Conservatives pushed back against Trump’s racist comments on immigration. Now he’s doubling down.

"The Statue of Liberty reads, 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,' not 'go back to your s**thole.'"

President Donald Trump at the West Wing of the White House, on January 10, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump at the West Wing of the White House, on January 10, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Several Republican lawmakers this week condemned President Trump for a series of racist comments he made during a meeting in the Oval Office on Thursday, in which he disparaged immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and several African nations.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump reportedly asked the bipartisan group of senators, who had met with him to discuss an immigration deal. “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”

The president then reportedly suggested that “the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway” and said he would be “open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt that they help the United States economically,” according to the Washington Post.

Earlier on Thursday evening, a handful of conservative lawmakers, like Rep. Mia Love (R-UT), had pushed back against Trump, calling on him to apologize for denigrating immigrants.

“The President’s comments are unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values,” Love wrote in a statement posted to her official Twitter account. “This behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation. My parents came from one of those countries but proudly took an oath of allegiance to the United States and took on the responsibilities of everything that being a citizen comes with. …That’s the American Dream.”

She added, “The President must apologize to both the American people and the nations he so wantonly maligned.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-FL) was also critical of Trump’s comments, telling CNN in a statement,

If these comments are the president’s words they are disappointing to say the least. The American family was born from immigrants fleeing persecution and poverty and searching for a better future. Our strength lies in our diversity, including those who came here from Africa, the Caribbean and every other corner of the world. To deny these facts would be to ignore the brightest part of our history.

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) did not explicitly call on the president to apologize, asking for Trump to explain his comments instead.

“I look forward to getting a more detailed explanation regarding the President’s comments,” Hatch tweeted on Thursday. “Part of what makes America so special is that we welcome the best and brightest in the world, regardless of their country of origin.”

Florida Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) was especially critical of the president’s comments.

“[The president] needs to understand that lives are at stake when he makes such reckless comments,” Ros-Lehtinen told reporters. “The Statue of Liberty reads, ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,’ not ‘go back to your shithole.'”

In a series of tweets on Thursday night, she added, “The president calling #Haiti a ‘shithole country’ ignores the contributions thousands of Haitians have made to our #SoFla community and nation. Language like that shouldn’t be heard in locker rooms and it shouldn’t be heard in the White House. …No country deserves to be called a ‘shithole.’ The #USA stands for inclusion and opportunity, not condescension. Someone should tell @POTUS he’s the President and encourage him to start acting like it.”

Trump has previously espoused similarly racist views on immigrants and once claimed that Haitians “all have AIDS.”

That remarks caused a firestorm among Democrats, who condemned the clear racist overtones in the president’s comments. Among Republicans, reactions were mixed, with some criticizing Trump’s comments and others jumping to defend his choice of words.

In response to the backlash, the president on Friday tweeted that reports of his “shithole” comments were false. He also claimed that Democrats had lied about what was said in the meeting.

“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!” he tweeted. “…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!”

Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R) spoke out on Thursday night, asking Trump to further explain his alleged comments.

“Under no circumstances is it acceptable to degrade, denigrate, or dehumanize #TPS immigrants,” he tweeted. “The White House must immediately explain the situation and leave no doubt regarding what was said and in what context.”

Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock issued her own statement on Friday morning, addressing Trump’s comments and pleading with her colleagues to remember President Ronald Reagan’s vision of a “shining city on a hill”, or open-door nation.

“I can’t defend what the President reportedly said,” she wrote. “We are all made in the image and likeness of God. The United States is a nation of immigrants, and our families and forbears have come from all over the world. This diversity is our strength and uniquely American. …What we need now is not division or discord, but finding a way we can come together and agree, as well as civilly disagree, as we tackle our diverse American challenges.”

White House spokesman Raj Shah issued a statement earlier on Thursday reinforcing Trump’s supposed views on immigration. The statement did not directly address the president’s alleged “shithole” remarks.

“Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people,” he wrote. “…President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation. He will always reject temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hardworking Americans, and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway.”


UPDATE, 2:05 p.m.: Friday afternoon, several more Republican members of Congress issued statements condemning President Trump’s “shithole” comments.

During a WisPolitics Luncheon in Milwaukee, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that the remarks were “very unfortunate, unhelpful,” adding that immigration was “a big part of [the country’s] strength.”

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) was more forceful in his condemnation, saying that Trump “owes the people of Haiti and all of mankind an apology.”

“That is not the kind of statement the leader of the free world should make, and he ought to be ashamed of himself,” he said during an interview with POTUS SiriusXM radio. “If he did not make it, he needs to corroborate the facts and prove it and move forward.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) tweeted that Trump’s comments were “highly inappropriate & out of bounds.”

“[They] could hurt efforts for a bipartisan immigration agreement,” she wrote. “The President should not denigrate other countries.”

Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) also spoke out on Friday.

“Respect for the God-given dignity of every human being, no matter their race, ethnicity or other circumstances of their birth, is the essence of American patriotism. To believe otherwise is to oppose the very idea of America,” he tweeted. “People have come to this country from everywhere, and people from everywhere have made America great. Our immigration policy should reflect that truth, and our elected officials, including our President, should respect it.”

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) issued a statement on Friday as well, indirectly commenting on Trump’s remarks.

“I’ve always believed that America is an idea, not defined by its people but by its ideals,” he wrote. “…Diversity has always been our strength, not our weakness. In reforming immigration we cannot lose those American Ideals.”