US Elections 2016

Trump undaunted after Obama rebukes him for incendiary words

US Secret Service agents surrounding Mr Trump after a disturbance during a campaign rally in Vandalia, Ohio, on Saturday.
US Secret Service agents surrounding Mr Trump after a disturbance during a campaign rally in Vandalia, Ohio, on Saturday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

DALLAS • United States President Barack Obama has rebuked Republican front runner Donald Trump for his incendiary language on the campaign trail, but the brash businessman showed no sign of toning down his rhetoric ahead of tomorrow's primary races in five delegate-rich states, including Florida and Ohio.

At a Democratic Party fund-raising event in Dallas, Mr Obama offered a blunt condemnation of the "divisiveness" fomented by Mr Trump on the campaign trail, including his motto "Make America great again", Agence France-Presse agency reported.

"We are great right now," the President said, in remarks that came after skirmishes broke out at a scuttled Trump rally in Chicago.

"What the folk who are running for office should be focused on is how we can make it even better - not insults and schoolyard taunts and manufacturing facts, not divisiveness along the lines of race and faith. Certainly not violence against other Americans," he said.

A Trump campaign event in Chicago was cancelled last Friday when protesters, many of them blacks and Latinos angry over Mr Trump's positions on immigration and Muslims, scuffled with his supporters. Mr Trump blamed supporters of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders for the skirmishes.

In a post on Twitter yesterday morning, he wrote: "Bernie Sanders is lying when he says his disruptors aren't told to go to my events. Be careful Bernie, or my supporters will go to yours!"

The scenes in Chicago followed several weeks of violence at Trump rallies, where protesters and journalists have been punched, tackled and hustled out of venues, raising concerns about security leading into the Nov 8 presidential election.

But Republican candidate Marco Rubio, who needs to win in his home state of Florida to continue his campaign, said on Saturday that "there is no doubt" Mr Obama was as much to blame for the current caustic rhetoric, The Washington Post reported.

Mr Rubio cited a 2011 speech used by the President to criticise a budget proposal by then House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan.

"(Mr Obama) basically said, 'If you agree with Paul Ryan's budget, you don't care about the disabled, you don't care about the elderly, you don't care about the poor,' " said Mr Rubio.

"Time and again he has done that. There is no doubt that he has been a contributor to this."

Mr Trump is streets ahead of his rivals in national polls and his party's delegate count, but he was crushed on Saturday in nominating contests in the US capital of Washington, DC, and Wyoming by Mr Rubio and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, respectively, AFP said.

At a rally at Dayton, Ohio, US Secret Service agents scrambled to protect Mr Trump when a man tried to scramble onto the stage where he was making a speech.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2016, with the headline 'Trump undaunted after Obama rebukes him for incendiary words'. Print Edition | Subscribe