President Donald Trump has denied that he used a vulgar, insulting term in describing African nations and Haiti during a White House meeting.
American news media reported on Thursday that Trump used the term at talks on a U.S. immigration policy known as DACA.
DACA is short for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It is meant for individuals who moved to the United States illegally before the age of 16. Under the policy, those immigrants are guaranteed protection and are not at risk of expulsion from the country.
Media reports said Trump used the offensive term when Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham reported to him about a newly-written immigration bill.
The vulgar term means extremely dirty and poor.
The president added that the U.S. government should accept more people from countries like Norway. Trump had met with the Norwegian prime minister on Wednesday.
Asked about the comments, White House spokesman Raj Shah did not deny them. “Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people,” he said.
In a tweet Friday morning, Trump suggested that he did not use the insulting term. He wrote, “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!”
Trump later added, “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!”
Senator Durbin, a member of the Democratic Party, was at the White House meeting on Thursday. The senator spoke with reporters on Friday in Chicago, Illinois.
When asked what Trump had said in the meeting, Durbin said, "I cannot believe that in the history of the White House and of that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday. You've seen the comments in the press. I have not read one of them that's inaccurate."
Reactions from Africa
The African Union (AU) told the Associated Press it was “frankly alarmed” by Trump’s reported comment. A spokesman for the AU said, “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.”
The government in Botswana called Trump’s reported comment “reprehensible and racist.” South Africa’s ruling African National Congress said the term is “extremely offensive.”
Not all African governments offered an opinion.
“Unless it was specifically said about South Sudan, we have nothing to say,” a spokesman for South Sudan told the Associated Press.
United Nations official Rupert Colville added “These are shocking and shameful comments from the President of the United States. There is no other word one can use but ‘racist’.”
Reactions in the U.S.
U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, said “President Trump’s comments are racist and a disgrace.” But Democrats were not the only ones to object.
Like Trump, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida is a member of the Republican Party. She said "It's incomprehensible that these words came out of the mouth of the president of the United States of America, a country that was founded on being free from discrimination and treating people fairly and having people come here, the land of the free."
Another Republican, Representative Mia Love of Utah, is a child of Haitian immigrants. She said “This behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation.” And she called on Trump to apologize to the American people.
Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, also a Republican, said he wanted more details of 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," Hatch added.
I'm Pete Musto.
And I'm Caty Weaver.
Hai Do adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on AP, Reuters and VOA news reports. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
vulgar - adj. lewdly or profanely indecent
defer - v. to choose to do something at a later time
tough - adj. difficult
setback - n. a problem that make progress difficult or success less likely
derogatory - adj. expressing low opinion of someone or something
unfortunately - adv. used to say something bad has happened
inaccurate - adj. not correct or exact
alarm - v. to worry or frighten
opportunity - n. a situation in which something can be done
reprehensible - adj. very bad, deserving very strong criticism
incomprehensible - adj. impossible to understand