Following reports that he referred to various foreign countries — specifically, Haiti, El Salvador, and countries in Africa — as “shithole countries,” President Donald Trump told reporters on Sunday that he is “not a racist.”
“I’m the least racist person you will ever interview,” the president told reporters at Trump International Golf course, where he was meeting with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
The president reportedly made the “shithole” comment during a bipartisan meeting on immigration, where he questioned why the United States needs “more Haitians” and suggested instead that the country take in more immigrants from places like Norway. His comments have been widely criticized around the world — especially by countries included in his description — and were largely derided by the U.S. media. His remarks have been defended by a handful of Republican legislators, however, and openly embraced by white supremacists.
But Trump’s “shithole” comment is far from an aberration: the president has a long history of racist remarks and actions that undercut his claim about being “the least racist” person.
Trump’s racism can be traced back to well before his presidency. In 1973, he and his father were the subject of a federal lawsuit which alleged racial discrimination against African Americans — and preferential treatment of white customers — by his real estate company in New York; the case was eventually settled two years later. In 1989, Trump paid for full-page ads in several New York newspapers calling for the death penalty for five teenagers — four black, one Latino — who had been falsely accused of raping a white female jogger in Central Park. Despite DNA evidence that eventually exonerated all five men, Trump has maintained that the group is guilty as recently as October of 2016.
Trump also has a history of making publicly racist comments about immigrants who don’t hail from Western European backgrounds. He began his presidential campaign by calling Mexicans “rapists” and criminals, and has suggested that a judge who was charged with overseeing a case about Trump University would not be able to be a fair adjudicator of the case because of his Mexican heritage (the judge is Mexican-American). As a candidate, he also called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” in 2015, a statement that eventually came to form the basis of his administration’s Muslim ban. He has also repeatedly referred to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as “Pocahontas,” even using the racist slur in front of some of the few surviving Native American code talkers during an event at the White House in November.
The New York Times reported in December that, as president, Trump also said that recent Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS” and that Nigerian immigrants would not “go back to their huts” after coming to the United States.
Trump also launched his political career by claiming — without proof and despite all evidence to the contrary — that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, fueling a racist “birther” movement that sought to undermine the legitimacy of the first African American president.
Still, despite Trump’s long history of racist comments and actions, many politicians refuse to condemn the president’s latest remarks about Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries. At least ten Republican Senators tweeted celebrations of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy on Monday, but have yet to make a public statement of condemnation over Trump’s racist remarks.