US President Donald Trump used a Super Bowl pregame interview to rail against Democrats, accusing them of hatred and offering insults about his potential rivals.
“I see the hatred … They don’t care about fairness, they don’t care about lying,” Mr Trump said in an interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, which aired hours before sport’s biggest night of the year.
The president spent his weekend in Florida as most of the political world has been focused on Iowa, where Democrats on Monday will cast their first votes to choose the party’s nominee.
Prompted by Mr Hannity, Mr Trump went through most of the major candidates one by one, deriding “Sleepy Joe” Biden, the former vice president, accusing Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren of telling “fairy tales”, and labelling Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, as “a communist”.
He is a pathological liar who lies about everything: his fake hair, his obesity, and his spray-on tanJulie Wood
But Mr Trump seemed most preoccupied by the candidate who has chosen to skip the early-voting states: Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who has been blanketing the airwaves with anti-Trump ads.
The president’s campaign and Mr Bloomberg’s ran duelling, multi-million-dollar ads during Sunday night’s game, with both spending an estimated $10 million (£7.6 million) for 60 seconds of air time, which Mr Trump used to purchase two 30-second spots.
Mr Trump’s first featured the story of Alice Marie Johnson, a nonviolent drug offender whose life sentence he commuted after reality TV star Kim Kardashian West championed her case. The ad showed footage of the emotional moment when Ms Johnson was released from prison and reunited with her family.
“My heart is just bursting with gratitude,” she tells the camera. “I want to thank President Donald John Trump. Hallelujah!”
“Thanks to President Trump, people like Alice are getting a second chance,” the ad’s text reads, adding: “Politicians talk about criminal justice reform. President Trump got it done.”
A second ad – which ran after the game had ended, instead of during the game as his campaign had said – argued that, “Under President Trump, America is stronger, safer and more prosperous than ever before.”
Mr Bloomberg, whose spot was scheduled to air during the second half of the game, also chose an emotional subject, featuring a grieving mother who lost her son to gun violence.
George Kemp Jr, who dreamed of one day playing in the NFL, was only 20 when he was fatally shot in 2013.
Mr Bloomberg is a longtime backer of what he calls commonsense gun legislation and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars since his tenure as New York mayor to combat gun violence.
In the Fox interview, Mr Trump mocked Mr Bloomberg’s height and accused him of making a special request for a box to stand on if he qualifies for future presidential debates.
I use the word ‘witch hunt', use the word ‘hoax'Donald Trump
Mr Bloomberg’s campaign denies that is the case.
“Why should he get a box to stand on?” Mr Trump asked. “Why should he be entitled to that, really? Then does that mean everyone else gets a box?”
Bloomberg campaign spokeswoman Julie Wood said Mr Trump was “lying”.
“He is a pathological liar who lies about everything: his fake hair, his obesity, and his spray-on tan,” she said.
Mr Trump in the Fox interview also criticised House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats.
Asked whether it would be possible for him to work with the opposition party after they had impeached him and tried to remove him from office, he said he would “like to, but it’s pretty hard when you think about it because it’s been such … I use the word ‘witch hunt’, use the word ‘hoax’,
Mr Trump is expected to be acquitted by the Senate on Wednesday.