Illinois’ senior U.S. senator says President Donald Trump did use the phrase “shithole countries” during a meeting with senators about immigration.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, told reporters Friday that Trump made comments to a group of lawmakers “which were hate-filled, vile and racist.”
“I cannot believe that in the history of the White House, in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday,” he said.
“You’ve seen the comments in the press,” Durbin said. “I’ve not read one of them that’s inaccurate. To no surprise, the president started tweeting this morning denying that he used those words. It is not true. He said these hate-filled things, and he said them repeatedly.”
Durbin said Trump used the term “shitholes” more than once about the home nations of immigrants from Africa.
Responding to the furor Friday, Trump said on Twitter that his language was “tough,” but “this was not the language used.” He did not specifically deny using the word “shithole.”
Trump said he “never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country.”
Durbin, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, had proposed cutting the visa lottery program and giving priority to countries already in the system, the Washington Post reported.
Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, tweeted that the “rhetoric coming from leaders in both parties” was not helping to resolve the immigration issue. In the tweet, Davis did not specifically refer to Trump’s supposed “shithole” remark, but said the issue is complicated enough “without insensitive comments like these.”
Davis, in an interview Friday, said the “shithole” remark caused him to raise an eyebrow.
“It’s obviously something that concerned me enough to say that I don’t think it’s acceptable, but this is clearly not the first time profanity has been used by this administration,” Davis said.
But Davis added that “hateful rhetoric” comes from both sides. “I don’t think it’s conducive to solving our programs, not just on immigration, but all the problems that exist in Washington, and it needs to change,” he said.
Davis said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, for example, has made divisive comments.
Rep. John Shimkus, a Republican from Collinsville, was not available for comment Friday, but said through a spokesman that more would be accomplished if elected officials “talked to and about one another with more dignity and respect.”
Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, said in a statement that language deriding any nation or people is wrong, but that the ultimate goal is border security.
“Whether the language comes from our president or anyone else, it makes it that much harder to secure our borders and fix our broken immigration system. We simply can’t get distracted from achieving these vitally important goals,” Bost said.