During a Thursday meeting in the Oval Office with bipartisan senators, President Donald Trump allegedly made comments regretting immigration from “s---hole countries” to America, Fox News confirmed this morning. In comments originally reported by the Washington Post, the President asked “Why are we having all these people from s---hole countries come here?” as Senator Dick Durbin was reading a list of temporary protected status countries.
The "sh-thole countries" in question are Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and several African countries in the temporary protected status program, a source in the meeting reported to Fox News.
About a dozen Democrats and Republicans were in present in the meeting along with Durbin, including South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.
President Trump also suggested the United States should seek to admit more people from countries like Norway instead, the Post reported.
In a public statement, the White House did not deny that Trump made the comments. Raj Shah, principal deputy White House press secretary, said “Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people."
Republican Rep. Mia Love, whose parents were Haitian immigrants, urged Trump to apologize for his “unkind, divisive, elitist" comments:
Here is my statement on the President’s comments today: pic.twitter.com/EdtsFjc2zL— Rep. Mia Love (@RepMiaLove) January 11, 2018
The U.S. government's Africa Media Hub issued a statement via Twitter to try to put out the flames sparked by Trump's comments, saying that "US remains committed to working together w/Africans to realize the promise of a more peaceful, more productive, more prosperous 21st century Africa. US deeply respects the people of #Africa & values its partnerships with them."
Early on Friday, U.N. spokesman Rupert Colville said that Trump's vulgar description of Africa and other countries could "potentially damage and disrupt many lives. "You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as `s---holes'," Colville said.
According to Fox News, Haiti's ambassador to the U.S. has formally requested that an official from the Trump administration explain the comments. Ambassador Paul Altidor told journalist Yamiche Alcindor on Thursday that he and the Haitian government “vehemently condemn” the president's comments and do not understand why he made them.
Haiti’s US Ambassador Paul Altidor tells me Haiti’s government has formerly summoned a US official to explain Trump’s comments to Haiti’s officials. “Haitians fought along US soldiers in the revolutionary war and we continue to be great contributors to American society,” he said https://t.co/adRajn3O5y— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) January 12, 2018
Countries in Africa are in a more delicate situation when it comes to responding to Trump's comments. As top recipients of U.S. aid, officials from countries like South Sudan are hesitant to jeopardize their aid by criticizing Trump. South Sudanese spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said that "unless it was specifically said about South Sudan, we have nothing to say."
Other voices in Africa, however, are far less skittish about denouncing Trump's statements. South Africa's ruling party referred to the comments as "extremely offensive."
Deputy Secretary General Jesse Duarte of the African National Congress noted that, of course, developing African countries have many serious difficulties, but Americans should not be hypocritical in light of having millions of people homeless, unemployed, without access to healthcare, and more.
Ebba Kalondo, a spokeswoman for the African Union described Trump's comments as "alarming" and "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."