WASHINGTON, U.S. - While the U.S. President Donald Trump has outrightly denied making derogatory comments about certain countries and immigrants from those countries coming to the U.S. - the countries reportedly referred to haven’t taken the criticism too well.
It all started on Thursday, when U.S. media reported the shocking outburst and foul-mouthed attack against people from certain countries.
The Washington Post quoted Trump as telling lawmakers, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?"
The report noted that the remarks made by the President were in reference to people from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries.
Trump’s comments reportedly came when lawmakers from both the parties visited him to propose a bipartisan immigration deal.
The report in the Post said that Trump told lawmakers the U.S. should instead be taking in migrants from countries like Norway, whose prime minister visited him a day earlier.
Maryland Democratic lawmaker Elijah Cummings took to Twitter soon after the report appeared and claimed, "I condemn this unforgivable statement and this demeaning of the office of the Presidency."
Even Cedric Richmond, a Democratic lawmaker, said Trump's comments "are further proof that his Make America Great Again agenda is really a Make America White Again agenda.”
Even some Republicans lashed out at the President.
Utah Republican and the only Haitian-American in Congress, Mia Love demanded that the President apologize for the "unkind, divisive, elitist" comments.
However, White House spokesman Raj Shah reacted and said, "Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people. Like other countries 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. 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."
The following morning, Trump denied using the term altogether and said on Twitter, "This was not the language used.”
He wrote on Twitter, “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!”
However, several world leaders, including the United Nations claimed that Trump’s comments were racists.
The African Union said in a statement that it was “frankly alarmed” by Trump’s language.
An African Union spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo said in the statement, “Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behaviour and practice. This is particularly surprising as the United States of America remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity and opportunity.”
Meanwhile, the former Haitian president Laurent Lamothe expressed his dismay in a statement, saying the U.S. president’s remark “shows a lack of respect and ignorance.”
Paul Altidor, the Haitian ambassador to the U.S., said Trump’s views were “based on stereotypes.”
And the president of the International Rescue Committee, David Miliband said Trump’s comments were leading a “race to the bottom on refugees.”
On Saturday however, following international criticism over the comments, the White House said that believes it can brush off the latest racially-charged controversy confronting it.
Trump’s allies meanwhile argued that the blowback over Trump’s disparaging remarks about “shithole” countries is just the latest example of overcooked media outrage and weak GOP lawmakers buckling under pressure.
Trump’s advisers too argued that the president was merely articulating the conservative position on immigration: That the U.S. should be able to decide who is allowed into the country.
They further argued that lawmakers should implement a merit-based immigration system rather than opening the borders to immigrants looking to escape dysfunctional or poverty-stricken parts of the world.
Barry Bennett, a former adviser on Trump’s transition team said, “The point is, if you have a PhD, I don’t care what country you’re from, we want you. We should be allowed to be aspirational.”
Even though Trump himself has denied making the remarks, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who was in the meeting and whose joint tentative bipartisan agreement Trump reportedly criticized in the meeting, told reporters that Trump had used “hate-filled, vile and racist” language to describe immigrants.
Durbin’s story was also confirmed by other Republican senators who were present in the meeting.
Meanwhile, on Friday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted, “Republicans in Congress must now summon the courage to stand up to the racist ramblings of our ‘stable genius’ president.”
Republicans also criticized Trump, with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) calling the remarks “unhelpful” and “unfortunate.”
Meanwhile, Robert Graham, a Trump ally and former chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, dismissed criticism that Trump’s remarks had been racially-motivated.
Graham added, “All they want to do is call people racist and smash them. I think [the left has] overused the race card so much they've destroyed it.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s approval rating has hit a historical low for a president at this point in his first term.
A poll released on Friday suggested that Trump’s political base has narrowed significantly.
According to the poll, in Georgia, a state where Republicans have dominated in eight of the last nine presidential elections, only 37 percent of voters approve of the job Trump is doing, compared to 59 percent who say they disapprove.
Apart from the upcoming elections, the controversy also threatens to derail fragile negotiations between Democrats and Republicans over the fate of immigrants brought into the country at a young age.