Sunday 27 May 2018

Outrage over Trump’s racist and vile ‘shithole’ slur

Republican senators join in clamour of condemnation

US President Donald Trump. Photo: PA
US President Donald Trump. Photo: PA

Nick Allen

President Donald Trump has been accused of using "hate-filled, vile and racist" language in the Oval Office after he reportedly attacked immigrants coming to the US from "shithole countries".

The US president's remarks, said to have been directed at African nations plus Haiti and El Salvador, were condemned by the United Nations human rights office and labelled "divisive" by members of his own Republican Party.

Haiti and Botswana summoned US ambassadors to explain the comments reportedly made at a White House meeting as part of an attempt by Republicans and Democrats to protect from deportation 700,000 children brought to the US illegally as children.

Mr Trump reportedly said: "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here? Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out."

The president was said to have suggested bringing in migrants from countries such as Norway, having met Erna Solberg, the Norwegian prime minister, on Wednesday.

Yesterday, Mr Trump denied making the remarks, saying he had been "tough, but this was not the language used".

He turned to Twitter to state: "Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country.

"Never said 'take them out'. Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings - unfortunately, no trust!"

But Dick Durbin, a Democrat senator who was at the meeting, said he had used the reported words: "In the course of his comments he said things that were hate-filled, vile and racist.

"I cannot believe that, in the history of the White House and that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday."

The 55-nation African Union said it was "frankly alarmed". Haiti, which yesterday observed the eighth anniversary of a devastating earthquake, summoned the US charge d'affaires for an explanation. Botswana called the comments "reprehensible and racist". And South Africa's ruling ANC said the words were "extremely offensive".

Joe Biden, ex-US vice president, said: "It's not how a president should speak. It's not how a president should behave. Most of all, it's not what a president should believe. We're better than this."

Mr Trump later appeared at an event to honour Martin Luther King, the civil rights activist. In his speech he said: "No matter what the colour of our skin, or the place of our birth, we are all created equal."

US television repeatedly showed poignant images of a proud young Haitian cadet with tears streaming down his face, graduating from the US Military Academy at West Point.

In the strongest reaction from a Republican, Representative Mia Love of Utah, a child of Haitian immigrants, demanded an apology and said the president's remarks were "unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation's values."

Republican House speaker Paul Ryan, an Irish-American, called Mr Trump's comments "unhelpful".

"I read those comments later last night, the first thing that came to my mind was very unfortunate, unhelpful," he said.

Ryan recalled his own family history of emigrating to the US from Ireland. "So, I see this as a thing to celebrate," he said. "And I think it's a big part of our strength."

Ryan specifically highlighted Haiti as a sign of that strength and highlighted friends in Janesville, Wisconsin, who are doctors and come from Africa.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who wasn't in the meeting, in a tweet called the president's remarks, "Breathtakingly offensive. Worse, it's ignorant of American ideals."

Meanwhile, the US ambassador to Panama resigned yesterday, saying that he no longer felt able to serve Donald Trump.

John Feeley (56), a career diplomat and former Marine Corps helicopter pilot, announced his resignation in a letter to the state department.

"As a junior foreign service officer, I signed an oath to serve faithfully the president and his administration in an apolitical fashion, even when I might not agree with certain policies," he wrote.

"My instructors made clear that if I believed I could not do that, I would be honour-bound to resign. That time has come."

He is the first ambassador to resign o ver concerns about Mr Trump's leadership.

Irish Independent

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