Obama: Vicious tone and violence on campaign trail have to stop

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Obama 'Dismayed' by 'Vulgar Rhetoric' on 2016 Campaign Trail

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- President Barack Obama said on Tuesday he was dismayed by what was happening on the U.S. presidential campaign trail and, in a reference to Republican front-runner Donald Trump, called on leaders to reject violence and clean up the tone of the race.

SEE MORE: COMPLETE 2016 ELECTION COVERAGE FROM AOL.com

"We have heard vulgar and divisive rhetoric aimed at women and minorities, at Americans who don't look like us or pray like us or vote like we do," Obama said during an event on Capitol Hill.

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13 PHOTOS
Donald Trump calls for arrests after wave of protests at rally in Kansas City, Missouri
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Obama: Vicious tone and violence on campaign trail have to stop
Protesters disrupta rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Arvest Bank Theater in Kansas City, Mo., on Saturday, March 12, 2016. (Jill Toyoshiba/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump describes how he was ready to punch a person who rushed the stage during an election rally earlier in the day, as he speaks to a crowd in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, March 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 12: Protestors interrupt as republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at the Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland in Kansas City, MO on Saturday March 12, 2016. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 12: People cheer as republican presidential candidate Donald Trump walks out to speak during a campaign event at the Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland in Kansas City, MO on Saturday March 12, 2016. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump watches as an anti-Trump demonstrator holds up a sign reading: Who Would Jesus Deport, at a Trump election rally in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, March 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Demonstrators wave signs as they interrupt an election rally of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, March 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Demonstrators disrupt an election rally by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, March 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 12: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at the Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland in Kansas City, MO on Saturday March 12, 2016. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 12: Protestors interrupt as republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at the Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland in Kansas City, MO on Saturday March 12, 2016. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 12: A protestor is removed as republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at the Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland in Kansas City, MO on Saturday March 12, 2016. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 12: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at the Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland in Kansas City, MO on Saturday March 12, 2016. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
A protester yells at police outside a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Arvest Bank Theater in Kansas City, Mo., on Saturday, March 12, 2016. (Christopher Smith/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
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"We've seen misguided attempts to shut down that speech. However offensive it may be, we live in a country where free speech is one of the most important rights that we hold. In response to those attempts, we've seen actual violence. And we've heard silence from too many of our leaders."

Obama spoke as Americans in five important states -- Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina -- voted in primaries to select the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates for the November election.

READ MORE: Trump backtracks on statement he made on TV

The president has said previously he did not believe Trump, the brash billionaire who has catapulted to the lead of the Republican race for the White House, would win in November if he becomes the party's nominee.

Obama's Response To Hecklers Vs. Trump

But Obama's latest comments reflected the degree to which recent violence on the campaign trail, primarily at Trump rallies, has prompted him to step up his own rhetoric in response.

RELATED: More protests at Trump's rallies

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Protesters get Trump rally postponed
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Obama: Vicious tone and violence on campaign trail have to stop
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 11: Demonstrators celebrate after it was announced that a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois at Chicago would be postponed on March 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Organizers postponed the rally citing safety reasons after hundreds of demonstrators were ticketed for the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 11: Demonstrators celebrate after it was announced that a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois at Chicago would be postponed on March 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Organizers postponed the rally citing safety reasons after hundreds of demonstrators were ticketed for the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 11: A ripped campaign poster sits on the floor after it was announced that a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois at Chicago would be postponed on March 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Organizers postponed the rally citing safety reasons after hundreds of demonstrators were ticketed for the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 11: Demonstrators celebrate after it was announced that a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois at Chicago would be postponed on March 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Organizers postponed the rally citing safety reasons after hundreds of demonstrators were ticketed for the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 11: An activist is removed by police after it was announced that a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois at Chicago would be postponed on March 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Organizers postponed the rally citing safety reasons after hundreds of demonstrators were ticketed for the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 11: A campaign worker guards the podium after it was announced that a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois at Chicago would be postponed on March 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Organizers postponed the rally citing safety reasons after hundreds of demonstrators were ticketed for the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 11: Police clear the stadium after it was announced that a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois at Chicago would be postponed on March 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Organizers postponed the rally citing safety reasons after hundreds of demonstrators were ticketed for the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 11: Demonstrators celebrate after it was announced that a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois at Chicago would be postponed on March 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Organizers postponed the rally citing safety reasons after hundreds of demonstrators were ticketed for the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A demonstrator is removed by Chicago police during a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago on Friday, March 11, 2016. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
A protestor holds a ripped Donald Trump sign up before the start of a rally for the Republican presidential candidate at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago on Friday, March 11, 2016. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Protestors wearing shirts reading 'Muslims United Against Trump' are escorted out the UIC Pavilion in Chicago prior to the start of a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago on Friday, March 11, 2016. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, face off with protesters after a rally on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago was cancelled due to security concerns Friday, March 11, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Protesters against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shout at Trump supporters after it was announced that the candidate's rally was canceled due to security concerns, on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago, Friday, March 11, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Protesters against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump chant 'Bernie, Bernie, and We Stopped Trump,' after a rally on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago, was canceled Friday, March 11, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Protestors march in Chicago on Friday, March 11, 2016, before a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois-Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
Protestors march in Chicago on Friday, March 11, 2016, before a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois-Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
Protestor Sanko Hampton marches in Chicago on Friday, March 11, 2016, before a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois-Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
Protestor Sanko Hampton displays an American flag in Chicago on Friday, March 11, 2016, before a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois-Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
Protesters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, right, chant after a rally on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago, was canceled due to security concerns Friday, March 11, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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Trump, 69, has characterized Mexican illegal immigrants as criminals and proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States.

Obama said he rejected any effort to spread fear or encourage violence and said this year's campaign cycle was not an accurate reflection of the United States.

"It has to stop," Obama said, describing the atmosphere of the campaign as "vicious."

U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida and Governor John Kasich are challenging Trump for the nomination.

"I suspect that all of us can recall some intemperate words that we regret. Certainly I can," Obama said. "And while some may be more to blame than others for the current climate, all of us are responsible for reversing it."

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