Hillary for America senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan said. “What’s remarkable about Trump’s comments is that once again, he’s echoing the talking points of Putin and our adversaries to attack American leaders and American interests, while failing to offer any serious plans to confront terrorism or make this country more secure.”
But critics of Trump continued to question his strategy of speaking in a brash language that undermines his message.
Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and NSA, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday that Trump could have made a valid point for connecting Obama and ISIS.
“The actions of the Obama administration in withdrawing from Iraq … actually set the conditions for the recovery of al Qaeda in Iraq, which then became ISIS,” Hayden said. “So there’s a very powerful case to be made.”
But Hayden, who co-signed an open letter this week with other foreign policy and security experts saying they won’t back the real estate mogul, said Trump’s comments were far too inflammatory.
“He inflames the debate, and we don’t need the flame, we need cold, rational discussion,” Hayden said, adding, “He insults his audience. … Does he not think that his audience could not accept the slightly more complex, the slight more reasoned message that this president made serious mistakes that led to the creation of ISIS?”