WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump assailed a woman TV news host in highly personal terms on Thursday, describing her as "crazy" and having been bleeding at one point from a facelift, in a Twitter attack that drew strong criticism including from fellow Republicans.
Trump, who often decries what he calls "fake news" in the American media and who this week attacked CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post, took aim on Thursday at the hosts of the MSNBC program "Morning Joe," Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.
The Republican president called Brzezinski, a journalist and daughter of former White House national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, "low I.Q. Crazy Mika" and said she was "bleeding badly from a face-lift" when she visited one of his golf resorts around New Year's Eve.
He referred to former Republican U.S. congressman Scarborough as "Psycho Joe."
Trump is known for his prolific Twitter habit, which includes attacking critics and rivals, but his tweets on Thursday drew a particularly strong response.
"It's a sad day for America when the president spends his time bullying, lying and spewing petty personal attacks instead of doing his job," MSNBC's communications office said on Twitter.
"Morning Joe" takes sometimes strong views on Trump and the president has often criticized its hosts in the past. Comcast Corp owns NBCUniversal, MSNBC's parent company.
Republican lawmakers and others sharply rebuked Trump.
"Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham wrote on Twitter.
Another Republican senator, Ben Sasse, tweeted, "Please just stop. This isn't normal and it's beneath the dignity of your office."
Democrats seized on the remarks as an example of what they view as Trump's sexism.
"Trump's bullying tweets are an attack on women everywhere," Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement. "From his Twitter slurs to his policies, we have a president who continues to show us he has no regard for women and whose comments demean the office he holds."
The president's tweets created a new distraction as senators in his own party struggled to bridge their differences and agree on major healthcare legislation.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders defended his tweets as simply a question of responding to criticism.
"I don't think that the president has ever been someone that gets attacked and doesn't push back," she told Fox News Channel.
"People on that show have personally attacked him many times," she added. "This is a president who fights fire with fire and certainly will not be allowed to be bullied by liberal media and the liberal elites within the media, or Hollywood or anywhere else."
Democratic Senator Ed Markey wrote on Twitter: "If you can't stifle the press, then you attack them personally. Today's tweets from Donald Trump are unpresidential and warrant an apology."
(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Susan Cornwell; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Frances Kerry)