Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made his most provocative accusation yet on Wednesday, accusing President Barack Obama of helping found the Islamic State group that is wreaking havoc from the Middle East to European cities.
“In many respects, you know, they honor President Obama,” Trump said Wednesday during a raucous campaign rally outside Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “He is the founder of ISIS.”
He repeated the allegation three more times for emphasis.
The Republican presidential nominee in the past has accused his opponent, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, of founding the militant group. As he shifted the blame to Obama on Wednesday, he said “crooked Hillary Clinton” was actually the group’s co-founder.
In many ways, he’s right.
Trump has long blamed Obama and his former secretary of state – Clinton – for pursuing half-cocked foreign policies that created a power vacuum in Iraq that was exploited by ISIS. He’s sharply criticized Obama for announcing he would pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, a decision that many Obama critics say created the kind of instability in which extremist groups like ISIS thrive.
The Islamic State group began as Iraq’s local affiliate of al-Qaida, the group that attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. The group carried out massive attacks against Iraq’s Shiite Muslim majority, fueling tensions with al-Qaida’s central leadership. The local group’s then-leader, Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in 2006 in a U.S. 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 previous instances where he’s questioned Obama’s loyalties.
In June, when a shooter who claimed allegiance to ISIS 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 he gets it better than anybody understands.”
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.”