Angry Reactions Continue to Trump’s Vulgar Immigration Remark

Reactions to President Donald Trump’s use of a vulgar slur to explain his opposition to Haitian and African migration to the United States were continuing to circulate Saturday.

Trump stunned lawmakers Thursday in a White House meeting on immigration when, according to multiple reports and confirmation from attendees, he asked, “Why are we having all these people from s—hole countries come here?”

Ninety-five percent of Haitians are black, as are the vast majority of Africans.

Trump said the United States should allow in more people from places such as Norway, whose population is mostly white.

Trump took to Twitter on Friday to deny using the vulgar term, which is slang for an extremely dirty or shabby place and includes a synonym for excrement. He said his language was “tough,” but denied using the vulgarity.

Since then, reactions to his remark have continued to come via Twitter and statements to the media. Trump’s former presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, noted that Friday was the anniversary of a devastating earthquake in Haiti, from which the island has never fully recovered.

“The anniversary of the devastating earthquake 8 years ago is a day to remember the tragedy, honor the resilient people of Haiti, & affirm America’s commitment to helping our neighbors. Instead, we’re subjected to Trump’s ignorant, racist views of anyone who doesn’t look like him,” she tweeted Friday.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tweeted Friday, “I hope our next president will rehire all the diplomats who have resigned over Trump’s racist words and harmful actions. We will need all the help we can get to repair the damage he is doing to our country’s international reputation and interests.”

‘No change in our dedication’

And the U.S. Embassy in South Africa tweeted Friday that “the U.S. deeply respects the people of Africa & values partnerships w/them. There has been no change in our dedication to partners & friends across the Continent.”

Also Friday, the U.N. human rights spokesman, Rupert Colville, called the comments racist, but he added that the episode was “not just a story about vulgar language. It’s about opening the door wider to humanity’s worst side, about validating and encouraging racism and xenophobia that will potentially disrupt and destroy the lives of many people.”

The African Union said Friday that it was “frankly alarmed” by the president’s reported statement. AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo told The Associated Press, “Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice.”

“This is particularly surprising,” she added, “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 U.S. State Department said Friday that American diplomats in Haiti and in Botswana had been summoned by government officials to discuss the remarks. 

U.S. Republican Representative Mia Love of Utah, whose family came from Haiti, said the president’s comments were “unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values. This behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation.”

Love called on Trump to apologize to the people of Haiti.

U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, said in an interview, “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. … This is a president that has had a sordid, terrible history of making racist statements.” 

Ros-Lehtinen also tweeted that Trump’s “calling #Haiti a ‘s**thole country’ ignores the contributions thousands of Haitians have made to our #SoFla community and nation. Language like that shouldn’t be heard in locker rooms and it shouldn’t be heard in the White House.”

‘Ashamed’ of Trump’s position

Minnesota state Representative Ilhan Omar, a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party who in 2016 became the first Somali-American elected to a state legislative office in the United States, released a statement saying, “I am not ashamed of the country where I was born. I am not ashamed to call myself an American now. I am a proud immigrant, refugee, Minnesotan and a proud State Legislator.

“But make no mistake, I am ashamed, disturbed, and outraged that the leader of the United States can’t see beyond his own embarrassing privilege to embrace the diversity that has made this country great for generations.”

U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said he wanted more details “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,” Hatch added.

U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, tweeted late Thursday, “My ancestors came from countries not nearly as prosperous as the one we live in today. I’m glad that they were welcomed here.”

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, said in a tweet, “Immigrants from countries across the globe — including and especially those from Haiti and all parts of Africa — have helped build this country. They should be welcomed and celebrated, not demeaned and insulted.”

U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, a Democrat who is chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said, “President Trump’s comments are yet another confirmation of his racially insensitive and ignorant views. It also reinforces the concerns that we hear every day, that the president’s slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ is really code for ‘Make America White Again.’ ”

The White House released a statement Thursday that defended the president’s views, without referencing his specific comments.

“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.”

VOA correspondents Cindy Saine, Natalie Liu, Steve Herman and Michael Bowman contributed to this report.

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