Editor’s Note: This post contains explicit language.
President Donald Trump’s use of the words “shithole countries” when referencing Haiti, El Salvador and African nations at a meeting about immigration policy with lawmakers on Thursday sparked strong reactions around the world, especially on Twitter.
President Trump’s use of the phrase was confirmed to media outlets Thursday by several senior aides briefed on the meeting. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who attended the meeting, confirmed use of the language to reporters on Friday. “In the course of his comments, [Trump] said things which were hate-filled, vile and racist,” Durbin said. “I use those words advisedly. I understand how powerful they are.”
Trump denied using the phrase in a tweet early Friday: “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!”
The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
Sens. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., also present at the meeting, echoed those sentiments in a statement Friday. “We do not recall the president saying these comments specifically but what he did call out was the imbalance in our current immigration system, which does not protect American workers and our national interest. We, along with the president, are committed to solving an issue many in Congress have failed to deliver on for decades.”
What U.S. lawmakers are saying:
Haitian-American Republican Rep. Mia Love of Utah said in a statement that Trump’s remarks from Thursday “are unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values.”
Here is my statement on the President’s comments today: pic.twitter.com/EdtsFjc2zL
— Rep. Mia Love (@RepMiaLove) January 11, 2018
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told the Associated Press that “these comments are highly inappropriate and out of bounds and could hurt efforts for a bipartisan immigration agreement.”
Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said there was a “moral vacuum” in the White House, pointing to several of Trump’s previous racially charged comments:
He said all Haitians have AIDS. He said Nigerians live in huts. He called Mexicans rapists. This is who Donald Trump is. There is a moral vacuum in the White House. https://t.co/OpyIpUuNda
— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) January 11, 2018
Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch said on Twitter he looked forward to “getting a more detailed explanation regarding the president’s comments,” adding: “Part of what makes America so special is that we welcome the best and brightest in the world, regardless of their country of origin.”
What African leaders are saying:
The African Union’s spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo said in a statement that “the African Union Commission is frankly alarmed at statements by the president of the United States when referring to migrants of African countries and others in such contemptuous terms. Considering the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the U.S. during the Atlantic slave trade, this flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice.”
Botswana’s government summoned the U.S. ambassador, Earl Miller, who has served in his post since 2014, asking him to explain Trump’s comments and clarify whether it was one of the countries Trump was referencing.
In a statement, the Ministry of International Affairs said “the Government of Botswana is wondering why President Trump, must use this descriptor and derogatory word, when talking about countries with whom the U.S. has cordial and mutually beneficial relations for so many years.”
Other worldwide reaction:
United Nations human rights spokesman Rupert Colville called the president’s comment “shocking and shameful” at a briefing in Geneva. “You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes,’ whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”
“I’m sorry, but here’s no other word one can use but ‘racist.’ … This isn’t just a story about vulgar language, it’s about opening the door to humanity’s worst side,” he said.
“These are PEOPLE,” emphasized David Miliband, president and DEO of the International Rescue Committee, on Twitter.
Trump Administration leading a race to the bottom on refugees and immigrants that is a betrayal of America’s future as well as of its history. These are PEOPLE. https://t.co/OPf7LgLYRg
— David Miliband (@DMiliband) January 12, 2018
Vicente Fox, Mexico’s president from 2000 to 2006, tagged the president on Twitter, saying “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?”
.@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
Haiti’s Ambassador to the U.S. Paul Altidor said his office had been bombarded by emails apologizing for the president’s remarks.
“In the spirit of the people of Haiti we feel in the statements, if they were made, the president was either misinformed or miseducated about Haiti and its people,” he said in a statement.
What are people saying on Twitter?
Friday was the eighth anniversary of the massive 2010 earthquake that leveled Haitian cities and killed more than 200,000 people. Many Twitter users raised the anniversary in their response.
On January 12, 2010 an earthquake devastated the country of Haiti. The American people rose up & offered assistance in every way possible. We sent supplies, we raised money, we offered the displaced refuge, & we stood with Haiti. Never would we have called their home a .#Shithole
— RedResister (@NaplesResists) January 12, 2018
The immigration discussion is happening in the wake of several Trump administration decisions to end so-called Temporary Protected Status for Haitians in the U.S. by July 2019, for Salvadorans by September 2019 and for Nicaraguans by January 2019.
Some Haitians tweeted images defending their country:
— Harold Isaac (@haroldisaac) January 12, 2018
British journalist and TV personality Piers Morgan called on the president to apologize: “I know @realDonaldTrump doesn’t like apologizing but sometimes it’s not just a good idea, it’s absolutely essential. This is one of those times, Mr President. Your comment about immigrants from ‘shithold countries’ was outrageous, disgraceful & racist.”
I know @realDonaldTrump doesn’t like apologising but sometimes it’s not just a good idea, it’s absolutely essential.
This is one of those times, Mr President.
Your comment about immigrants from ‘shithole countries’ was outrageous, disgraceful & racist.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) January 12, 2018
“Pity the job of a U.S. Ambassador in a “shithole” country today,” noted another Twitter user.
Pity the job of a U.S. Ambassador in a "shithole" country today.
— Madhulika Sikka (@madhulikasikka) January 12, 2018
Meanwhile, conservative commentator Ann Coulter embraced Trump’s comments, tweeting “he’s trying to win me back.”
He's trying to win me back. https://t.co/JEmlyqd7ZY
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) January 11, 2018
Others joined her on Twitter to defend the president’s language:
“Rule of thumb: if the water where you live is not potable because local engineers can’t somehow separate well water from sewage water, you live in a #shithole country. Literally,” user James Woods wrote.
Rule of thumb: if the water where you live is not potable because local engineers can’t somehow separate well water from sewage water, you live in a #shithole country. Literally.
— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) January 12, 2018
“I wonder why Americans aren’t leaving Miami to live in Haiti but thousands of Haitians are leaving Haiti to come to Miami,” user Makada tweeted.