WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has reportedly called Haiti and African countries “shithole countries” during a meeting with congressional leaders at the White House.
Trump’s comments were first reported by The Washington Post, which said the nations referred to by Trump also included Haiti and El Salvador.
The members of Congress were meeting the US president as a part of efforts to find a solution to America’s immigration problems, which Trump made a central theme of his campaign.
He then reportedly suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries like Norway, a country whose prime minister met with the President Wednesday.
His ‘racist’ remarks sparked condemnation from politicians of both parties and prompted Haiti’s foreign minister to summon US Chargé d’Affaires Robin Diallo for clarification.
The White House issued a statement that did not deny the remarks.
Haiti Ambassador to the U.S. Paul G. Altidor called Trump’s comments “regrettable” and based on “clichés and stereotypes rather than actual fact.”
The ambassador underscored the indelicate timing of the comment, pointing out that Friday is the eighth anniversary of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which is estimated to have killed well over 200,000 people.
Since taking office, Mr Trump has ended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for several groups in the US, including for Haitians and for people from El Salvador.
Haitians became able to apply for TPS following the 2010 earthquake that devastated the Caribbean island nation, and from which Haiti has still not recovered.
People from El Salvador qualified for the program as a result of the dangerous conditions they faced back home, where murder rates have skyrocketed as a result of gang violence there.
The African Union said it was “alarmed” by Trump’s statement. “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,” spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo said, adding that it was “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.”
A UN human rights official branded Donald Trump’s remarks as ‘racist’. “If confirmed these are shocking and shameful comments from the President of the United States,” the spokesperson said. “There is no other word you can use but ‘racist’.”
“You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”
Others quickly decided to own Trump’s language or throw it back in his face. “Good morning from the greatest most beautiful ‘shithole country’ in the world!!!” South African Broadcasting Corporation anchor Leanne Manas tweeted.
Good morning from the greatest most beautiful “shithole country” in the world!!!
— Leanne Manas (@LeanneManas) January 12, 2018
It’s not the first time reports have surfaced of Trump speaking unfavourably about immigrants, and Haitians in particular. The New York Times reported in December that Trump said Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS,” during a summer 2017 meeting about immigration.
According to the Times, Trump also targeted Nigerian immigrants during that meeting, complaining that once they came the United States they would never “go back to their huts.” The White House vigorously denied the claims in the story at the time.