During a rally Wednesday night in Sunrise, Florida, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump claimed President Obama is “the founder of ISIS.”
“ISIS is honoring president Obama,” he said. “He is the founder of ISIS. He founded ISIS. And, I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton.”
Trump didn’t attempt to construct an argument in defense of his claim during the rally, but during a phone interview on CNBC Thursday morning, he cited Obama’s decision to draw down the number of U.S. troops in Iraq.
“He was the founder of ISIS, absolutely,” Trump said. “The way he removed our troops.”
Trump went on to falsely claim he opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq from the beginning — he actually told Howard Stern in 2002 he supported the invasion — but implied that if it were up to him, he would have kept more troops in the country.
Trump, asked if calling Pres. Obama the "founder of ISIS" is appropriate: "He is the founder of ISIS, absolutely." pic.twitter.com/VrtkDhvIgz
— CNBC (@CNBC) August 11, 2016
In reality, a troop draw-down started in 2008 under President George W. Bush. As Politifact details, an agreement in place when Obama took office called for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops by the end of 2011 — a period of time during which Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State. For a number of reasons, the Obama administration and Iraqi leaders were unable to reach a new agreement allowing U.S. troops to stay in Iraq past 2011, though some troops are presently in Iraq and Syria fighting ISIS. (The Pentagon won’t disclose specific numbers.)
Making that somewhat sophisticated argument is one thing — baldly alleging the president founded a terrorist group out to kill Americans is another. Yet as Salon’s Simon Malloy points out, Trump is far from the first prominent Republican in recent memory to claim Obama sympathizes with terrorists.
oh that Trump and his crazy rhetoric… where does he get this stuff?!? pic.twitter.com/AD9kXlPCn3
— Simon Maloy (@SimonMaloy) August 11, 2016
During the Sunrise rally, Trump referred to Obama as “Barack Hussein Obama” — a dog whistle meant to suggest the president is a secret Muslim. Indeed, a recent NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll indicates Republicans are susceptible to outlandish theories of that sort. Asked whether they agree with the statement that “Barack Obama was born in the United States,” 72 percent of registered Republicans responded either that they “disagree” or “neither agree nor disagree.”