Speaking to reporters on Friday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) — the only Democratic lawmaker who was in the room when President Trump called African countries “shitholes” on Thursday — described Trump’s comments as “hate-filled, vile and racist.”
“He said these hate-filled things,” Durbin added. “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.”
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 12, 2018
Alluding to the weak, belated denial Trump issued Friday morning with regard the “shithole” comment, Durbin accused Trump of lying.
“It is not true,” Durbin said of Trump’s denial. “He said these hate-filled things, and he said them repeatedly.”
Durbin commended one of his Republican colleagues — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — for confronting Trump about his language during the meeting, which was about immigration reform.
“My colleague, [Sen. Graham], spoke up and made a direct comment on what the president said,” Durbin said. “For him to confront the president as he did, literally sitting next to him, took extraordinary political courage and I respect him for it.”
But Graham and the other Republican lawmakers who were in the room — a group that included House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), and Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-VA), among others — have yet to publicly comments on Trump’s racist remark.
Meanwhile, the White House is trying to do damage control. On Friday morning, White House spokesperson Mercedes Schlapp went on Fox News and was pressed about whether Trump actually said what Durbin claims he did. She dodged the question.
.@BillHemmer to WHITE HOUSE SPOX: So did Trump call African countries "shitholes" or not?
WHITE HOUSE SPOX @mercedesschlapp: There has been lots of inaccurate reporting.
HEMMER: But did he or not?
SPOX: I wasn't in the meeting so don't know, but Trump says he didn't. pic.twitter.com/bO9ZDVWrJ0
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 12, 2018
“There’s been been selective leaks, there’s been inaccurate reporting on this,” she said. “I was not in that meeting, but what I can tell you is that he made it very clear that that language was not used, and it’s very clear that this is the Democrats trying to derail this process.”
On Thursday, however, the White House issued a statement that didn’t deny that Trump had called African countries “shitholes.” Later in the evening CNN reported that Trump administration staffers were actually optimistic the president’s comments would “resonate with his base.”
On Friday, CNN reported that President Trump spent Thursday night “phoning allies and friends, asking them how they thought the ‘shithole’ remark was playing out in the press” in what one White House official referred to as a “victory lap.”
Trump spent last night phoning allies and friends, asking them how they thought the “shithole” remark was playing out in the press. One White House official referred to it as a “victory lap.”
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) January 12, 2018