President Donald Trump drew furious, widespread criticism on Thursday after he took to Twitter to crudely and personally mock Morning Joe hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough. Trump taunted Brzezinski and her co-host and fiancé Scarborough in a series of vicious tweets, calling her "low I.Q. Crazy Mika" and claiming that he had seen her "bleeding badly from a face-lift" at a New Year's Eve party.

The president's controversial tweets immediately sparked massive outrage with many Democratic and Republican lawmakers denouncing the attack as inappropriate behaviour for the leader of the country.

However, the White House defended Trump's tweets saying he is "pushing back against people who attack him day after day after day."

In an afternoon press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy White House press secretary, argued that his behaviour on Twitter was justified.

"The president has been attacked mercilessly on personal accounts by people on that program," Sanders said. "The only person I see a war on is this president and every person that works for him. I don't think you can expect someone to be personally attacked day after day, minute by minute, and sit back.

"The American people elected a fighter; they didn't elect somebody to sit back and do nothing. They knew what they were getting when they voted for Donald Trump."

During an appearance on Fox News' America's Newsroom, Sanders said there have been "an outrageous number of personal attacks" on Trump and "everyone around him."

"This is a president who fights fire with fire and certainly will not be allowed to be bullied by liberal media," she said.

Twitter users fiercely criticised the response from the White House calling it "hypocritical," "delusional" and a "sick, toxic message" to send to the country.

Many social media users also slammed Sanders over her characterisation of Trump's tweets as merely defending himself against attacks and criticism. People argued that Trump, who has frequently used Twitter to attack individuals, businesses and critics in his tweets, is "no victim."

"A White House supporting a president who lashes out like a child at criticism from the media is as UNAmerican as it gets", one person tweeted.

Some pointed out that Trump's predecessor Barack Obama also faced a barrage of criticism, noting that Trump himself was a vocal promoter of the "birther" theory suggesting that Obama was not born in the United States.

"The White House says 'The President fights fire with fire.' I really prefer a President who fights fire with water", American writer and performer J. Elvis Weinstein tweeted.

One person tweeted: "I'm sorry Donnie can't handle a little abuse. His predecessor could handle a lot - with class." Another wrote: "This is the kind of defense you'd expect from a 5-year-old at the playground, not grown adults in positions of power. Disgrace!"

"Their complaints of being attacked seem to be missing the point," one person tweeted. "These 'attacks' are responses to Trumps abhorrent behavior. He can prevent them if he changes his behavior. Unfortunately that will never happen and the American people know it. We are frustrated, fearful and angry."

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Trump drew massive criticism on Thursday after disparaging Morning Joe hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough. Alex Wong/Getty Images