White House defends Trump's Saudi speech as 'tough'

White House defends Trump's Saudi speech as 'tough'
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A senior White House official on Sunday defended as "tough" the speech President Trump delivered to dozens of Muslim leaders during his trip to Saudi Arabia. 

“I don’t think it was a softer speech, I think it was tough,” the White House official told reporters on background, having earlier stated that the president’s rhetoric “toughens” in this speech.

While the president didn't use one of his key campaign terms, "radical Islamic terrorism" during his speech, he used similar phrases like "Islamic extremism, and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds." Trump strayed away slightly from his prepared remarks by using "Islamic" instead of "Islamist."

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Trump said empowering women is one of the goals for Saudi Arabia's vision for 2030. 

The president called on states in the region to promote “the aspirations and dreams of all citizens who seek a better life  including women, children and followers of all faiths.”

“We must practice tolerance and respect for each other once again — and make this region a place where every man and woman, no matter their faith or ethnicity, can enjoy a life of dignity and hope,” he added.

The official said this was “very important” for the Trump White House to talk about, adding that the president stressed in many other meetings during his visit to Saudi Arabia that oppressing women will not lead to a great society.

Trump's speech focused on partnering with Saudi Arabia and other Muslim-majority countries to combat extremism.

"Drive them out," Trump said in an address to leaders from over 50 predominantly Muslim countries. "Drive out the terrorists. Drive out the extremists. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land and drive them out of this Earth."

The senior official said this rhetoric reinforces the fact that it was a tougher speech.

“I mean, you know: 'Drive them out. Drive them out of your place of worship, or your communities. Stop persecuting Christians, stop oppressing women.' I don’t think those things are different from what he said,” the official added. 

“Obviously, as president, you are different than when — the definition of your role is to come in and do more,” the official added.

The White House aide argued that the speech hit the right tone for the president’s audience, while avoiding delivering it in “a lecturing way.”

“You know, to be sitting in that room and addressing the leaders, many of whom have not been so good on these issues, and saying that ‘it requires confronting terrorism and evil in all its forms — honestly, directly if you want to have a better future for your people. It’s as simple as that.’ And I also think he said it is really not for America to decide or lecture,” the official added.

Updated: 12:36 p.m.