By Eileen Sullivan
Jan. 12, 2018
WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday offered a vague denial about the language he chose to use about immigrants during a private meeting with lawmakers at the White House on Thursday, when he reportedly referred to African nations as “shithole countries.”
But Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, said on Friday that the president did use the term “shithole,” repeatedly, during the course of the meeting on immigration — which Mr. Durbin attended. The senator described Mr. Trump as saying “things which were hate-filled, vile and racist.”
In a Twitter post on Friday, just hours before the president was scheduled to sign a proclamation to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is Monday, Mr. Trump appeared to parse the language he spoke about immigrants from different regions of the world.
The president wrote that he never said of Haitians, “take them out.”
The Twitter post was his second about news accounts of a private meeting on Thursday at the White House. The president denied some aspects of reports on his language — but he did not comment on his reported use of the specific word “shithole” to describe African nations.
“It’s not true,” Mr. Durbin said of Mr. Trump’s denial. “He said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly.”
Mr. Trump tweeted that his comments about Haitians were fabricated by Democrats, and said he “probably should record future meetings — unfortunately, no trust!”
In a discussion about immigration from African nations, Mr. Trump asked why he would want “all these people from shithole countries,” according to people with direct knowledge of the conversation. Mr. Trump also said the United States should admit more people from places like Norway, an overwhelmingly white country.
“Why do we need more Haitians?” Mr. Trump said, according to several news accounts, including The Washington Post. “Take them out.”
The White House has not denied his use of racially charged rhetoric.
“I cannot believe that, in the history of the White House in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday,” Mr. Durbin said on Friday.
In an earlier tweet on Friday, Mr. Trump said, “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used.” His tweet did not elaborate on what “tough” language he used and did not provide a specific account of the meeting.
The president’s Twitter posts on Friday morning referred to the meeting with lawmakers a day earlier about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, the Obama-era effort that provided temporary work permits and reprieves from deportation to immigrants brought to the United States as children by their parents.