Thursday evening, a Washington Post report, corroborated by other journalistic outlets like the New York Times and CNN, enlightened the public to comments made by President Donald Trump at a closed-door bipartisan meeting on immigration. According to a source that was present, the PRESIDENT wondered aloud, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries coming here?” in reference to immigrants from Haiti and African countries. He then added “we need more people from Norway.”
The racist connotations were too blatant to be ignored or re-interpreted. This was the President of the United States calling nations from which people of colour hail “shitholes” and voicing his preference that the country accept more immigrants from white countries. How on earth was the White House going to walk that back? Oh, they weren’t.
When asked about the comments by journalists, White House staffers did not deny the reports or try to apologize. They instead predicted that it would resonate well with his base and then pushed the president’s goals for immigration reform. They reiterated Trump’s plans to eliminate the lottery immigration system and switch entirely to a merit system where your likelihood of entering the country is based on how well you speak English, your education and your professional status.
CNN’s Don Lemon gave a speech Thursday night that resonated with many. Beginning with a strong, “The President of the United States is racist,” he went on to point out several other occasions when Trump has shown us exactly who he is and how he thinks about anyone different from him — whether it be their race, gender, sexual orientation or class. Other broadcasters pointed out that these comments come the day before the eighth anniversary of the devastating earthquakes in Haiti and that the president’s words stem from an ignorant belief in unfounded stereotypes. Van Jones pulled out his long list of receipts that show only 33 per cent of Americans have college degrees while 43 per cent of African immigrants have the same designation. As far as graduate degrees go, 11 per cent of white Americans have a graduate degree, while 25 per cent of Nigerian immigrants do.
Friday morning, Donald Trump tweeted that he had used “tough language” at the meeting in question, but claimed “this was not the language used” in reference to the slur circulating in the news. He followed that tweet up with another an hour later denying that he “said anything derogatory about Haitians.” He added that the whole story was likely made up by the Democrats and that he has “a wonderful relationship with Haitians.”
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
Josh Dowsey, the Washington Post reporter who initially broke the story, says that the publication stands by its reporting on the meeting regardless of the president’s tweets that it was incorrect. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who was present at the meeting, confirmed to reporters that Trump referred to African countries as “shitholes” repeatedly and added that the president said “things which were hate-filled, vile and racist” throughout the meeting. Other lawmakers, including Republicans, who were at the meeting have not confirmed the comments, but have not come out to deny them either.
— New Day (@NewDay) January 12, 2018
Sure, he denied the reports, but why should we believe him? This is the man who has made over 2,000 false or misleading claims since he took the presidency a year ago. People on both sides of the aisle came out to voice their disappointment, outrage and sadness at the president’s racist comments.
It’s not how a president should speak. It’s not how a president should behave. Most of all, it’s not what a president should believe. We’re better than this.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) January 12, 2018
Immigrants from countries across the globe – including and especially those from Haiti and all parts of Africa – have helped build this country. They should be welcomed and celebrated, not demeaned and insulted.
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) January 11, 2018
“Shocking and shameful”: comments from the President of the United States go “against universal values” according to @UNHumanRights spox Rupert Colville speaking in Geneva today pic.twitter.com/a5D6v4E4mg
— UN Geneva (@UNGeneva) January 12, 2018
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 12, 2018
No Trump we are not lazy or ingrates. While you golf we make sure we survive despite your efforts to put us down we will rise.
— Carmen Yulín Cruz (@CarmenYulinCruz) January 12, 2018
Later on Friday, Trump signed a proclamation to commemorate January 15 as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He then left the room immediately after, ignoring calls from reporters to address the comments from the day before and a blatant call of “Mr. President, are you racist?” Who would have thought two years ago that that would be a legitimate question to ask the president of the United States?
— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) January 12, 2018