After the Washington Post broke news on Thursday that President Trump called African countries “shitholes” during a bipartisan meeting with lawmakers earlier in the day, the White House released a statement addressing the furor generated by Trump’s comments.
Notably, the statement didn’t deny that Trump made racist remarks, but instead claimed, “Certain Washington policies choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people.”
— Hallie Jackson (@HallieJackson) January 11, 2018
Later in the evening, numerous White House reporters reported that Trump administration officials weren’t worried about the blowback generated by Trump’s comment, which they characterized as being “blown out of proportion.” In fact, staffers were reportedly confident Trump’s remarks would “actually resonate with his base.”
The president has expressed to aides within the hour that his comment is being blown out of proportion by the media, another official said.@JeffZeleny
— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) January 11, 2018
Staffers inside the White House aren't that worried about Trump's "shithole" remark — with some predicting it will actually resonate with his base, not alienate it, much like his attacks on NFL players who kneel during the national anthem did.
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) January 11, 2018
Those responses from staff amounted to another tacit confirmation of Trump’s comment.
On Friday morning, even the hosts of Trump’s favorite TV show joined the chorus. At the beginning of the 7 o’clock hour of Fox & Friends — a show Trump has gotten in the habit of live-tweeting just about every day recently — host Brian Kilmeade criticized Trump’s racist comments, saying the president “made a mistake” with the “shithole” comment and should “walk it back.”
Lo and behold, just over 20 minutes later, Trump tweeted a non-denial denial, claiming that while the language he used at the meeting with lawmakers was “tough,” what the Post reported that he said “was not the language used.”
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
However, as pointed out by Jonathan Martin of the New York Times, if Trump didn’t in fact say what the Post reported he said, you would’ve expected the White House to deny it in its initial statement.
If it wasn’t the language he used, his staff (also in the room) would have denied it yesterday.
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) January 12, 2018
Later Friday morning, Trump posted another tweet denying he said anything “derogatory about Haitians.” Notably, however, Trump didn’t deny that he called African countries “shitholes.”
Friday marks the second consecutive morning that Trump has taken cues from Fox & Friends.
While live-tweeting the show on Thursday, the president tweeted out a position on FISA authorization at odds with the administration’s official position. Trump tried to walk it back in a second tweet he posted less than two hours later. Later in the day, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insulted reporters who dared ask about the confusion Trump’s generated by Trump’s Fox & Friends-inspired tweet.