Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump was "clearly joking" Monday when he accused stone-faced Democrats of treason for not standing and applauding during his State of the Union address, according to multiple White House spokespeople.
Trump was 'joking' when he accused Democrats of treason, White House says
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday the President was "clearly joking" when he made the comment.
"He was making the point that even when good things are happening they are still sitting there angry," she said.
Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley added that the remark was "tongue-in-cheek."
"The President was obviously joking," he said. "But what's serious is that the Democrats seem to consistently put their personal hatred for this President over their desire to see America succeed."
The spin on the controversial comments fits a pattern: Trump -- as president or candidate -- says something that causes controversy and the people around him look to calm the brouhaha by claiming Trump was joking and the media needs to get a better sense of humor.
"They were like death and un-American. Un-American. Somebody said, 'Treasonous.' I mean, yeah, I guess, why not," Trump said to laughter during a speech outside Cincinnati, Ohio on Monday.
Describing the Democratic response, where many lawmakers sat and frowned as Trump spoke, the President added: "Can we call that treason? Why not."
Democrats slammed the remark.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who served in the Iraq War, tweeted that she swore an oath to "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."
The comment refers to Trump receiving a draft deferment for bone spurs in his foot during the Vietnam War.
According to his spokespeople, Trump jokes a lot about controversial topics:
After Trump urged Russia to "find the 30,000 emails that are missing" from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's account, his aides and advisers said the candidate was just joking.
"He was joking at the time. We all know that," then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in 2017.
Trump himself looked to calm the controversy following the comments by claiming he was being "sarcastic."
In 2017, White House aides maintained that Trump wasn't being serious when he said law enforcement officials should not "be too nice" to suspects in custody.
"When you guys put somebody in the car and you're protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over?" Trump said during a speech to law enforcement on Long Island, New York. "Like, don't hit their head, and they just killed somebody -- don't hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, OK?"
Sanders said he was "making a joke at the time."
And in response to Trump claiming that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson should take an IQ test to see which of the two men is smarter, Sanders said Trump "made a joke, nothing more than that."
"The President certainly never implied that the secretary of state was not incredibly intelligent. He made a joke, nothing more than that," said Sanders. "He has full confidence in the secretary of state. They had a great visit earlier today. And they are working hand in hand to move the President's agenda forward."
Trump's comment came after NBC News reported that Tillerson had called Trump a "moron." Trump then told Forbes that they'll "have to compare IQ tests."