President Donald Trump—who has openly called Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, reportedly claimed that Haitians “all have AIDS,” and characterized African nations as “shitholes”—told a reporter during a photo-op at his Florida golf club Sunday night that he is “the least racist person you have ever interviewed.”
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Trump’s comments come amid nationwide and global backlash against his reported remarks during an Oval Office meeting on immigration last Thursday, which was attended by several lawmakers and White House officials.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the lone Democrat in attendance, confirmed during a press gaggle on Capitol Hill Friday that Trump used the “hate-filled” word “shithole” to describe Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations “repeatedly.”
“You’ve seen the comments in the press. I’ve not read one of them that’s inaccurate,” Durbin said.
Following the initial reporting on Trump’s remarks, many commentators observed that the comments fit with a pattern that stretches back decades. That the president of the United States is a racist, analysts argue, is “not up for debate.”
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Still, Republicans have not been willing to go on the record regarding what was said during the gathering, which was convened to discuss the status of young immigrants who could face deportation, thanks to Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) insisted in a statement on Friday that he “said his piece” directly to Trump during the meeting, but didn’t confirm or deny that the president made the remarks attributed to him by the Washington Post. (Earlier on Friday, Graham reportedly told his fellow South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott that media coverage of what was said during the meeting is “basically accurate.”)
Backpedaling from their previous claim that they did “not recall” Trump making the comments that have been denounced by the international community as “reprehensible and racist,” Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) shifted over the weekend to outright denial.
“I’m telling you he did not use that word,” Perdue told ABC‘s George Stephanopoulos in an interview on Sunday.
Cotton added that “did not hear derogatory comments about individuals or persons.”
The three other GOP lawmakers who attended the meeting—House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Reps. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.)—have yet to publicly address Trump’s reported comments.
The New York Times has compiled an interactive catalog of each member of the Republican Party’s reaction to Trump’s remarks.
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