It didn’t take long for lawmakers on both side of the aisle to react to President Donald Trump‘s description — according to multiple sources either briefed on or familiar with Thursday’s Oval Office discussion — of Haiti and African nations as “s—hole countries.”
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Elected officials issued statements, took to social media, and appeared on cable news to slam the president’s remarks.
In an Oval Office meeting at the White House Thursday, Trump grew frustrated at a proposed bipartisan immigration plan that would scale back the visa lottery program, but not eliminate it, asking those in the room why they would want people from Haiti, Africa and other “s—hole countries” coming into the U.S., according to multiple sources either briefed on or familiar with the discussion.
The White House did not deny that the president made these remarks. Deputy White House Press Secretary Raj Shah issued this statement to ABC News:
“Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people. The President will only accept an immigration deal that adequately addresses the visa lottery system and chain migration – two programs that hurt our economy and allow terrorists into our country. Like other nations 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.”
A spokesperson for Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, the sole Democrat negotiator in the Oval Office when the president made the comment, told ABC News “no comment” when asked about Trump’s choice of language.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, said in a statement. “If these comments are accurate, they are disappointing. I would not talk about nations like this, because I believe the people of those countries are made in the image of God and have worth and human dignity. The United States should lead the world in respect for all people.”
Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wisconsin, said during a Fox News segment, “I can’t put myself in the president’s head. It’s an unfortunate comment. It’s — I can’t defend it. I don’t think anybody can I don’t know where he wanted to go with it … I don’t have good insight. It’s a really hard spot to sit tonight to defend or analyze what he is trying to make. Its offensive. I don’t like it.”
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said in a statement, “Our strength lies in our diversity, including those who came here from Africa, the Caribbean and every other corner of the world. To deny these facts would be to ignore the brightest part of our history.”
Former FBI Director James Comey even chimed in, tweeting, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” This country’s greatness and true genius lies in its diversity.”
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” This country’s greatness and true genius lies in its diversity.
— James Comey (@Comey) January 12, 2018
Below, others who took to Twitter to express their disdain for the president’s remarks:
OHIO GOV. JOHN KASICH, REPUBLICAN
America was built on the backs of immigrants from around the globe. We must honor that history, not reject it. It starts with respectful rhetoric and signing bipartisan DACA legislation.
— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) January 11, 2018
SEN. JEFF FLAKE, R-ARIZONA
My ancestors came from countries not nearly as prosperous as the one we live in today. I’m glad that they were welcomed here.
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) January 12, 2018
FORMER FLORIDA GOV. JEB BUSH, REPUBLICAN
For every one step forward @POTUS takes when it comes to judgement and good, coherent policy decisions, he Inexplicably and without fail takes ten steps back. I hope today’s comments were just a crass and flippant mistake, and do not reflect the hateful racism they imply. 1/2
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) January 12, 2018
We need comprehensive immigration reform that reflects our values as a country and recognizes our economic needs. This requires a merit-based system that attracts talented, freedom-loving individuals from across the globe, whether they are from Haiti, Norway or anywhere else 2/2
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) January 12, 2018
REP. MIA LOVE, R-UTAH
Here is my statement on the President’s comments today: pic.twitter.com/EdtsFjc2zL
— Rep. Mia Love (@RepMiaLove) January 11, 2018
SEN. ORRIN HATCH, R-UTAH
HATCH: “I look forward to getting a more detailed explanation regarding 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.” #utpol
— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) January 11, 2018
DEMOCRATIC LEADER NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIFORNIA
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) January 11, 2018
REP. TED LIEU, D-CALIFORNIA
Appalled by @realDonaldTrump’s racists remarks. Once again, @POTUS is dividing our nation. His statement today in the Oval Office was beyond the pale, even for him. As a proud immigrant serving in Congress, will continue to fight against these hateful policies. https://t.co/eaGtEFBi8W
— Rep. Ted Lieu (@RepTedLieu) January 11, 2018
REP LUIS GUTIERREZ, D-ILLINOIS
This is the real Donald Trump and my biggest fear is that his voters will applaud him. https://t.co/GVDHYvMDof
— Luis V. Gutierrez (@RepGutierrez) January 11, 2018
REP. GRACE MENG, D-NEW YORK
— Grace Meng (@RepGraceMeng) January 11, 2018
REP. ROBIN KELLY, D-ILLINOIS
— Robin Kelly (@RobinLynneKelly) January 11, 2018
SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH, D-NEW MEXICO
Pres Trump doesn’t have a bottom floor – with every insult he stoops lower and lower. Truly a disgrace. https://t.co/1BethMotDi
— Martin Heinrich (@MartinHeinrich) January 11, 2018
SEN. CORY BOOKER, D-NEW JERSEY
Let me be clear. @RealDonaldTrump does not speak for America.
We are a nation of immigrants and I am so proud of that. https://t.co/ZnB8ln9GkC
— Sen. Cory Booker (@SenBooker) January 11, 2018
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, D-MARYLAND
I condemn this unforgivable statement and this demeaning of the office of the Presidency. I will always fight for the vulnerable among us and against bigotry in all its forms. https://t.co/uffsZkgnfy
— Elijah E. Cummings (@RepCummings) January 11, 2018
REP. KEITH ELLISON, D-MINNESOTA
“Why are we having all these people from sh*thole countries come here?” Trump said referring to African countries and Haiti. Ready to organize yet? https://t.co/ALkmkLnsKz
— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) January 11, 2018
REP. JOE KENNEDY III, D-MASSACHUSETTS
“No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.” – Elie Wiesel https://t.co/csyC1BjrXB
— Rep. Joe Kennedy III (@RepJoeKennedy) January 11, 2018
REP. FRANK PALLONE, D-NEW JERSEY
Appalled by @realDonaldTrump’s bigoted remarks that once gain reveal his lack of compassion & decency. This behavior is unacceptable from any individual, let alone our president.https://t.co/VuGkqnTz6e
— Rep. Frank Pallone (@FrankPallone) January 11, 2018
SEN.RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-CONNECTICUT
President Trump’s remarks smack of blatant racism – odious and insidious racism masquerading poorly as immigration policy. He does not speak for me as an American.
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) January 11, 2018
REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT, D-NEW YORK
— Adriano Espaillat (@RepEspaillat) January 11, 2018
SEN. BEN CARDIN, D-MARYLAND
— Senator Ben Cardin (@SenatorCardin) January 12, 2018
FORMER FIRST DAUGHTER CHELSEA CLINTON, DEMOCRAT
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) January 11, 2018
FORMER MEXICAN PRESIDENT VICENTE FOX QUESADA
.@realDonaldTrump, your mouth is the foulest shithole in the world. With what authority do you proclaim who’s welcome in America and who’s not. America’s greatness is built on diversity, or have you forgotten your immigrant background, Donald?
— Vicente Fox Quesada (@VicenteFoxQue) January 11, 2018
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE (NAACP)