Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has called a tweet from her Republican rival, Donald Trump, "blatantly anti-Semitic".

Clinton's criticism came on Monday after Trump posted the tweet, which appeared to depict Clinton against a backdrop of cash and a Star of David - a symbol of Jewish identity.

"Donald Trump's use of a blatantly anti-Semitic image from racist websites to promote his campaign would be disturbing enough, but the fact that it's part of a pattern should give voters major cause for concern," Clinton's campaign said in a statement.

"Now, not only won't he apologise for it, he's peddling lies and blaming others."

The Republican presidential candidate defended the tweet, which was posted on Saturday, and said Clinton's campaign was "ridiculous".

He also called the media "dishonest" for saying the shape resembled the Jewish Star of David, and added it was just a regular star, or the same one used by sheriffs.

Still, he later deleted the tweet and replaced it with a new image that used a circle instead of a star.

Trump suggested Clinton and her allies were using the matter to distract from her own recent campaign troubles.

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Addressing the origins of the tweet for the first time, Trump campaign social media director Dan Scavino said in a statement posted on Trump's Facebook page on Monday evening that he had lifted it from an anti-Clinton Twitter feed and had never intended to offend anyone.

"The social media graphic used this weekend was not created by the campaign nor was it sourced from an anti-Semitic site. It was lifted from an anti-Hillary Twitter user where countless images appear," he wrote.

He said that the star, which he described as a sheriff's badge "fit with the theme of corrupt Hillary and that is why I selected it."

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"As the social media director for the campaign, I would never offend anyone and therefore chose to remove the image," he added.

The now-deleted @FishBoneHead1 account that appears to have first posted the image featured a series of anti-Clinton memes as well as other provocative and offensive images. The image had also appeared on a white supremacist message board filled with anti-Semitic messages.

Scavino did not respond to a follow-up question about whether @FishBoneHead1 was the "anti-Hillary" Twitter account he was referring to.

'Absurd and offensive'

Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, said Trump's attempt to dismiss the concerns of people who have taken issue with the post "falls somewhere between absurd and offensive".

"It's not a left-wing issue or a right-wing issue," he said. "It's not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. It's a matter of common sense."

Trump has long professed his support for Israel and his daughter converted to Judaism before her marriage.

But he has come under scrutiny for repeatedly re-tweeting posts from white supremacists' accounts and for not immediately renouncing the support of former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke.

Source: Agencies