Sunday 11 December 2016

Obama IS comments just sarcasm, insists Trump

Published 12/08/2016 | 09:31

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Kissimmee, Florida (AP)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Kissimmee, Florida (AP)

Donald Trump has insisted his description of Barack Obama as the founder of Islamic State was simply sarcasm.

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At a rally, the under-fire Republican presidential candidate said Mr Obama was "the founder of Isis", repeating the claim in two subsequent interviews.

But in a Twitter message on Friday criticising CNN's coverage, he said the network had reported his claim "so seriously". Trump tweeted: "THEY DON'T GET SARCASM?"

His initial comments were seen as accusing Mr Obama of creating conditions that allowed IS to thrive but, asked about that on Thursday, he seemed to go further, telling conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt: "No, I meant that he's the founder of Isis, I do."

Meanwhile, Mr Trump has acknowledged that his presidential campaign faces challenges and could ultimately fall short.

It was a rare show of humility as the boastful billionaire strayed from his signature bravado in the battleground state of Florida.

He told a gathering of evangelical ministers he is "having a tremendous problem in Utah".

The same day, the reality show star acknowledged that his lack of political correctness could cost him the election if Americans reject his blunt approach.

"We're having a problem," Mr Trump told the ministers, adding that the next president could get to nominate up to five high court justices. "It could cost us the Supreme Court."

After trouncing 16 challengers in the Republican primary, Mr Trump is encountering worrying signs as his campaign moves into the general election.

Democrat Hillary Clinton's lead over him in national polls has widened in recent days, while a growing number of fellow Republicans have declared they will not support their own party's nominee.

Mr Trump's exercise in self-awareness is a marked departure from his usual tenor on the campaign trail, where for months at rallies he would tick through poll numbers showing him winning.

"We're going to win so big," he told a roaring crowd at the Republican National Convention a month ago.

Yet on Thursday, he was reduced to citing a poll that showed him a few points behind Ms Clinton and arguing that the race was close.

Asked how he planned to reverse her advantage, Mr Trump said he would do "the same thing I'm doing right now".

"At the end, it's either going to work, or I'm going to, you know, I'm going to have a very, very nice, long vacation," he told CNBC.

Even while working to restore confidence in his campaign, Mr Trump appeared to court fresh controversy when he said late on Thursday that he was open to trying Americans suspected of terrorism at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba.

Asked specifically about US citizens, he said he did not like that President Obama and others wanted to try them in traditional courts rather than military commissions at Guantanamo Bay.

"I would say they could be tried there," Mr Trump said. "That'll be fine."

In Utah, typically a reliably Republican state, Mr Trump's challenges have been particularly striking. The state's large Mormon population has voiced serious scepticism about him, though the state's Republican governor has endorsed him.

"We've really been given a false narrative," Mr Trump said of his struggles in Utah.

Yet in other traditionally Republican states, like Arizona and Georgia, party officials are concerned that Mr Trump's unpopularity could give Democrats an improbable victory.

Those concerns are compelling enough that dozens of worried Republicans gathered signatures on Thursday for a letter urging the party chairman to stop helping Mr Trump and focus on protecting vulnerable House and Senate candidates.

Mr Trump said he was not worried that Republicans would cut him off - and threatened to stop fundraising for the party if they do.

AP

Press Association

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