ORLANDO, Fla. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Republican Donald Trump is now saying that his description of President Barack Obama as a founder of the Islamic State group was sarcasm.
In a tweet Friday criticizing CNN's coverage, he said the network reported his claim "so seriously.'' Trump tweeted: "THEY DON'T GET SARCASM?''
At a rally Friday, Trump added, "Obviously I'm being sarcastic – then, then, but not that sarcastic to be honest with you."
At an earlier rally Wednesday in Sunrise, Florida, Trump said that Obama "is the founder of ISIS,'' using the most commonly-used acronym for the group.
"In fact, in many respects, you know they honor President Obama," Trump said. "ISIS is honoring President Obama. He is the founder of ISIS. He is the founder of ISIS, OK? He's the founder! He founded ISIS! And I would say the co-founder would be 'Crooked Hillary Clinton.'"
Trump's comments were seen as accusing Obama of creating conditions that allowed IS to thrive. But when asked about that Thursday on Hugh Hewitt's radio show, Trump seemed to go further.
"No, I meant he's the founder of ISIS," Trump replied.
Hewitt responded, "But he's not sympathetic to them. He hates them. He's trying to kill them."
"He was the founder," he insisted. "His -- the way he got out of Iraq, that was the founding of ISIS, OK?"
Trump also repeated the claim in a phone interview with CNBC.
"He was the founder of ISIS, absolutely," Trump said.
And in a speech to home builders in Miami on Thursday, Trump said Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton said would be given "the most valuable player award" by ISIS.
"Her only competition is Barack Obama," he said. He later added of Clinton, "Oh boy, is ISIS hoping for her."
Obama did not establish the Islamic State group. The White House declined to comment on Trump's accusation.
On Twitter Thursday, Clinton said the president "is not the founder of ISIS" and called Trump's remarks "a smear against President Obama."
Clinton's campaign also accused Trump of "trash-talking" the U.S. while failing to present any serious counter-terrorism plans of his own.
In another tweet Friday, said "ISIS gained tremendous strength during Hillary Clinton's term as secretary of state. When will the dishonest media report the facts!"
Meanwhile, Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, also dismissed the reaction to Trump's comments as a media-driven "controversy over semantics.''
Pence is nonetheless defending Trump's comments. He said the pair undid hard fought gains in Iraq by withdrawing troops and creating a "vacuum'' for the group to flourish.
The Indiana governor spoke Thursday during a town hall in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus campaigned with Trump on Friday, perhaps downplaying reports that he may shift money from the presidential race to congressional ones.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) seemed fed up.
"So here's what I decided when I got out of bed this morning -- I'm going to have a Trump-free day," McConnell said.
Sources say Republican party officials will meet with representatives of Trump's campaign Friday in Orlando, CBS2 reported.
Some describe it as an emergency meeting to discuss the state of his campaign.
The Trump campaign this week also closed offices in New Jersey – a sign that they have given up on the state. The campaign had opened a site in Edison back in May.
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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