WASHINGTON • Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump once again provoked a tit-for-tat row by saying former United States President George W. Bush must share some of the blame for the Sept 11, 2001, attacks.
Mr Trump, who has made no secret of his dislike for the Bush family and has frequently baited rival candidate Jeb Bush, brother of Mr George W. Bush, made the comment in a television interview last Friday.
"When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Centre came down during his time," he told Bloomberg Television.
When interviewer Stephanie Ruhle told Mr Trump, "Hold on, you can't blame George Bush for that," he refused to back down.
"He was President, okay? Blame him, or don't blame him, but he was President.
"The World Trade Centre came down during his reign," he said, referring to the twin towers that were brought down by Islamist militants in hijacked planes.
Mr George W. Bush generally receives high marks from Americans for his response to the Sept 11 attacks and for preventing another attack on American soil during his eight years in the White House.
Mr Jeb Bush reacted swiftly to Mr Trump's charge. "How pathetic for @realdonaldtrump to criticise the president for 9/11. We were attacked & my brother kept us safe," he tweeted.
Mr Trump's outburst was similar to his comment this July that Republican Senator John McCain was not a hero because he had been captured during the Vietnam War.
Mr McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, was piloting a fighter jet on a bombing mission over Hanoi when it was shot down, and he spent 51/2 years in a prisoner-of-war camp.
Mr Trump's tendency towards such rhetoric has not hurt his ratings so far, with polls of Republican voters showing that he leads the 15-candidate field.