Republican presidencial candidate, Donald Trump, has called U.S. President, Barack Obama and Democrat presidencial candidate, Hillary Clinton the "co-founders" of Islamic State (ISIS), ratcheting up his assertion that they are responsible for the rise of the militant group and sparking renewed criticism of his leadership ability.
Trump made the assertion in a speech on Wednesday night in Florida, saying, "I call them co-founders" of Islamic State.
Appearing in Miami Beach, Florida, on Thursday morning, Trump repeated his attack for the third time, saying the U.S. government "has unleashed ISIS."
"In fact, I think we’ll give Hillary Clinton ... most valuable player," Trump said, attacking the Democratic candidate for her time as secretary of state from 2009-2013. "ISIS will hand her the most valuable player award. Her only competition is President Barack Obama."
In an interview on Thursday morning, Trump defended the remarks. "Is there something wrong with saying that?" Trump told CNBC. "Why are people complaining that I said he was the founder of ISIS? All I do is tell the truth, I'm a truth teller."
Trump also struck out at Obama for using a different acronym to describe the militant group. "He calls it ISIL because nobody else does, and he wants to bother people by using a different term, and whether it’s more accurate or not — most people call it ISIS," Trump said.
However, Hilary Clinton's campaign has called the statements a false claim. "This is another example of Donald Trump trash-talking the United States," senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.
"What's remarkable about Trump's comments is that once again, he's echoing the talking points of (Russian President Vladimir) 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," Sullivan said.
Clinton spokesman, Jesse Lehrich, in response to Trump's initial remarks, pointed to U.S. advances against the militant group in Libya this week. "FYI – U.S.-backed militias retook ISIS's stronghold in Libya today thanks to Obama-authorized air strikes," he said in a tweet late on Wednesday.
The Democratic National Committee lambasted Trump's remarks as "outrageous, unhinged and patently false."
"Donald Trump should apologize for his outrageous, unhinged and patently false suggestions on the founding of ISIS," the DNC said in a statement. "This is yet another out of control statement by a candidate who is unraveling before our very eyes."