Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina became the first member of his party to confirm that President Donald Trump had referred to non-European countries — as well as the entire continent of Africa — as "shitholes" during a congressional meeting Thursday.
Scott told the Charleston Post and Courier that his South Carolina colleague, Lindsey Graham, had told him that media reports of Trump making racially tinged remarks at a Thursday immigration summit were “basically accurate.”
Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., who was also present in the meeting, in a written statement said that Trump “repeatedly” used language that was “hate-filled, vile, and racist.”
“I cannot believe that in the history of the White House, in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday,” Durbin said.
At a public event in Milwaukee, when asked about the meeting, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said that Trump had made "very unfortunate, unhelpful" remarks. He did not confirm or deny that Trump had said anything offensive.
But on Friday morning, Trump was issuing a denial that he used the word "s**thole" — though not anything else he reportedly said during the meeting.
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
Trump's out-of-nowhere comment — the White House didn't even deny Trump used the term on Thursday night — was probably a response to "Fox & Friends," which denounced Trump's language.
At 7:06 am, Fox & Friends' Brian Kilmeade said Trump "made a mistake" with the "shithole" comment and should "walk it back."
At 7:28 am, Trump Tweeted that that was "not the language used." pic.twitter.com/t1fr5RxHKJ
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) January 12, 2018
So here's where we are: No Republicans in Congress denied that Trump had used profanities in his characterizations of Africa and Haiti. The closest that Trump came to a defense came from two Republicans in the meeting: They said merely that they did "not recall" Trump using "s**thole."
Sens. Cotton and Perdue: “In regards to Senator Durbin’s accusation, we do not recall the President saying these comments specifically but what he did call out was the imbalance in our current immigration system, which does not protect American workers and our national interest.”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 12, 2018
The controversy provoked a response from Botswana which formally asked the American ambassador to the African nation "to clarify if Botswana is regarded as a 'shithole' country."
Trump did get some support, though, from Steve King, an Iowa Republican congressman who has made several statements in favor of white nationalists over the years:
— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) January 12, 2018
A writer, web developer, and former tv producer, Matthew Sheffield covers politics, media, and technology for Salon. You can email him via firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter. MORE FROM Matthew Sheffield
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