Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama gives a speech during a pre-St Patrick's Day luncheon at the CapitolREUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Barack Obama voiced his displeasure at the way the 2016 presidential campaigns were being conducted, pointing out that they were being used to target women and minorities. In his speech on 15 March at a pre-St Patricks luncheon at the Capitol, the president took the opportunity to urge people not to "contribute to this vicious atmosphere in our politics".

"We have heard vulgar and divisive rhetoric aimed at women and minorities, and Americans that don't look like us or pray like us or vote like we do," Obama said at the event.

Urging both parties to refrain from making derogatory comments, he said, "Too often, we've accepted this as somehow the new normal. And it's worth asking ourselves what each of us may have done to contribute to this vicious atmosphere in our politics.

"This is about the American brand. Why would we want to tarnish that?"

The POTUS did not directly target Trump, but his comments on violence at rallies made direct reference to fights that broke out at the GOP candidate's rallies in Chicago, North Carolina and Ohio. "And while some may be more to blame than others for the current climate, all of us are responsible for reversing it, for it is a cycle that is not an accurate reflection of America. And it has to stop," he opined.

And while he has previously showed his disapproval of Trump's opinions, Obama also hit out at anti-Trump supporters who opt for violent methods of their own, like the time they caused the cancellation of his rally in Chicago.

"We live in a country where free speech is one of the most important rights that we hold. In response to those events we've seen actual violence, and we've heard silence from too many of our leaders," Obama said, adding that he is vehemently against "any effort to spread fear or encourage violence or shut people down while they are trying to speak."

Addressing the audience of lawmakers, dignitaries and the event's host House Speaker Paul Ryan, the president said, "In America there aren't laws that say we have to be nice to each other ... But there are norms, there are customs, there are values that our parents taught us and that we try to teach to our children."

Talking about the importance of having a clean election campaign for the sake of teaching younger generations, he said, "We should not have to explain to them this darker side of politics. We should not be afraid to take them to a political rally or let them watch political debates.

"We should be teaching them that this democracy is a vibrant and precious thing, and it's going to be theirs someday and we want them to elevate it."