During testimony before Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen claimed to not know whether Norway is a predominately white country.
Nielsen made that hard-to-believe claim while trying to defend the racist language President Trump used during a meeting with lawmakers about immigration last week. The Washington Post, citing “several people briefed on the meeting,” reported that Trump called African nations “shithole countries” and told lawmakers and suggested that the U.S. immigration system should bring in more people from countries like Norway. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) — the only Democratic lawmaker who was in the room for the meeting — later publicly confirmed that Trump made those comments, which he characterized as “hate-filled, vile, and racist.”
Though the White House initially responded to the Post’s reporting by releasing a statement that didn’t deny Trump used racist language, as the blowback intensified, Trump and his supporters used word games to try and walk his comments back.
Nielsen contributed to the gaslighting effort during her testimony on Tuesday, during which she repeatedly said that she “did not hear” Trump say “shithole” during the meeting.
“I did not hear that word used, no sir,” Nielsen said at one point. “The conversation was very impassioned, I don’t dispute that the President was using tough language, others in the room were also using tough language.”
Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) used his question-and-answer time to press Nielsen on why Trump singled out Norway as a country from which he’d like to bring more immigrants to the U.S.
“Being from Norway is not a skill, and with the standard of living in Norway better than ours, you’re not going to have too many people from there,” Leahy said. “What does he mean when he says he wants more people from Norway?”
Nielsen didn’t directly answer the question, but said that Trump is impressed with Norway because Norwegians “work very hard.”
“And so what he was referencing is, from a merit-based perspective, we’d like to have those with skills who can assimilate and contribute to the United States — moving away from country quotas and to an individual merit-based system,” Nielsen added.
Leahy followed up by asking her, “Norway is a predominately white country, isn’t it?”
Nielsen feigned ignorance.
“I’m — I — eh, I actually do not know that, sir, but I imagine that’s the case,” she replied.
Norway, in fact, is nearly 95 percent white.
Following the hearing, Sen. Cory Booker (R-NJ) told reporters that he’s skeptical about Nielsen’s show of ignorance.
“I find it absolutely hard to believe that she does not remember that language used by the President of the United States of America,” Booker said. “And so, this to me is hurtful because that language wasn’t just vulgarity… the President’s words on a consistent basis have been bigoted and discriminatory against others.”
During another part of her testimony on Tuesday, Nielsen revealed that she doesn’t understand basic facts about how the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program works.