Obama 'dismayed' by vulgar rhetoric, violence on campaign trail
President Barack Obama said Tuesday that he is "more than a little dismayed" about the language and violence that have been seen on the 2016 campaign trial.
"We have heard vulgar and divisive rhetoric aimed at women and minorities and Americans who don't look like us or pray like us or vote like we do," Obama said at a St. Patrick's Day luncheon on Capitol Hill.
Republican front-runner Donald Trump has faced increasing criticism from Democrats and some Republicans for comments encouraging violence against protesters.
At an event in North Carolina last week, a Trump supporter allegedly punched a protester who was being led out of the venue by police. Trump cancelled a rally in Chicago Friday, claiming it was too dangerous to proceed.
Obama also criticized those who are attempting to disrupt campaign events and prevent candidates from speaking.
"However offensive it may be, we live in a country where free speech is one of the most important rights that we hold," Obama said of "misguided" efforts to silence the rhetoric.
Obama said some deserve more blame than others for the divisive political climate but all leaders have a responsibility to stop it.
Trump has repeatedly denied that he bears any responsibility for the violence at his events, claiming that protesters are sent by his opponents to cause trouble.
Candidates in both parties have demanded that Trump take action to reduce violence, and House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday called for all candidates "to do what they can do to try and provide an atmosphere of harmony."
Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) described Obama's plea for civility "hypocritical beyond my ability to articulate" in an interview with Sinclair Broadcast Group.
According to Franks, Obama's "horrendous leadership" has contributed to the divisive atmosphere and has left voters so angry that they have turned to Trump seeking change.
"I reject Mr. Obama as any sort of person that has any credibility to speak to the divisiveness and the lack of civility in this country because he's been the father of it," Franks said.