Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Jeb Bush talk during a commercial break at the first official GOP debate in Cleveland, Ohio, August 6, 2015. (Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters)
Republican rivals Jeb Bush and Donald Trump called each other “pathetic” on Friday after Trump noted during an interview with Bloomberg TV that the September 11, 2001, terror attacks happened on President George W. Bush’s watch.
“When you talk about George Bush – I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time,” Trump told anchor Stephanie Ruhle when asked how he would “make us feel safe” if elected president.
"Hold on, you can’t blame George Bush for that,” Ruhle said.
But Trump stuck to his guns: “He was president, OK? Blame him or don’t blame him, but he was president. The World Trade Center came down during his reign.”
Jeb Bush, who has borne the brunt of Trump’s bullying during the Republican debates thus far, defended his older brother on Twitter.
How pathetic for @realdonaldtrump to criticize the president for 9/11. We were attacked & my brother kept us safe.— Jeb Bush (@JebBush)October 16, 2015
It wasn’t the first time Trump has shunned what has become a something of an unspoken consensus among Republicans to either support or steer clear of the elder Bush brother’s presidential record. During an interview with Fox News earlier this month, Trump called George Bush’s presidency a “disaster,” and on CNN this week, he said the U.S. made a “terrible mistake” invading Afghanistan in 2001, agreeing with President Obama’s recently reported decision to keep a portion of U.S. forces in the country.
Trump’s 9/11 comments sparked further backlash from within the GOP. On Fox Radio Friday, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) called Trump “totally wrong” and said his suggestion that George Bush might have been at least partially responsible for the attacks “sounds like a Michael Moore talking point.”
Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary under George Bush, said on CNN that Trump is “starting to sound like a truther,” referring to proponents of the conspiracy theory that the U.S. government was involved in the 9/11 attacks. “Does Donald Trump also think since Pearl Harbor happened on FDR’s watch that FDR is responsible?” Fleischer asked.
Meanwhile fellow Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said he wasn’t aware of what Trump had said, but he denounced it anyway.
“I would be surprised if he blamed him for it,” Carson said during an appearance near D.C. Friday. “That wouldn’t make much sense, would it? I think it’s ridiculous to suggest that he’s responsible for it.”
CNN reported that Trump, also in Washington, refused to answer several reporters’ questions about his 9/11 comments after a rally at a local high school Friday. Later that evening, however, Trump doubled down on his remarks, firing back at Jeb Bush on Twitter.
.@JebBush, At the debate you said your brother kept us safe- I wanted to be nice & did not mention the WTC came down during his watch, 9/11.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)October 17, 2015
No @JebBush, you’re pathetic for saying nothing happened during your brother’s term when the World Trade Center was attacked and came down.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)October 17, 2015
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)October 17, 2015