What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

On MLK Day, U.S. grapples with furor over Trump’s words

This year's memorials honoring Martin Luther King Jr. came amid the ongoing furor over President Trump's alleged comments and his views on race. While the president released a video commemorating the civil rights hero, his derogatory words reported last week about African and Haitian immigrants hang in the air, as partisan acrimony threatens hope of a DACA deal. Judy Woodruff reports.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    This is the day that the United States honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., assassinated 50 years ago this spring.

    But this year, the remembrances came amid the ongoing furor over words President Trump has allegedly spoken and the views he holds on race.

    All across the nation, Americans marked King Day, with a march in Atlanta, music in Brooklyn, and acts of service in Washington, where volunteers distributed coats.

  • President Donald Trump:

    It is a dream of a world where people are judged by who they are.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump released a video commemorating Dr. King. But the president's derogatory words last week about African and Haitian immigrants hung heavily in the air. Martin Luther King III spoke at a Washington breakfast.

  • Martin Luther King III:

    When a president insists that our nation needs more citizens from white states like Norway, I don't even think we need to spend any time even talking about what it says and what it is.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In Florida, demonstrators waved Haitian flags as the president played golf near his Mar-a-Lago resort at Palm Beach.

    Last night, Mr. Trump directly addressed accusations that he is a racist.

  • President Donald Trump:

    No, no, I'm not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That, I can tell you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    He also denied, again, reports that he had asked during a meeting- "Why are we having all these people from 'blank'-hole countries come here?"

  • President Donald Trump:

    Did you see what various senators in the room said about my comments? They weren't made.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Republicans David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas initially said they didn't recall any such statement. On Sunday, they stepped up their defense of the president.

  • Sen. David Perdue:

    I'm telling you he didn't use that word, George, and I'm telling you it's a gross misrepresentation. How many times you want me to say that?

  • Sen. Tom Cotton:

    I certainly didn't hear what Senator Durbin has said repeatedly. Senator Durbin has a history of misrepresenting what happens in White House meetings, though, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin held his ground today in Chicago.

  • Sen. Dick Durbin:

    What the president said in that meeting was so awful and so impactful on so many people, that, when he denied saying it, I felt duty-bound to clarify.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The partisan acrimony now threatens any hope of reaching a deal on DACA, the program that protects young immigrants from deportation. The president warned last night that it's not happening.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Oh, we're ready, willing and able to make a deal on DACA. The Democrats are the ones that aren't going to make a deal.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mr. Trump repeated that stance again today on Twitter.

    Later, the president tweeted that Senator Durbin had — quote — "totally misrepresented" his comments.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest