WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump appeared to deny using the term “s—hole countries” to refer to African nations during a heated meeting on immigration, saying in a tweet that it was “not the language used.”
Reports that Trump, in a meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers, made the profane remark sparked an evening of anger and outrage on cable news and social media, and some GOP elected officials called on him to apologize. The White House issued a statement that did not deny that he made the remark and Trump took to Twitter at several points, but did not refer to the controversy.
On Friday, he tweeted, “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!”
Trump reportedly also questioned why Haitians deserved protection in an immigration deal. “Do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”
About an hour later, he tweeted, “Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said ‘take them out.’ Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust!”
Starting with The Washington Post, multiple news outlets reported that in the meeting on Thursday, Trump responded to a proposal that an immigration deal include protections for Haitians and Africans by saying, “Why are we having all these people from s—hole countries come here? We should have more people from places like Norway.”
Josh Dawsey, the Post reporter who broke the story, said on CNN, “we stand by our reporting 100%.” He noted that Trump’s denial came 15 hours later, and that multiple other outlets also confirmed the remark.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who was in the meeting at the White House, told reporters in Chicago that “I’ve seen the comments in the press. I’ve not read one of them that’s inaccurate.” He said that Trump said things which were “hate-filled, vile, and racist.”
Trump also rejected an immigration proposal that was on the table and attacked Democrats, writing, “Because of the Democrats not being interested in life and safety, DACA has now taken a big step backwards. The Dems will threaten ‘shutdown,’ but what they are really doing is shutting down our military, at a time we need it most.”
He was referring to the notion that Democrats would demand that there be protections for Dreamers — undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children — in the next government spending deal. The current government funding runs through Jan. 19. Past government shutdowns, like that in 2013, have meant the closure of government offices, but not essential functions like military defense.
The remark stirred some debate at news outlets whether to use the profane word. CNN and MSNBC used the word “s—hole” multiple times on Thursday, and featured it in their chyron, while Fox News blanked out some of the letters. ABC News and CBS News refrained from using the term. Lester Holt warned viewers before it was said once on Thursday’s broadcast of “NBC Nightly News.”
NPR began using the term on air on Friday, but its legal department asked reporters to warn listeners and only use it once in stories.