On Wednesday, Donald Trump falsely claimed that President Barack Obama "is the founder of ISIS," along with Hillary Clinton. Then he repeated it over and over and over again.
"ISIS is honoring President Obama," Trump said at a Florida rally Wednesday. "He is the founder of ISIS. He is the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder. He founded ISIS, and I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton."
As is his style, Trump is standing by his statements even though they can be easily debunked, repeating the claim on The Hugh Hewitt Show:
HUGH HEWITT: I’ve got two more questions. Last night, you said the President was the founder of ISIS. I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace.
DONALD TRUMP: No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.
"The group that would become ISIS was founded in Jordan in 1999, and became devoted to holding territory in Iraq after the US invasion in 2003," my colleague Zack Beauchamp writes. "You can debate which of these constitutes ISIS’s ‘founding’ in some metaphysical sense. But by any definition, the group was founded well before President Obama came into office. Trump is just flatly wrong on this."
And even Trump’s more nuanced claim that Obama’s policies led to the creation of ISIS isn’t quite right. Here’s what Trump told Hewitt: "The way [Obama] got out of Iraq was that that was the founding of ISIS, okay? ... I mean, with his bad policies, that’s why ISIS came about. ... If he would have done things properly, you wouldn’t have had ISIS. ... Therefore, he was the founder of ISIS."
Trump is doing something here that he’s done in other contexts: He’s echoing what he has heard in conservative circles. For many conservatives, Obama and Clinton’s decision to exit Iraq helped lead to the rise of ISIS. Trump tried to take that claim a step further by saying Obama is an outright founder — which goes way past what anyone else has said. But both claims are wrong, as we’ve explained in detail.
Other conservatives have tried to blame ISIS on Obama — Trump is just taking it further
For lots of conservatives, it’s a widely held notion that ISIS’s rise is the direct result of the "vacuum of power" created after Obama pulled troops out of Iraq. Here’s National Review’s Mario Loyola making that case last month:
By withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq, helping assure Assad’s victory in Syria, and failing to back Israel forcefully enough, Obama has empowered all the terrorist networks in the Middle East simultaneously.
Trump has latched onto this argument, pinning ISIS’s rise on Obama and Clinton’s Middle Eastern policies throughout his campaign:
- At a rally in Mississippi in January, he said: "They've created ISIS. Hillary Clinton created ISIS with Obama."
- He said Clinton "invented ISIS with her stupid policies" on 60 Minutes in July: "She is responsible for ISIS. She led Barack Obama, because I don't think he knew anything; I think he relied on her," Trump said in his first joint interview with running mate Mike Pence.
- At the Republican National Convention, Trump said, "Pre-Hillary, ISIS was not even on the map."
- He said it last week on the campaign trail:
3; Trump JUST LAST WEDNESDAY in Daytona Beach: "It was Hillary Clinton...as the founder of ISIS." pic.twitter.com/iNT3wK19vQ— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) August 11, 2016
- And he said it again two days ago in North Carolina:
4. 2 days ago, in Fayetteville, N.C.: "the winner of the trophy for ISIS would probably have to be Hillary Clinton." pic.twitter.com/P21QUblHMS— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) August 11, 2016
Trump went even further this week by calling Obama a "founder" of ISIS, but this is essentially an argument he’s been making for some time.
Whatever version he uses, however, the claim is wrong. Beauchamp explained the actual history of ISIS:
The real sources of ISIS’s recent growth were the Syrian civil war and political sectarianism in Iraq, neither of which were within the power of United States to prevent...
US troops probably would not have stopped ISIS’s rise, and, even if they could have, there would have been very little Obama could have done to make sure they stayed in Iraq. Trump is simply wrong.