'Mr. President, are you a racist?': Trump is asked about 'shithole' remarks at MLK address
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- President Donald Trump delivered a speech to honor the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination on Friday morning, just a day after he allegedly used the term "shithole" to describe Haiti and African countries.
- "Mr. President, are you a racist?" reporters called out after the event concluded.
- Lawmakers and political leaders, including from the president's own party, are calling Trump's Thursday remarks racist.
President Donald Trump delivered a speech to honor the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination on Friday morning, just a day after he allegedly used the term "shithole" to describe Haiti and African countries during a meeting with lawmakers.
As Trump shook hands with several event attendees on Friday, reporters called out questions concerning his Thursday comments.
"Mr. President, are you a racist?" one reporter repeatedly asked. Others asked if the president had, in fact, used the term "shithole" in reference to the countries. Another asked if Durbin is lying about his version of the Oval Office meeting.
Trump has railed against the diversity visa lottery program and special temporary status protections that bring in at least 50,000 immigrants from around the world and allow them to reside in the US legally. His reported remarks took place in the context of a debate over the merits of those programs.
The president specifically criticized protections the US gives to immigrants from various underdeveloped countries, including Haiti, El Salvador, and some African countries, during the Thursday meeting.
He reportedly also asked, "Why do we need more Haitians?" and suggested the US government should "take them out."
On Friday, Trump took to Twitter to defend using "tough" language, but said he "never said anything derogatory" about Haitians and suggested he should record future meetings with lawmakers.
But Durbin, who attended the Thursday meeting, insisted on Friday that Trump repeatedly used the term "shithole" to describe Haiti and African countries.
"To no surprise, the president started tweeting this morning denying that he is using those words. It is not true. He said these hate-filled things, and he said them repeatedly," Durbin told reporters.
Trump's remarks were nearly universally condemned as racist and demeaning, sparking an immediate backlash from international leaders and domestic lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans.
"I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Donald Trump is a racist," Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona tweeted. "Bigotry should have no place at the White House."
On Friday, former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele called the president a racist.
"I think at this point, I mean the evidence is incontrovertible, it's right there," Steele said when asked by MSNBC host Hallie Jackson whether the president is a racist.
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Brennan Weiss contributed to this report.