Never too far away from controversy, US President Donald Trump was forced on Friday to deny that he had used offensive remarks to describe Haiti and African countries.
Trump on Thursday was reported as using the word “shithole” describe Haiti and African nations.
He reportedly made the comments at a White House meeting on immigration on Thursday. In questioning “Why do we want all these people from Africa here?” Trump said, “We should have more people from Norway,” according to one source briefed on the conversation.
US Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who attended the gathering, told reporters on Friday that Trump used “vile, vulgar” language, including repeatedly using the word “shithole” when speaking about African countries.
Trump sought to walk back the comments on Friday, saying on Twitter, “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used.”
Trump also denied saying “anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country.”
According to two sources, at Thursday’s meeting Trump questioned why the United States would want to accept immigrants from Haiti and African nations.
Haiti said it was shocked by Trump’s reported remarks on Thursday and summoned the top US diplomat in the country for an explanation.
Botswana also said it had summoned the US ambassador to that country, Earl Miller, to “express its displeasure” and had asked Miller whether Botswana “is regarded as a ‘shithole’ country.”
Trump’s comments are extremely offensive to South Africa, said Jessie Duarte, a senior official with the ruling African National Congress. “Ours is not a shithole country. Neither is Haiti or any other country in distress,” she said.
In Geneva, UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said “These are shocking and shameful comments from the president of the United States. There is no other word one can use but ‘racist.'”
US House Speaker Paul Ryan said Trump's vulgar slur about Africa was "very unfortunate, unhelpful."
Florida GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Trump's alleged comments were "completely unacceptable," telling local media in Miami that "if that's not racism, I don't know how you can define it."
Moderate GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine chimed in on Twitter to call Trump's remarks "highly inappropriate & out of bounds." She said they are hurting prospects for a bipartisan agreement on immigration.
And Idaho Republican Mike Simpson told The Associated Press that Trump's remarks were "stupid and irresponsible and childish."