'Overrated' Mattis laughs off Trump barb

Former US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis, has laughed off an insult from President Trump.
Former US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis, has laughed off an insult from President Trump.

Former US Defence Secretary James Mattis is laughing off an insult hurled at him by President Donald Trump.

Speaking at a New York charity event on Thursday the day after Trump demeaned him as "the world's most overrated general," Mattis joked that he took it as a compliment.

"I'm not just an overrated general. I'm the greatest, the world's most overrated," he told diners at the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner.

"I'm honoured to be considered that by Donald Trump because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actress," he said. "So I guess I'm the Meryl Streep of generals, and frankly that sounds pretty good to me."

Trump lashed out at his former defence official on Wednesday, during a contentious White House meeting with members of Congress.

The meeting was intended to be a bipartisan discussion of Trump's decision to pull US forces from northern Syria, but it broke up after a testy exchange between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Before the walkout, Trump disparaged Mattis, who had argued as defense secretary that US troops were needed in Syria to prevent a resurgence of Islamic State fighters.

Trump said Mattis was "the world's most overrated general. You know why? He wasn't tough enough."

"I captured ISIS," Trump went on to say.

Mattis resigned as defence secretary last December after Trump said he intended to pull 2,000 American troops out of Syria.

In his resignation letter, the retired Marine general told Trump he had "the right to have a Secretary of Defence whose views are better aligned with yours."

Australian Associated Press