WASHINGTON (TNS) — President Donald Trump on Friday denied using the term "shithole countries" to describe Haiti and African nations during a Thursday Oval Office meeting on immigration.
And, in classic Trumpian form, he attempted to alter the day's new coverage to focus on a bipartisan immigration overhaul proposal offered by Sens. Richard J. Durbin and Lindsey Graham — a plan he rejected during an Oval Office meeting that also featured immigration hawks from his White House and Congress.
"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!"
The president allegedly called those nations "shithole countries" when complaining about their immigrants to the United States, as first reported by the Washington Post. He also reportedly said he wants more immigrants from places like Norway, again stirring allegations of racism and bring condemnation from lawmakers and minority groups.
Trump's self defense of his reported description of Haiti and African countries came the morning after a senior White House spokesman released a statement that did not deny the president uttered the slur during the meeting; in fact, the spokesman also defended Trump's underlying point.
"Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people," Raj Shah, principal deputy White House press secretary, said in a statement. "He will always reject temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hardworking Americans, and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway."
Members of both parties were very critical of the president's reported slur.
Utah Republican Rep. Mia Love, the first Haitian-American elected to Congress, said in a statement that Trump's comments were "unkind, divisive, elitist, and (flew) in the face of our nation's values."
"The President must apologize to both the American people and the nations he so wantonly maligned," the congresswoman said.
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric L. Richmond, D-La., called the reported remark "yet another confirmation of (Trump's) racially insensitive and ignorant views. It also reinforces the concerns that we hear every day, that the president's slogan 'Make America Great Again' is really code for 'Make America White Again.'"
Trump started Friday with a series of rapid-fire tweets, first claiming he rejected the Durbin-Graham immigration proposal from because it was a "big step backwards." It was only minutes later that he posted the tweet denying using the term "shithole countries."
He started the Twitter rant with a post saying the plan from the Illinois Democrat and South Carolina Republican his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall "was not properly funded, Chain (migration) & (visa) Lottery were made worse and USA would be forced to take large numbers of people from high crime ... ... ..countries which are doing badly."
The president's rant also included a renewed push for a "merit based system of immigration." His first defense of whatever he said to the lawmakers Thursday was a claim that he would prefer to only allow into the United States "people who will help take our country to the next level."
The social media outburst also raised new questions about whether Trump, who campaigned as a successful businessman who was uniquely qualified to end Washington's decade of gridlock by striking bipartisan deals, has the touch necessary to get things done.
Even as he next week will need some of their votes to avert a government shutdown during his first 365 days in office, Trump slammed congressional Democrats as favoring one and "not being interested in life and safety."
That claim came in a trio of tweets in which he accused Democrats of wanting to "defund" the U.S. military.
Apparently referring to Democrats' stance on getting a deal on DACA before addressing domestic and defense spending caps, Trump tweeted that as a result, "DACA has now taken a big step backwards."
He also said Democrats will threaten to shutter the federal government, adding: "what they are really doing is shutting down our military, at a time we need it most. Get smart, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!"