President Trump on Friday expressed admiration for the way Kim Jong Un is treated by North Koreans.

“Hey, he is the head of a country and I mean he is the strong head,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News’ Steve Doocy on the White House lawn. “Don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks, and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

Doocy did not follow up. But speaking to reporters shortly after his Fox appearance, the president insisted he made the comment in jest.

“I’m kidding,” Trump said. “You don’t understand sarcasm.”

Trump has been criticized for defending the murderous dictator following their historic summit in Singapore.

Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters, KCNA via KNS/STR/AFP/Getty Images)

A 2014 United Nations Human Rights Council report found that North Korea’s human rights abuses include “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”

“Look, he’s doing what he’s seen done,” Trump told Greta Van Susteren when asked about Kim starving his own people.

“He’s a tough guy,” Trump said when asked by Fox News’ Brett Baier about Kim’s ordering of executions.

“He has done some really bad things,” Baier said.

“Yeah, but so have a lot of other people have done some really bad things,” Trump replied.

Related: Hectic morning on the White House lawn

On Friday, Trump was asked by a reporter how he can mourn the death of American Otto Warmbier, who was held hostage in North Korea and returned to the U.S. in a coma last year, while “in the same breath” defending Kim’s human rights abuses.

“You know why? Because I don’t want to see a nuclear weapon destroy you and your family,” Trump said. “I want to have a good relationship with North Korea.”

“How can Kim love his people if he’s killing them?” the reporter asked Trump.

“I can’t speak to that,” he replied.

Trump repeated his bizarre claim that parents of Korean War veterans lobbied him during the 2016 campaign to bring the remains of their children home.

The Korean War ended in 1953. The parents of the soldiers would be at least 100 years old.

“I’ve had so many people, so many parents, so many fathers and daughters and sons asking me,” Trump told Doocy.

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