President Trump lamented “s—hole countries” during immigration negotiations on Thursday with lawmakers in the Oval Office, Fox News has confirmed.
“Why are we having all these people from s—hole countries come here?” the president said, in comments first reported by The Washington Post.
The president was referring to people from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and African countries in the temporary protected status program, a source in the meeting told Fox News.
About a dozen people, both Republicans and Democrats, were in the room at the time, including South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin.
Trump made the comments as Durbin was reading a list of temporary protected status countries.
The president also suggested the United States should admit more people from countries like Norway instead, the Post said. Trump had met with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and held a news conference with her Wednesday.
In a statement, the White House did not deny Trump made the comments.
“Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people,” said Raj Shah, the principal deputy White House press secretary.
Democrats reacted by accusing the president of racism.
“As an American, I am ashamed of the president,” said Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutiérrez. “His comments are disappointing, unbelievable, but not surprising. We always knew that president Trump doesn’t like people from certain countries or people or certain colors.”
Some Republicans also voiced their disapproval. Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, whose district includes Miami, responded: “Language like that shouldn’t be heard in locker rooms and it shouldn’t be heard in the White House.”
Rep. Mia Love of Utah, whose parents were Haitian immigrants, called on Trump to apologize, saying his comments were “unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values.”
The Trump administration announced Monday that as many as 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants living in the United States will no longer be allowed to stay because they have decided to end their protected status.
The administration’s decision to end special status for Salvadoran immigrants has emerged as a possible bargaining chip for the president as he works to strike a deal with Congress on immigration.
A bipartisan group of six senators said Thursday afternoon they reached “an agreement in principle” with each other on immigration, including a plan to shield illegal immigrations brought to the United States as children from deportation, though it’s unclear if Trump or others in Congress will go along with it.
“The President will only accept an immigration deal that adequately addresses the visa lottery system and chain migration – two programs that hurt our economy and allow terrorists into our country,” Shah said.
Shah added: “Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation. He will always reject temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hardworking Americans, and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway.”
The comments followed a recent report in the New York Times that Trump said the people of Haiti “all have AIDS” and the people from Nigeria would never “go back to their huts” in Africa after receiving visas to enter the United States. But White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said at the time that the report was false.
Sanders said senior staffers who were “actually in the meeting deny these outrageous claims and it’s both sad and telling the New York Times would print the lies of their anonymous ‘sources’ anyway.”
Fox News’ John Roberts and Serafin Gomez contributed to this report.