Members of Donald Trump’s Republican Party have criticised their leader for calling Democrats who refused to applaud his State of the Union address, “treasonous”.
The US President told a crowd in Blue Ash, Ohio, that his rivals gave off “bad energy” by failing to clap, even after his comments on the good performance of the US economy.
Democrats “would rather see Trump do badly than our country do well”, he said, calling the reception “un-American”, he told the crowd.
“Somebody said, ‘Treasonous.’ I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? I mean they certainly didn’t seem to love our country that much.”
He added the response was “very, very sad”.
Treason is a capital offence and punishable by death in the US and Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican who frequently criticises Mr Trump and his policies, was unimpressed by his leader’s comments.
“Treason is not a punchline, Mr President. Applause is approval of an idea, not loyalty to one’s country,” he said.
Mr Flake, who accused Mr Trump of the “regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms,” when he announced his retirement last year, added: “Our Democratic colleagues love this country as much as we do. To suggest otherwise is simply unconscionable.”
Republican Congressman, Mark Meadows also took issue with the his leader’s comments.
Although his known to be closely allied with his party’s leader, he told CNN: “Certainly saying that someone’s un-American because of their unwillingness to clap is not something that most Americans would agree with.”
Democrats also criticised Mt Trump’s use of the word.
“We don’t live in a dictatorship or a monarchy,” Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth, who lost both her legs in the Iraq War in 2004, said.
“I swore an oath – in the military and in the Senate – to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to mindlessly cater to the whims of Cadet Bone Spurs and clap when he demands I clap.”
Mr Trump received five deferments from service in the Vietnam War: four for academic reasons and one for bone spurs – calcium formations – in his heels.
She later said: “’To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Mr Trump was “obviously joking” during the speech at the Ohio plant.
“The president was obviously joking. But what’s serious is the Democrats seem to put their personal hatred for this president above their desire to see America succeed,” he said in a statement.
Reuters contributed to this report