President Donald Trump is on the defensive after he made some negative comments about Haiti and African nations at a recent meeting about immigration with six US senators.
When asked by reporters for a response to those who think he is a racist, President Trump replied, “No, No. I am not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you.”
Trump also denied making the statements attributed to him, but avoided going into the specifics of what he did or did not say.
Trump stands accused of using a very rude term to describe African countries during the meeting, and also questioned the need to admit more Haitians to the US, according to people who were briefed on the conversation but were not authorised to describe the meeting publicly.
Trump also said in the meeting that he would prefer immigrants from countries like Norway instead.
A close friend of Trump’s told Associated Press that the president spent Thursday evening calling friends and outside advisers to judge their reaction to his remarks. Trump wasn’t apologetic and denied he was racist, instead blaming the media for distorting his meaning, said the source, who wasn’t authorised to disclose a private conversation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the only Democrat at Thursday’s meeting, said Trump had indeed said what he was reported to have said. Durbin said the remarks were “vile, hate-filled and clearly racial in their content.”
When it came to talk of extending protections for Haitians, Senator Durbin said Trump replied, “We don’t need more Haitians.”
“He said, ‘Put me down for wanting more Europeans to come to this country. Why don’t we get more people from Norway?’” Durbin said.
Republican Senators David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who also attended the meeting, supported the president and said they “do not recall the president saying these comments specifically.”
Trump insisted in a tweet on Friday that he “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.” Trump wrote, “I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings - unfortunately, no trust!”
Trump’s comments threatened to derail delicate negotiations over the status of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children. Trump announced last year that he would end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, (DACA), unless lawmakers came up with a solution by March. The program shielded these immigrants, often referred to as “Dreamers,” from deportation and granted them work permits.
To gain some leverage for negotiations, some Democrats have threatened to vote against legislation to extend government funding, which expires on Friday, unless protections for the Dreamers are included.
“Honestly I don’t think the Democrats want to make a deal,” Trump said. “I think they talk about DACA but they don’t want to help the DACA people.”
Edited by Jamie Lam