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Despite the warnings of some of his top staffers, President Donald Trump railed against “radical Islamic terrorism” during his first address to the United Nations on Tuesday.
In a wide-ranging speech, Trump singled out what he viewed as foreign policy threats, saying he may “have no choice than to totally destroy North Korea” and calling the Iran nuclear deal an “embarrassment” for the US.
But in describing the US determination to “crush the loser terrorists,” Trump went out of his way to drop the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” a description of extremism that has been a source of controversy throughout his campaign and the early months of his presidency.
“We will stop radical Islamic terrorism because we cannot allow it to tear up our nation and indeed to tear up the entire world,” Trump said.
Democratic leaders and some foreign policy experts have repeatedly contended that associating terrorism with Islam legitimizes extremists’ attempts to create a divide between Islam and Western countries.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump frequently riled up his base by arguing that former President Barack Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton were weak for refusing to use the phrase.
National security adviser H.R. McMaster has reportedly advised Trump against using the phrase, calling it “counterproductive.” But after Trump used it in Tuesday’s speech and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted out the line, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway tweeted, “There it is.”
Right-wing outlets criticized Trump earlier this year when he refused to mention “radical Islamic terrorism” during a speech about the September 11 terrorist attacks.