WASHINGTON • The White House defended United States President Donald Trump's tweets attacking TV host Mika Brzezinski, despite criticism from Republican lawmakers that the personal jibes about a woman's looks were unworthy of the presidency.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders rejected the idea that the President should be held to a higher standard of conduct. "They knew what they were getting when they voted for Donald Trump and he won overwhelmingly," Ms Sanders said at the White House daily briefing.
On Twitter on Thursday, Mr Trump called Ms Brzezinski "crazy" and said she had been "bleeding badly from a face-lift" when he refused to see her in December last year. Ms Brzezinski hosts the MSNBC show Morning Joe with Mr Joe Scarborough, and while she criticised Mr Trump's behaviour as chief executive on the programme on Thursday, it was not clear what triggered his reaction.
Ms Sanders said Mr Trump has been "attacked mercilessly" on the programme and that "he's not going to sit back and be attacked by the liberal media, Hollywood elites".
Republican lawmakers began to distance themselves from the statement almost as soon as Mr Trump posted it. "Mr President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said in a tweet.
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said: "What we're trying to do around here is improve the tone, the civility of the debate, and this obviously doesn't help do that."
Republican former Florida governor Jeb Bush said in a tweet that Mr Trump's statement was "Inappropriate. Undignified. Unpresidential".
Mr Scarborough and Ms Brzezinski once had a friendly relationship with Mr Trump, with the real estate mogul frequently calling in to their television show during the presidential campaign.
But he has since been angered by their public criticism of his conduct in office. "I heard poorly rated @Morning-Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore)," he said on Twitter. "Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!"
Ms Brzezinski - the daughter of the late Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to former president Jimmy Carter - herself appeared uncowed. Shortly after Mr Trump's tweet, she posted a photo on her Twitter feed of an advertisement for the breakfast cereal Cheerios showing the slogan "Made for Little Hands". The photo appeared to be a reference to a long-running insult that has been lobbed against Mr Trump for supposedly having small hands.
BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE