The Haitian government “vehemently” condemned the president’s remarks and formally summoned an American official to explain them, Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S., Paul Altidor, told NBC News contributor Yamiche Alcindor.
“Haitians fought along U.S. soldiers in the Revolutionary War and we continue to be great contributors to American society,” Altidor added.
On Friday, Trump claimed on Twitter that he hadn’t used those specific words, but Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) ― who was in the room at the time ― swiftly contradicted him, saying that the president had in fact “said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly.”
Trump’s reported affront on Thursday during a White House meeting with lawmakers adds to his history of badmouthing Haiti, which was struck by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010. He once said that Haitians “all have AIDS,” The New York Times reported in December. The White House denied that remark.
In November, Trump ended temporary protected status that had been granted to Haitian immigrants living in the U.S. following the earthquake. His move gave 59,000 people in the U.S. 18 months to either return to Haiti or face deportation. Trump also plans to revoke temporary protected status for Nicaraguans and Salvadorans, thrusting hundreds of thousands more into limbo.
Trump officials said the decision to revoke the special status for Haitians was a result of improved conditions on the island. Yet Haiti remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and devastation from two recent hurricanes has made for a continuing struggle. As of October, almost 12,000 people were suffering from cholera, and more than 1.3 million people were facing acute food insecurity, according to the United Nations.
At this time last year, the U.N. estimated that 2.5 million Haitians were desperate for humanitarian aid.
“There is no other word one can use but ‘racist’,” U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said Friday of Trump’s slur. “You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes,’ whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”
The article has been updated to include that Trump has denied having used that specific language, and Durbin’s assertion that he did.