Trump backs off ISIS comments; party head appears at rallies in show of unity

AN (E)ERIE SHOW AN (E)ERIE SHOW: Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump greets Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus during a campaign rally at the Erie Insurance Arena in Erie, Pennsylvania | Reuters

Republican Donald Trump on Friday backed away from comments calling President Barack Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton the founders of the militant group Islamic State, while the Republican Party sought to project unity behind their candidate.

A new poll showed Trump, whose unfiltered speaking style has repeatedly landed him in hot water, losing ground in three crucial states ahead of the November 8 general election against Clinton.

In a surprise appearance, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who in private expressed fury over some of Trump's actions earlier this month, introduced the candidate at a campaign event in Erie, Pennsylvania, and the two hugged onstage.

"We’re so honoured to be working with Donald Trump and the campaign," Priebus told thousands of Trump supporters.

"And don’t believe the garbage you read. Let me tell you something. Donald Trump, the Republican Party, all of you, we’re going to put him in the White House and save this country together."

Republican sources earlier this month said Priebus was furious over Trump's failure to endorse House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and his feud with the parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq. Trump did endorse Ryan a few days later.

Trump brought Priebus on stage later at another rally, in Altoona, Pennsylvania, to thank him for the work he has done as he insisted there is great unity in the party.

"I have to say we have great unification," Trump said.

Trump on Friday told the rallies in Altoona and Erie that his remarks earlier this week calling Obama and Clinton the founders of ISIS, as Islamic State is also known, had been sarcastic.

"I have been saying because it's true, but somewhat sarcastically, that he's the founder of ISIS and she's a close second," Trump said in Altoona.

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