Members of both parties roundly criticized President Donald Trump after the Washington Post reported he called Haiti and African countries “shithole countries.”
But Friday morning, after the controversy had brewed through the night, the president tweeted that he didn’t use those words.
Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, who is retiring, said he wants “a detailed explanation” of the president’s remarks. The Utah Republican, who is considered an ally and has spoken positively of the president, said “part of what makes America so special is that we welcome the best the brightest in the world, regardless of country of origin.”
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
HATCH: “I look forward to getting a more detailed explanation regarding the President’s comments. Part of what makes America so special is that we welcome the best and brightest in the world, regardless of their country of origin.” #utpol— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) January 11, 2018
Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York was more vocal in his criticism, repeating his name for Trump that he is the “Grand Wizard of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.” in reference to the term for leaders of the Ku Klux Klan.
Grand Wizard of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. has once again ripped the sheets off and exposed himself to the American People. What a DISGRACE https://t.co/FNpulOAL6u— Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) January 12, 2018
Rep. Cedric Richmond, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said it reinforced that “that the President’s slogan Make America Great Again is really code for Make America White Again.”
“All of the reservations we have had about negotiating with him on immigration are well-founded,” he said in a statement. “President Trump is clearly more concerned with ending the future flow of immigrants from Africa and the African diaspora than providing relief to Dreamers who came here through no fault of their own.”
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Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the remark was “shameful, abhorrent, unpresidental, and deserves our strongest condemnation.”
“The Congressional Hispanic Caucus calls on every member of Congress to reject this vile statement, which erodes the moral fiber that binds us together as Americans,” she said in a statement.
Members from Florida, the state with the largest Haitian population, also criticized Trump’s remarks.
Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring after this term, tweeted Trump’s remarks ignored the contributions Haitian-Americans make to Southern Florida.
The president calling #Haiti a "shithole country" ignores the contributions thousands of Haitians have made to our #SoFla community and nation. Language like that shouldn't be heard in locker rooms and it shouldn't be heard in the White House— Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (@RosLehtinen) January 11, 2018
The state’s Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who is up for re-election this cycle, tweeted “[t]he President should represent all people, not just selected favorites” and Trump’s remarks.
The President should represent all of the people, not just some selected favorites, and should treat others with respect and dignity. These are American values and this White House has strayed from them. https://t.co/TLSaL1yBze— Bill Nelson (@SenBillNelson) January 12, 2018
Sen. Marco Rubio was more muted in his criticism in a stream of tweets, praising the Haitian and Salvadoran communities in Florida while not mentioning Trump by name.
In a skills based economy,we can no longer decide who we allow to immigrate here primarily based on what country they are coming from 1/7— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 12, 2018
The decision on whether to allow someone to immigrate here should be based primarily on who they are,not where they are coming from 2/7— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 12, 2018
That’s why we need to move from family based to merit based immigration & why we should eliminate country of origin based diversity visa 3/7— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 12, 2018
But that’s also why we should evaluate immigrants based on WHO they are & not on the problems that exist in the nation of their birth 4/7— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 12, 2018
Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 12, 2018
#Florida is home to many people who came from these troubled nations & contribute to our economy through hard work & entrepreneurship 6/7— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 12, 2018
And Florida is home to people from these two countries whose children have fought for & even tragically died in the service of America 7/7— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 12, 2018
Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen of Minnesota called Trump’s remarks “inappropriate” and “degrading.”
It is completely inappropriate for the President to refer to other countries in the manner in which he reportedly did, especially given the circumstances and disasters that led many TPS immigrants to seek refuge and shelter in the US— Rep. Erik Paulsen (@RepErikPaulsen) January 12, 2018
I hope the White House apologizes for these degrading comments and focuses on working towards a solution for those from TPS countries rather than making denigrating statements— Rep. Erik Paulsen (@RepErikPaulsen) January 12, 2018
Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who is also retiring and has been a frequent critic of Trump, tweeted that his ancestors “came from countries not nearly as prosperous as the one we live in today.”
My ancestors came from countries not nearly as prosperous as the one we live in today. I’m glad that they were welcomed here.— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) January 12, 2018
But Trump did have some defenders, like Rep. Steve King, who has himself said inflammatory remarks about immigrants in the past.
"If those countries aren’t as you described, Democrats should be happy to deport criminal aliens back to them," King tweeted.
Steve King (@SteveKingIA) January 12, 2018
Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York somewhat defended Trump's remarks, saying that Trump "wasn't elected for his ability or willingness to be politically correct" but also said many countries "have certain aspects of culture, tradition, values, & religion, that can be emulated the world over."
Pres @realDonaldTrump wasn't elected for his ability or willingness to be politically correct. The fact is that there are many nations in the world struggling mightily... politically & economically, w poor infrastructure, schools, physical security & more.— Lee Zeldin (@leezeldin) January 12, 2018
These third world nations have some of the worst possible challenges imaginable. They also have certain aspects of culture, tradition, values, & religion, that can be emulated the world over.— Lee Zeldin (@leezeldin) January 12, 2018
The US can & should help where we can, but we also can & should prioritize many challenges we are already facing right here at home. Our immigration policies must get stronger, our limited resources spent wiser, & our priorities placed smarter.— Lee Zeldin (@leezeldin) January 12, 2018
I'm not though here to call for the President's mouth to be washed out w soap & then for him to be physically removed from office. He's not perfect, but no President has ever been perfect. I'm still very strongly rooting for his success & America's success in this great new year.— Lee Zeldin (@leezeldin) January 12, 2018