The White House is not denying that President Donald Trump used a vulgar expression Thursday when talking about immigrants from Haiti and African countries during a meeting with lawmakers in the Oval Office.
The president allegedly called those nations “shithole countries” when complaining about their immigrants to the United States.
He also allegedly said he wants more immigrants from places like Norway. The Washington Post and other outlets have reported Trump’s comments, citing sources briefed on the meeting.
“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,” Shah said.
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The spokesman’s statement seemed to suggest that Trump’s description of Haiti and African countries, coupled with his desire for more Norwegians and similar immigrants, was his way to advocate letting in people with higher education levels and a wider set of skills.
“Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation,” Shah said.
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut slammed Trump’s assessment of Haiti and African countries during an interview on MSNBC, calling them unacceptable and describing them as beneath the office of the presidency.
House Foreign Affairs ranking member Eliot L. Engel called the remark “another embarrassment on the global stage.”
“It’s also an insult to millions of people, including many Americans, even as he pursues wrongful immigration policies that tear families apart,” the New York Democrat said in a statement. “The president of the United States simply shouldn’t speak that way.”
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.
Here is my statement on the President’s comments today: pic.twitter.com/EdtsFjc2zL— Rep. Mia Love (@RepMiaLove) January 11, 2018
The Oval Office meeting was intended to try to help lawmakers strike a deal on the Obama-era DACA immigration program and several other immigration issues.