Senator David Perdue, a Republican of Georgia, denied the President Donald Trump had used a vulgarity to describe Haiti and African nations in a White House meeting with legislators las week. Speaking on Sunday, Perdue said in reference to a rumor originally reported by The Washington Post that Trump had spoke of the “sh-thole countries” during a discussion on border security and immigration reform, the the president “did not use that word.”
Perdue accused Senator Richard J. Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois and immigration advocate, of misrepresenting what Trump had said during the meeting with more than a half-dozen lawmakers. Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas backed up Perdue, saying “I didn’t hear that word either,” during an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was.”
Reports about the words attributed to the president circulated throughout the world, sparking national leaders to summon U.S. diplomats for explanations. The reports also caused prompt outcries from some legislators, both Republican and Democrat. Sen. Cotton said that Durbin “has a history of misrepresenting what happens in White House meetings.” Perdue averred Cotton’s assessment.
Trump tweeted last week, "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!"
Writing at Twitter, Durbin spokesman Ben Marter rebuffed the Republicans’ accusation. Marter wrote “Credibility is something that’s built by being consistently honest over time.” Marter continued, “Senator Durbin has it. Senator Perdue does not. Ask anyone who’s dealt with both.”
Both Cotton and Perdue issued a statement on Friday challenging Durbin’s recollection, saying that they “not recall the president saying these comments specifically.” However, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, told fellow GOP Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina that media reports of Trump’s remarks were “basically accurate.” Other Republicans at the meeting have not discussed the matter publicly.
Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen of the Department of Homeland Security attended the meeting and told Fox News channel that she could not recall Trump “saying that exact phrase.”
Durbin told the media on Friday that Trump had used the word “shithole” several times in front of the group during a discussion of proposed bipartisan legislation, claiming that the president had said “things which were hate-filled, vile and racist.”
“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. Graham joined Durbin in offering an immigration deal on Barack Obama’s Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and border security that Trump rejected. Graham reportedly admonished Trump at the White House, saying that “America is an idea, not a race.”
On Sunday, Trump tweeted that Democrats seek only “to talk and take desperately needed money away from our Military” in their offerings on immigration policy. He tweeted: “DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don’t really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our Military.” In response, Durbin wrote, “Republicans and Democrats negotiated in good faith to reach a deal that gives you what you asked for in front of the country on Tuesday. It’s time to lead and support the bipartisan deal.”