Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Friday that he heard President Donald Trump repeatedly refer to African countries as “shitholes” at a meeting they both attended the day before.
“(Trump) said things which were hate filled, vile and racist,” Durbin told reporters.
“The most disheartening thing to me is my belief that that was the first time words that hateful had been spoken in the Oval Office of the White House,” Durbin added. “I think back at presidents throughout history and I cannot imagine a moment where a president sunk to that depth, that’s what breaks my heart.”
Durbin disputes Trump’s ‘shithole’ denial: ‘He said these hate-filled things’
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed outrage over Trump’s remarks.
Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., tweeted that the comments “abhorrent and repulsive,” while Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., called the comments “appalling.”
“It’s not enough to just respond with anger. We have to build a political movement in this country which says that that is not who we are and we will not tolerate that type of moral inadequacy,” Sanders wrote on Twitter.
Not everyone jumped to condemn the president, however.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., was at the meeting, but said he would exclusively focus on reaching a deal for the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers.
“Nothing will divert my focus to stop the deportation of these innocent people whose futures are at stake,” he said in a statement sent to NBC News.
Rep. Steve King, R-Ia., told the president to “hang in there” in a tweet. King is a hardliner on immigration and he’s been accused of racism for his own controversial remarks.
Durbin gave a detailed rundown of the bipartisan meeting on immigration and recounted the president’sduring the discussion.
Lawmakers were speaking about immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti who have a temporary protected status in the U.S. due to disasters and political upheaval in their home countries when the president interjected, according to Durbin.
“He said, ‘Haitians? Do we need more Haitians?’ And then he went on when we started to describe the immigration from Africa that was being protected in this bipartisan measure. That’s when he used these vile and vulgar, calling the nations they come from ‘shitholes,’ Durbin said. “The exact word used by the president, not just once, but repeatedly.”
Durbin said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., confronted the president when he used the slur.
“My colleague, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, spoke up and made a directon what the president said. I was very proud of him, it took courage for what he did.”
Durbin said that he told the president excluding Haitians from the group of temporary protected immigrants would lead to an “obvious” conclusion.
“These are black people, these are folks who bring a different aspect to temporary protected status than those who are from Central American countries. He knew it and we all knew it,” Durbin said.
The president tweeted repeatedly on Friday morning, acknowledging using “tough” language in the meeting but denying making criticalabout Haitians.
“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!” he wrote in a post.