White House officials have attributed a verbal slip by President Donald Trump during his address in Saudi Arabia to exhaustion caused by his travel schedule. The president had used both the terms Islamic and Islamist to describe religious extremism in the Middle East, a verbal mistake that ran the risk of offending the region.
On May 21, Trump delivered a speech during his first diplomatic trip as Commander-in-Chief in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In his remarks, Trump called on Arab leaders to purge their countries of religious extremists, offering a more conciliatory tone to the Muslim world than he'd had on the campaign trail.
"This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations," Trump said, according to NBC News. "This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it."
In Trump's prepared remarks, he was set to describe religious extremism in the Muslim world as Islamist terrorism; however, the word "Islamist" refers to political movements within the Muslim world, whereas "Islamic" refers to the entire religion. Trump used both terms interchangeably, CNN reports.
"There is still much work to be done," the president said. "That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds."
The rhetorical error could have potentially derailed Trump's overall message. The president had repeatedly used the phrase "Islamic terrorism" during the 2016 presidential race, but was attempting to offer a more moderate tone during his speech in Riyadh.
White House officials asserted that Trump had not meant to use the word Islamic and attributed the slip to physical weariness from a lack of sleep. The president had reportedly spent much of his flight from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia editing his speech.
"Just an exhausted guy," a senior White House official told reporters.
After Trump delivered his speech, he skipped a scheduled youth forum in Riyadh, again citing exhaustion. His daughter, Ivanka Trump, took his place for the event, the Independent reports.
Critics of the president blasted his reported exhaustion after only two days into his first diplomatic trip, citing how he had accused former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for lacking stamina during the 2016 presidential race.
In September 2016, Trump asserted during a presidential debate that he was better suited for the presidency because he had more energy than Clinton.
"She doesn't have have the stamina... To be president of this country, you need tremendous stamina," Trump said.
"[Hillary Clinton] traveled 956,733 miles as Secretary of State," wrote one Twitter user in response to Trump's reported exhaustion. "She spent a total of 401 days traveling and visited 112 countries. #STAMINA."