African envoys decry Trump remarks
U.N. ambassadors demand retraction and apology
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s remarks about African countries and Haiti drew condemnation from a group of African ambassadors to the United Nations who called them “outrageous, racist and xenophobic” and demanded a retraction and apology.
Samantha Power, who was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Barack Obama, shared the ambassadors’ statement on Twitter. “Whoa. I’ve never seen a statement like this by African countries directed at the United States,” she wrote.
The statement, issued late Friday after the African ambassadors held an emergency meeting, comes amid an international outcry over Trump reportedly saying he’d rather have more immigrants from Norway and fewer from Haiti and “shithole countries” in Africa.
Trump has seemed to deny using those words but acknowledged on Twitter that he used “tough” language during White House negotiations this past week with lawmakers on an immigration bill.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the only Democrat at the meeting with Trump, confirmed the vulgar comments, telling reporters the president said “things that were hate-filled, vile and racist.”
Two Trump allies in attendance, Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Purdue of Georgia, issued a statement saying they did “not recall the president saying those comments specifically.”
But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., issued a statement that did not dispute the remarks: “Following comments by the president, I said my piece directly to him yesterday. The president and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel.”
In their statement, the African ambassadors said they were concerned “about the continuing and growing trend from the US administration toward Africa and people of African descent to denigrate the continent and people of color.”
The controversy, stemming from discussions about whether to include immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and African countries in an immigration bill, appears to have dimmed chances of reaching a deal on immigration in the coming weeks.
Lawmakers are under a March 5 deadline to write legislation to change the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA.
The program extends legal protections to 800,000 immigrants who entered the United States illegally as children. Trump ended the program, and finding a legislative solution is a key issue in negotiations between the White House and congressional Democrats on immigration policy.
On Saturday morning, Trump took to Twitter to slam the Democrats as “all talk and no action. They are doing nothing to fix DACA. Great opportunity missed. Too bad!”
Trump’s allies have argued that the controversy over his remarks is overblown.
Anthony Scaramucci, whose brief tenure as White House communications director ended shortly after his expletive-filled comments about his administration colleagues appeared in The New Yorker, said Trump “is not a racist.”
And other Trump backers said the president’s remarks show he’s aligned with a long-standing conservative push to reshape immigration policy into a merit-based system rather than one based on family ties or admitting those from countries beset by poverty.
“The point is, if you have a Ph.D., I don’t care what country you’re from, we want you,” Barry Bennett, a former Trump adviser, told The Hill newspaper.