- Mark Wilson/Getty Images
- President Donald Trump delivered a speech honoring the civil-rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. on Friday, one day after Trump was said to have described Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries.”
- “Mr. President, are you a racist?” reporters called out after the event.
- Lawmakers and political leaders, including Republicans, are calling Trump’s Thursday remarks racist.
President Donald Trump delivered a speech honoring the civil-rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. on Friday, one day after Trump was said to have described Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries” during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration.
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to several media outlets, including The Washington Post, which first reported the comment.
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who was at the Thursday meeting, also said the president made the vulgar remarks.
As Trump shook hands with several people at the event on Friday, reporters called out questions about his Thursday comments.
“Mr. President, are you a racist?” one reporter repeatedly asked. Others asked whether the president had, in fact, used the word “shithole” to refer to the countries. Another asked whether Durbin was lying about his version of the meeting.
Trump and the lawmakers had been discussing a visa lottery program that annually allows as many as 50,000 citizens from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the US to reside in the US legally, as well as programs that temporarily protect certain immigrants from deportation that the White House is ending.
The president specifically criticized the Temporary Protected Status the US has given to immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and some African countries.
The Post’s report said Trump asked why the US would need more Haitians and suggested the government “take them out.”
In a series of tweets Friday, Trump said he used “tough” language but that he “never said anything derogatory” about Haitians. He also suggested his future meetings with lawmakers be recorded.
But Durbin insisted on Friday that Trump repeatedly used “shithole” to describe Haiti and African countries.
“To no surprise, the president started tweeting this morning denying that he using those words,” Durbin told reporters. “It is not true. He said these hate-filled things, and he said them repeatedly.”
Trump’s remarks were nearly universally condemned as racist and demeaning, sparking an immediate backlash from international leaders and US lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans.
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Donald Trump is a racist,” Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona tweeted. “Bigotry should have no place at the White House.”
When the MSNBC host Hallie Jackson asked Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, in an interview on Friday whether he thought the president was racist, Steele said he did.
“I think at this point, I mean, the evidence is incontrovertible – it’s right there,” Steele said.
Watch the video:
— ABC News (@ABC) January 12, 2018
Brennan Weiss contributed to this report.