Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump accused US President Barack Obama of founding the Islamic State terror group, leveling the charge during a campaign rally in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
The comments, seemingly tantamount to accusing Obama of being a terrorist leader, came as a firestorm refused to die down over remarks Trump made Tuesday suggesting that gun rights advocates could take care of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Trump in recent days has also accused Clinton rhetorically of being the founder of IS, referring to national security policies in the Middle East that he says enabled the extremist group’s rise.
But on Wednesday, Trump leveled the accusation directly at Obama for the first time.
“ISIS is honoring President Obama,” he said, using an alternate acronym for the terror group. “He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder. He founded ISIS.”
“I would say the co-founder would be Crooked Hillary Clinton,” he added.
He said missteps by Obama and Clinton in handling conflicts in the Middle East had allowed IS to rise up.
“Instead of allowing some small forces behind to maybe, just maybe, keep it under control, we pulled it out,” he said. “Then Obama came in, and normally you want to clean up and he made a bigger mess. We’re not respected. We’re laughed at all over the world.”
The White House declined to comment on Trump’s accusation.
The Islamic State group began as Iraq’s local affiliate of al-Qaeda, the group that attacked the US on 9/11. The group carried out massive attacks against Iraq’s Shiite Muslim majority, fueling tensions with al-Qaeda’s central leadership. The local group’s then-leader, Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in 2006 in a US airstrike but is still seen as the Islamic State group’s founder.
Trump’s accusation — and his use of the president’s middle name, Hussein — echoed of previous instances where he’s questioned Obama’s loyalties.
In June, when a shooter who claimed allegiance to IS killed 49 people in an Orlando, Florida nightclub, Trump seemed to suggest Obama was sympathetic to the group when he said Obama “doesn’t get it or, or he gets it better than anybody understands.” In the past, Trump has also falsely suggested Obama is a Muslim or was born in Kenya, where Obama’s father was from.
The president, a Christian, was born in Hawaii.
Trump lobbed the allegation midway through his rally at a sports arena, where riled-up supporters shouted obscenities about Clinton and joined in unison to shout “lock her up.” He railed against the fact that the Orlando shooter’s father, Seddique Mateen, was spotted in the crowd behind Clinton during a Monday rally in Florida, adding, “Of course he likes Hillary Clinton.”
Sitting behind Trump at his rally on Wednesday was former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., who resigned in 2006 after allegations he sent sexually suggestive messages to former House pages.
The GOP contender has been embroiled over the last day in controversy following comments he made during a rally Tuesday in which he indicated that gun owners could do something to stop Clinton, seen by critics as advocating violence against her.
“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” Trump, 70, said Tuesday. “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”
Clinton slammed the gun remarks as “the latest in a long line of casual comments by Donald Trump that crossed the line.”
“Words matter, my friends. And if you are running to be president, or you are president of the United States, words can have tremendous consequences,” she said Wednesday.
Trump has suffered what critics insist is a long string of missteps that have marred his campaign since he officially won the nomination last month, prompting several Republicans to reject his candidacy.
He has clearly roiled the party with his unorthodox remarks, with some Republicans frustrated at his apparent inability to stay on message.
A Reuters/IPSOS poll Wednesday found that 19 percent of Republican voters want the real estate tycoon to drop out of the race, while 70 percent think he should stay and 10 percent say they don’t know.
The RealClearPolitics national poll average shows Clinton leading Trump by 48 percent to 40 percent.
Fifty prominent Republican national security experts announced in an open letter this week they would not vote for Trump, saying he “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president.