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Donald Trump: I was being sarcastic about Obama and Isis

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What makes Trump's new excuse so absurd - and so unnerving - is what it says about how he'd fare as president.

While Hewitt and his fellow conservative pundits on TV are "partisans, not journalists", he said, "does that allow them to lead presidential candidates?"

And while Trump backtracked Friday, insisting he was being sarcastic.

He repeated the line again during a phone interview on CNBC Thursday morning.

That it took Trump two days to walk back his widely debunked remark - and then walk back the walk-back - was worrying for Republicans who see such missteps as playing to Democrat Hillary Clinton's advantage.

"In fact, in many respects, you know they honor President Obama", Trump told the crowd about the terrorist organization.

Trump was scheduled to hold rallies in Erie and Altoona, Pennsylvania, on Friday. Retired Gen. Michael Flynn had warmed up audience members by calling Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton the "enemy camp".

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"THEY DON'T GET SARCASM?" he wrote.

Trump has blamed Obama's decision to pull USA forces from Iraq in 2011 for destabilizing the Middle East and creating a situation in which Islamic State militants could thrive. "Everyone's liking it. I think they're liking it".

Hillary Clinton's campaign says the Democratic nominee and her husband paid a federal tax rate of 34.2 percent and donated 9.8 percent of their income to charity a year ago. "I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton".

Trump has the spontaneity: His shoot-from-the-hip bluntness is one reason he's so popular with voters. With Bernie Sanders out of the presidential race, Hillary Clinton has moved to consolidate her support in his broad base of young voters.

As recently as Thursday, however, Trump's sarcasm was not exactly readily apparent.

Trump has blamed the US news media for taking many of his comments out of context, and on Thursday night, some of his supporters heckled and cursed reporters who covered the rally in a large arena in Kissimmee. This isn't liberal bias against Trump - he created this mess. He told a gathering of evangelical ministers Thursday he's "having a tremendous problem in Utah". The same day, the reality show star acknowledged that his lack of political correctness could cost him the election if Americans reject his blunt approach.

Trump's exercise in self-awareness was a marked departure from his usual tenor on the campaign trail, where for months at rallies he would tick through poll numbers showing him winning as if they were sports scores of his favorite team.

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