ADDS STATE DEPT. COMMENTS ON AMBASSADOR’S RESIGNITION
By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - President Donald Trump on Friday denied using derogatory and vulgar language to describe immigration from Latin American and African countries after widespread condemnation of his reported remarks.
"Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country," Trump wrote on Twitter in a series of posts. "Never said 'take them out.' Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings - unfortunately, no trust!"
The Haitian government has summoned the top American diplomat in Haiti to explain Trump’s remarks. The U.S. does not have an ambassador in Haiti,
The denial followed the publication of comments by the Washington Post in which Trump was quoted as asking lawmakers during a meeting on immigration: "Why are we having all these people from s***hole countries come here?”
He was reportedly referring to El Salvador, Haiti and some African countries. Of Haitians specifically, Trump reportedly said the U.S. should "take them out” of the country.
"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!" Trump tweeted, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program he ended.
The denials, however, were dealt a setback by Democratic Senator Dick Durbin who was present during the meeting and told reporters Trump "repeatedly" made the "hate-filled" remarks.
“I cannot believe that in the history of the White House, in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday,” Durbin said. “You’ve seen the comments in the press. I’ve not read one of them that’s inaccurate.”
Trump made the comments after he grew frustrated about negotiations about renewing protections for people brought to the country illegally as children, known as "Dreamers", the Washington Post reported citing people familiar with the discussions. Some lawmakers had sought to include protections for Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of the negotiation.
"Why do we need more Haitians?" Trump asked, according to the post.
One reason might be Trump. His ritzy Mar-a-Lago Club in the state of Florida reportedly hires most of its seasonal workers from Haiti, CNBC reported.
In all, the club received 70 H-2B visas for foreign workers, according to the finance-focused media network.
Trump is slated to head to the resort this weekend.
He will do so as the fallout continues to mount over his remarks. Already, U.S. Ambassador to Panama John Feeley resigned from his post and reportedly told the State Department in a letter he can no longer serve the Trump administration on principle.
The State Department confirmed Feeley's retirement in a statement to Anadolu Agency that said it was based on "personal reasons". It will be effective March 9.
"Ambassador Feeley is a Career Minister in the Senior Foreign Service and one of the Department’s leading Latin America specialists," spokeswoman Pooja Jhunjhunwala said.
The State Department later said Feeley informed leadership of his resignation Dec. 27. Asked why it waited more than two weeks to make the announcement, Jhunjhunwala said "That’s all I have at this time".
The president has a long history of derogatory remarks about Haitians, Mexicans, Nigerians and Syrian refugees, among others.
He has consistently made disparaging remarks about some ethnic groups, notably calling Mexicans criminals and "rapists".
"Some, I assume, are good people," he conceded while announcing his campaign for the White House.
Responding to Trump's Thursday comments, Congressman Luis Gutierrez said, "As an American, I am ashamed of the President."
"We always knew that President Trump doesn’t like people from certain countries or people or certain colors. We can now we say with 100% confidence that the President is a racist who does not share the values enshrined in our Constitution or Declaration of Independence," he said in a statement.
Gutierrez's comments were part of a maelstrom of condemnation that erupted following reports of the Trump’s remarks.
The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) denounced Trump's comments.
"His decision to use profanity to describe African, Central American and Caribbean countries is not only a low mark for this President, it is a low point for our nation," the black civil rights group said in a statement. "This President’s failure to grasp simple ideas of inclusion and maturity is an open sore on our democracy that continues to fester."