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This Might Be Why Trump Denied Dissing Haiti

'Shithole countries' remark reportedly referred to African nations, reports Jake Tapper
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 12, 2018 2:06 PM CST
This Might Be Why Trump Denied Dissing Haiti
President Trump listens as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson speaks during an event to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(Newser) – President Trump honored the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. during a White House event on Friday with a strong statement: "No matter what the color of our skin or the place of our birth, we are all created equal." But as USA Today notes, headlines about Trump using the term "shithole countries" about certain nations during an immigration meeting threatened to overshadow the moment. The president ignored questions about the incident during the event, but there were plenty of other developments:

  • To clarify: Jake Tapper of CNN reports that Trump referred to African nations as "shithole countries" but did not use the term about Haiti. Trump did, however, ask, "Why do we need more Haitians?" and asked that they be taken out of any immigration deal. The two different Trump remarks have been conflated a bit, perhaps explaining why Trump specifically denied saying anything "derogatory" about Haiti.
  • Senator's view: Tim Scott of South Carolina, the lone black Republican in the Senate, says he spoke to Sen. Lindsey Graham, who attended the meeting, and Graham told him the "shithole countries" stories are "basically accurate," reports the Post and Courier. If so, that's "incredibly disappointing," says Scott, adding that America's strength is the "ability to weave together multiple communities for one nation." (Democrat Dick Durbin also confirmed that Trump used the term.)

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  • Paul Ryan: He called Trump's remarks "unfortunate" and "unhelpful" and talked about his family's migration from Ireland on "coffin ships," reports CNN. "We have got great friends from Africa who are incredible citizens. I think it's important that we celebrate that."
  • Condemnation: The Washington Post rounds up more reaction from the around the world, including this from the spokesperson of the African Union: "Considering the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the US during the Atlantic slave trade, this flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice.” The UN human rights spokesperson called the remark "racist," and Haiti's ambassador to the US wants an explanation.
  • A defense: Ohio Rep. Jim Renacci appeared on Fox & Friends Friday and defended Trump. “I’ve said all along the president many times says what people are thinking,” Renacci said, per Mediaite. He said Trump often gets into hot water with his comments because he's a "business guy" unused to politics, adding that people should judge him after four years, not by incidents such as this one.
  • Don Lemon: The frequent Trump critic drew attention by opening his CNN show Thursday night thusly: "This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. The president of the United States is racist." See it via Newsweek.

  • Calling it: At the New York Times, David Leonhardt is tired of a pattern: Trump says something seemingly racist, setting off a fevered debate on whether he is personally racist. Enough, Leonhardt writes. Only Trump knows his own private thoughts and motivations; the rest of us can only judge his actions. "Donald Trump treats black people and Latinos differently than he treats white people. And that makes him a racist."
  • Breitbart's view: Joel Pollack, the senior editor-at-large at Breitbart News, draws a lesson for Trump about the controversy, one regarding "the danger of even talking to the political opposition in the poisonous climate that Democrats and the mainstream media have created in Washington," he writes. "Both are determined to bring down the Trump presidency and to nullify the 2016 election."
  • Merriam-Webster: The dictionary folks couldn't resist weighing in on the controversy in a subtle fashion: The M-W word of the day is "reprehensible," notes Mashable.
  • Shouted question: As President Trump was leaving his MLK event Friday, a reporter shouted, "Are you a racist?" Twitchy has video and rounds up reaction on the right from those who think the question was out of bounds.
(Read more President Trump stories.)

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